By on September 19, 2014

2014-honda-silver-civic-natural-gas-rear1

Aside from a few trucks, some taxis and a fair number of buses, natural gas doesn’t receive a lot of play in the alternative energy game in comparison to darlings such as electric power and hydrogen. Despite this condition, Chevrolet and Honda are both ready to push natural gas onto commuters and efficiency-minded consumers alike.

The Detroit News reports Honda recently introduced a new generation of its Civic Natural Gas model, featuring amenities like heated leather seats and premium sound systems the previous model lacked. Chevrolet, on the other hand, plans to bring a dual-fuel Impala to the party in a few months, being able to use either CNG or gasoline depending on the situation.

Though both brands are willing to give CNG passenger cars another shot, not too many others are as willing. Most automakers believe there’s no money or demand to be found in the alternative fuel, legislators are too focused on the in-crowd of energy solutions, and environmentalists are playing the long game instead of being in the present.

As for the vