The Truth About Cars » compressed natural gas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 22 Sep 2014 15:24:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » compressed natural gas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Eaton, GE Working On Affordable CNG Home Refueling Stations http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/eaton-ge-working-on-affordable-cng-home-refueling-stations/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/eaton-ge-working-on-affordable-cng-home-refueling-stations/#comments Mon, 23 Jul 2012 14:49:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453875 America may be the world’s up-and-c0ming natural gas producer, but if you have a car powered by CNG, good luck finding a station. CNG terminals are thin on the ground in certain parts of the country, and half of them are closed to the public. While Honda was formerly in partnership with a home refueling […]

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America may be the world’s up-and-c0ming natural gas producer, but if you have a car powered by CNG, good luck finding a station. CNG terminals are thin on the ground in certain parts of the country, and half of them are closed to the public.

While Honda was formerly in partnership with a home refueling station company, the history of the unit, known as the “Phill” has been rocky, and the system has largely disappeared from the spotlight.

Just-Auto is reporting that the Phill won’t be the sole contender for much longer – Eaton, a major automotive supplier, is apparently working on a lower-cost home refueling station - with a target price of around $500 (versus $4,500 for the Phill).

General Electric is also getting into the act, with their own low-cost charger program and a promising new technology, known as CNG In A Box, which

takes natural gas from a pipeline and compresses it on-site at an industrial location or at a traditional automotive refilling station to then turns it into CNG, making it faster, easier and less expensive for users to fuel up natural gas vehicles.

Natural gas prices may be the big variable here. Prices can’t stay at record lows forever, but as long as they stay low enough to make it a viable fueling option, expect to see the disciples of T. Boone Pickens making a big push. Eaton’s own system isn’t expected to come out until 2015 – who knows what could happen in three years?

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General Motors Looking To Cut Engine Lineup By 40 Percent, Add CNG Capability http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/general-motors-looking-to-cut-engine-lineup-by-40-percent-add-cng-capability/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/general-motors-looking-to-cut-engine-lineup-by-40-percent-add-cng-capability/#comments Fri, 29 Jun 2012 16:14:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=450683 GM’s Dan Akerson spoke to the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board on Thursday, and discussed both compressed natural gas capabilities, and the need to streamline powertrains in the post-bankruptcy era. Akerson is looking to reduce the number of engines offered by 40 percent, telling the Tribune “Now that we have gone from eight car brands before […]

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GM’s Dan Akerson spoke to the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board on Thursday, and discussed both compressed natural gas capabilities, and the need to streamline powertrains in the post-bankruptcy era.

Akerson is looking to reduce the number of engines offered by 40 percent, telling the Tribune

“Now that we have gone from eight car brands before bankruptcy, we look to do the same with engines,” 

The issue of natural gas powerplants was also discussed briefly, with Akerson touting the low cost of natural gas and emerging technology to extract natural gas from shale rock formations. Akerson has previously said that dual-fuel CNG/gasoline engines are the way to go due to a lack of CNG infrastructure, but a national energy policy mandating “…a gas station that offers CNG every three or four blocks…” would help.

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Review: 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-2012-honda-civic-natural-gas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-2012-honda-civic-natural-gas/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 16:51:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=443940 Since 1998 Honda has been quietly producing one of the cleanest vehicles in America. In 2001 the EPA called its engine “the cleanest burning internal combustion engine in the world.” No, it’s not a hybrid, it’s Honda’s Civic Natural Gas (formerly known as the Civic GX). Until now, the Civic Natural Gas has only been […]

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Since 1998 Honda has been quietly producing one of the cleanest vehicles in America. In 2001 the EPA called its engine “the cleanest burning internal combustion engine in the world.” No, it’s not a hybrid, it’s Honda’s Civic Natural Gas (formerly known as the Civic GX). Until now, the Civic Natural Gas has only been available for retail sale in a handful of states like California and New York. For 2012, Honda expanded sales to 37 states and lent us one for a week.

As Honda dropped off the CNG Civic one bright Tuesday morning, I realized I had absolutely no idea what I had gotten myself into. Like most of the motoring public, I didn’t know much about CNG and it was only when the compact sedan arrived that I asked: “where do I fill this thing up?” Once I found a CNG station, I realized I had no idea how to fill it up either. If you’re dying to know, check out our video below.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The all-new 9th generation exterior is instantly recognizable as a Civic. While there are virtually no carryover parts from 2011, the changes are subtle enough to be a refresh. Unlike the Civic Hybrid, which gains a few blue-tinted trim bits and some LED brake lights to set it apart from the rabble, the only way to identify the Civic Natural Gas is by the legally required blue diamond CNG logo on the trunk lid. (The sticker is supposed to help emergency responders know that high-pressure gas lurks within.) Limited production means limited options, and you can get your Civic Natural gas in any color you want so long as its light grey, dark grey, periwinkle or white.

Interior

The Civic Natural Gas started out  in 1998 as a cleaner alternative for the meter maids parking enforcement specialists in Los Angeles. Since then, the majority of gaseous sales have gone to fleet customers looking for lower operating costs, a green image and a vehicle that uses the same fueling infrastructure as their vans and buses. Honda’s focus on fleet customers (and their needs) is obvious by the lack of options found on Honda’s retail-focused models. The interior is only available in one color scheme, with cloth seats and only one option: Honda’s touchscreen nav system. You won’t find leather seats, automatic climate control, heated seats, or an up-level speaker package at any price.

 

Drivetrain

Under the hood beats the biggest change: a re-worked 1.8L engine. This is one of the few engines in the world built specifically for CNG. Unlike conversion kits that blow gas into the air intake, the Civic uses a CNG  multi-port injection system. To compensate for the lower energy density of CNG, the compression ratio is increased from 10.6 to 12.7. Despite this, power drops from 140HP to 110HP while torque goes from 128lb-ft to 106lb-ft. Honda toyed with a CVT in the past, but for 2012, the 5-speed automatic from the regular Civic makes a cameo. I’m probably the only car guy to wish the CVT from the hybrid was under the hood as it would have improved the fuel economy

According to the EPA, this engine produces 70-90% lower smog forming emissions, 20-30% lower CO2 and virtually no evaporative emissions when compared to a regular Civic. It’s smog numbers and CO2 numbers are lower than VW’s most efficient clean diesel and it delivers considerably lower NOx and particulate emissions when compared to clean diesels. A side benefit of CNG engines is improved spark plug and oil life as there are fewer impurities to foul either one.

 

Cargo

Sound too good to be true? There are a few problems. First off, natural gas must be stored in a pressure cylinder. By their design, these cylinders are large, need to be placed somewhere safe, and can’t be shaped like your typical gas tank. This means the cylinder is in the trunk and cargo space gets cut in half from 12.5 cubic feet to 6.1. As you can see below, it is still possible to fit two carry-on sized roller bags and some small hand luggage in the trunk, but larger items like large strollers might not fit.

 

About CNG

According to the EPA, CNG is a plentiful and as a result, 87% of the natural gas consumed in the United States in 2011 was produced domestically. The rest came from Canada and Mexico. If you are simply seeking to reduce this country’s dependence on foreign energy without changing your lifestyle, CNG is one of your better options. While there are about 120,000 CNG powered vehicles in the United States, most of them are buses. You want something other than a cargo or people hauler, the Civic is the only factory built CNG vehicle around.

Since virtually all natural gas consumed in America comes from underground deposits created by ancient decaying matter, it’s not a renewable resource in its current form. Unlike gasoline, diesel and liquid propane, natural gas isn’t sold by the gallon. Instead, it is served up by the Gasoline Gallon Equivalent or GGE. At 3,600psi this equates to 0.51 cubic feet of gas. In California we averaged $2.19 per GGE while gasoline was around $4.27 a gallon.

 

Finding CNG can be tricky as there are only 1,000 stations in the US, and half of them are closed to the public. Approximately 250 public stations are available in California with New York and Utah coming in second and third at 101 and 84 respectively. Operating your CNG Civic in a state like Texas could be tricky, with both long driving distances and only 36 stations to fill up at. Most stations are located near airports and industrial areas, so if your commute takes you near these locations it’s an easy sell. While there are home refueling stations available, Honda does not recommend them as they may not sufficiently dry the gas and allow moisture to build up in the tank. The home unit costs $4,900 without installation and is only good for 3,000 GGE of CNG. Although not recommended, it is much cheaper to fill up at home, with an estimated cost per GGE of $1.43 in California. While the CNG station nearest to my home is 20 miles away, there are several on the way to my office and one only 0.2 miles from my office, making commuter-car use a real option for me.

 

Infotainment

Honda’s Civic Natural Gas carries a mid-range feature set despite its price tag. This means that although a nav system is available (the only option on the CNG), upgraded speakers are not. The sound quality is mediocre with dull highs and muddy lows. Remember, this is a fleet-oriented vehicle. The only real reason to get the factory nav system is that it is preloaded with a CNG station database which can be handy if you don’t have a smartphone. If you have a smartphone, stick with the base radio and get a CNG finder app.

 

Drive

Out on the road the Civic Natural Gas drives just like a regular Civic, with less power. From a standstill, 60 arrives in 10.9 seconds, about 2 seconds slower than a regular Civic, but only 3/4 of a second behind the hybrid. When it comes to road holding, the CNG performs essentially the same as a regular Civic LX sedan, since Honda chose not to use low rolling resistance rubber on the CNG like they did on the hybrid.

Savings

You should know that essentially all the tax credits for CNG vehicles have evaporated. This means your CNG Civic is a whopping $6,710 more than a comparably equipped Civic LX and even $2,105 more than a Civic Hybrid. Based on current fuel costs in northern California, it would take 5.5 years for the CNG to break even with the Hybrid and 7.5 with the Civic LX. The Civic Natural Gas has a trump card to play in California: Solo carpool usage. If you live on the left coast as I do, and “enjoy” a “healthy” commute, the CNG may just be the best investment you could make in your family. On my daily commute, being able to drive in the carpool lane saved me 25-35 minutes of commute time per day. That adds up to 125 hours less commuting a year, or 5.2 days less time in a car on my commute. The scarcity of CNG filling stations will continue to ensure Civic Natural Gas sales remain low. However, for those that live near CNG infrastructure, the Civic Natural gas makes an interesting proposition. While it will take nearly a decade to justify the cost of buying one, in states like California where you can use the HOV lane, it presents quite a different reason to buy one. It also makes a compelling case against EVs, as America is the land of coal and gas power plants, the CO2 emissions from the CNG Civic are similar or lower than the Leaf depending on the state you live in.

 

Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 4.2 Seconds

0-60: 10.9 Seconds

Average fuel economy: 35.2MPG over 820 Miles

 

2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), CA carpool sticker, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), CNG logo, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), refueling, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), refueling, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), refueling, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), refueling, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), CNG prices , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, dashboard , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, dashboard , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, HVAC controls, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Trunk /  Cargo room, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Trunk /  Cargo room, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, tachometer, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, instrument cluster, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, fuel economy, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, radio / infotainment, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, ECO button, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, door switches, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Engine, 1.8L CNG, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Engine, 1.8L CNG, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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GM’s Pickup Truck CNG Conversion Costs $11,000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/gms-pickup-truck-cng-conversion-costs-11000/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/gms-pickup-truck-cng-conversion-costs-11000/#comments Wed, 18 Apr 2012 19:50:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=440643 Compressed natural gas may cost the equivalent of $1.89 per gallon of gasoline, but retrofitting your GMC Sierra or Chevrolet Silverado will cost you $11,000 – and GM still think it will save you money. According to GM, “…Customers could save $5,000 to $10,000 over a three-year period, depending on their driving habits.” How GM […]

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Compressed natural gas may cost the equivalent of $1.89 per gallon of gasoline, but retrofitting your GMC Sierra or Chevrolet Silverado will cost you $11,000 – and GM still think it will save you money.

According to GM, “…Customers could save $5,000 to $10,000 over a three-year period, depending on their driving habits.” How GM came to this number is a bit of a mystery, and we’re doing some digging to try and figure it out – because it’s a conversion, there is no EPA rating on it and data is difficult to find.

What we did notice was this little tidbit

Businesses are looking for ways to control their costs while reducing vehicle emissions and becoming less dependent on fluctuating gas prices. The low cost of ownership makes these vehicles a realistic solution,” 

$11,000 is a lot of cash for a business to tie up in one truck. In the absence of any data on how many miles it would take to break even (as well as the gas price number used to come up with it), it appears that GM is hoping to sway buyers with the prospect of unstable or rising fuel prices in the future. Emissions are almost certainly a secondary concern. It’s a wonder that GM didn’t promote the fact that CNG can legitimately claim to be a domestically sourced form of clean energy, seeing as they (barely) did back in March.

We contacted GM to try and get more information on the CNG conversion, and more specifically, how they came to their savings figures. Please leave all accusations of anti-GM bias, skulduggery and wrongdoing in the comments section.

EDIT: General Motors says that they calculated the savings based on a truck driving 24,000 miles a year, with gas prices at $4 per gallon and a CNG gallon equivalent of $2. GM’s Mike Jones, Product Manager for Fleet and Commercial Operations, thinks that there will continue to be “…a pretty significant price separation…” between gasoline and CNG.

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Hertz To Rent CNG Vehicles, Pilot Program Begins In May http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/hertz-to-rent-cng-vehicles-pilot-program-begins-in-may/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/hertz-to-rent-cng-vehicles-pilot-program-begins-in-may/#comments Thu, 12 Apr 2012 12:09:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=439551   If you’re traveling to Oklahoma City any time soon, Herz will give you the option of renting a Honda Civic or GMC Yukon that runs on Compressed Natural Gas. Renters will be able to select from one of eight Honda Civics or two GMC Yukons that use CNG. The vehicles will have a Hertz […]

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If you’re traveling to Oklahoma City any time soon, Herz will give you the option of renting a Honda Civic or GMC Yukon that runs on Compressed Natural Gas.

Renters will be able to select from one of eight Honda Civics or two GMC Yukons that use CNG. The vehicles will have a Hertz Neverlost GPS System on-board that will assist with locating a CNG refueling station.

Oklahoma may be “flyover country” for coastal greenie types, but OKC is home to big natural gas producers, including Chesapeake Energy Corporation. The state also has 70 CNG stations that are already in use or about to come online. Launching a pilot project here is akin to launching an all-E85 fleet in Iowa. Hertz is, of course, playing up both the green angle and the fact that CNG is a domestically produced fuel.

Hertz already rents CNG vehicles in Italy and the UK, and CNG cars can be rented at a Hertz outlet at Oklahoma State University, but this marks the first time that the company has offered CNG cars at an airport location.

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Low Natural Gas Prices Aren’t Spurring Demand For NGVs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/low-natural-gas-prices-arent-spurring-demand-for-ngvs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/low-natural-gas-prices-arent-spurring-demand-for-ngvs/#comments Mon, 02 Apr 2012 16:42:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=437701 Even with gasoline prices reaching higher and higher, and natural gas prices at decade lows, consumers are doing as little as possible to adopt natural gas vehicles. As investment blog Seeking Alpha found out, the answer isn’t so complex. The issue is of course, a classic chicken-and-egg problem. Looking at fleet customers as an example, […]

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Even with gasoline prices reaching higher and higher, and natural gas prices at decade lows, consumers are doing as little as possible to adopt natural gas vehicles. As investment blog Seeking Alpha found out, the answer isn’t so complex.

The issue is of course, a classic chicken-and-egg problem. Looking at fleet customers as an example, a firm called PLS Logistics published a white paper on natural gas vehicles (specifically, LNG, or liquefied natural gas, commonly used in commercial applications like trucking). The biggest stumbling block by far was the lack of infrastructure available for fueling NGVs. Even in the face of substantial awareness about NGVs, as well as optimism that they will be adopted in the future in some capacity, literally no one is planning on purchasing NGVs in the next 12 months.

One interesting takeaway is that a quarter of respondents thought that there was zero price difference between diesel and natural gas. Natural gas is about $1.50 per diesel equivalent gallon (the unit used by PLS to measure an equivalent quantity of natural gas). Good news for NGVs comes in the form of a GE-backed project to build 250 filling stations for both CNG and LNG fuels - though as Seeking Alpha notes, demand for NGVs may be affected as much by low natural gas prices as high gasoline prices.

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Ford Bets On Ecoboost, Chrysler And GM On Natural Gas For Pickups http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/ford-bets-on-ecoboost-chrysler-and-gm-on-natural-gas-for-pickups/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/ford-bets-on-ecoboost-chrysler-and-gm-on-natural-gas-for-pickups/#comments Mon, 12 Mar 2012 20:47:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434734 While both General Motors and Chrysler are putting their money on Compressed Natural Gas options for their pickup-truck lineups, Ford is going with pretty much everything but CNG as it examines alternative fuel strategies for future vehicles – and for now, the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 will be the standard bearer for light duty versions of […]

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While both General Motors and Chrysler are putting their money on Compressed Natural Gas options for their pickup-truck lineups, Ford is going with pretty much everything but CNG as it examines alternative fuel strategies for future vehicles – and for now, the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 will be the standard bearer for light duty versions of the Ford F-Series.

Automotive News spoke with Ford product development boss Raj Nair, who told the outlet

“Relative to what we’re achieving with EcoBoost and our electrification strategy in the U.S., what we’re achieving with the diesel strategy here in Europe and elsewhere, those are more solid bets to put really solid investments in for mainstream offerings,” 

Nair also cited CNG’s lack of infrastructure as another reason to avoid CNG. But Chrysler’s Ram Tradesman pickup will come in a CNG powered variant, while GM will offer a Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra with a 6.0L V8 that can switch between CNG and regular gasoline.

Buried in the article is a quote from Nair stating that Ford will

“…do conversions for pickups that would allow them to run on natural gas, Nair said. The market for trucks using the technology will be “very dependent on what the regulatory environment is going to be.”

So, Ford is still hedging their bets, and looking to see if this “Made in America” fuel will get the kind of economic incentives that EVs and plug-ins  are privy to. Chrysler and GM will join Honda as the big purveyors of CNG powered cars in the United States – Honda sells the Civic GX in small volumes.

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Honda Tells Dealers: Build CNG Fueling Stations, And They Will Come http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/honda-tells-dealers-build-cng-fueling-stations-and-they-will-come/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/honda-tells-dealers-build-cng-fueling-stations-and-they-will-come/#comments Fri, 09 Mar 2012 19:05:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434458 This is the Honda Civic GX, a vehicle that runs on propane and propane accessories compressed natural gas. Despite the Civic GX’s title as one of America’s “Greenest Vehicles“, the Civic GX is pricey, and CNG refueling stations are few and far between – apparently there are only 830 in the entire United States, with […]

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This is the Honda Civic GX, a vehicle that runs on propane and propane accessories compressed natural gas. Despite the Civic GX’s title as one of America’s “Greenest Vehicles“, the Civic GX is pricey, and CNG refueling stations are few and far between – apparently there are only 830 in the entire United States, with not all of them open to the public. Honda wants to change that – but it wants dealers to bear the costs, monetary and otherwise, of building new fueling outlets.

Honda’s Steve Center, in charge of environmental business development, wants to put CNG fueling stations in at least two dealerships in California this year. Center told Bloomberg

“If the dealer had a fueling station, it would really reduce some of that concern for the customer,” Center said at Honda’s U.S. headquarters in Torrance, California. “It’s not our place to create infrastructure, but it’s a chicken-and-egg situation and we’re going to have to nurse that egg along.”

So, it’s not Honda’s place to build infrastructure - but the dealers can go ahead and do it. The costs of the project weren’t disclosed, but off the bat there appears to be some value in installing these stations; getting customers to keep coming back to the dealer can help them build relationships, sell aftermarket parts, servicing other vehicles and build good will among customers.

Honda’s pitch appears to be in the beginning stages, but one can guess how they’re going to market the CNG Civic; great fuel economy, from a clean, domestic energy source that’s also free from serious range anxiety (the Civic GX gets about 225-250 miles per tank). In addition to the dealer filling stations, there are home units available too – but they take about 8-10 hours to fill the car up (since the gas isn’t pressurized like commercial stations) and cost about $3,400 for the unit alone.

The days of Jim Cardiges and kickbacks are long over, but there’s no reason to think that there may be positive incentives to signing on with the program. Maybe there will be a better allocation of cars. Maybe warranty claims would get paid quicker. Maybe co-op advertising campaigns would get a bigger share of their costs picked up by Honda. For now, this looks like a test program, and Honda will be helping dealers get financing, incentives and approval from local governments. Yesterday’s initial article on natural gas vehicles (yes, including LPG/Propane as well as CNG vehicles) had great commentary from the B&B, particularly on the drawbacks of natural gas vehicles.  I’m confident that the increasing price of gas along with the eminently marketable angle of a domestic clean energy source means we’ll be hearing a lot more about natural gas in light vehicles, regardless of the fuel’s merits.

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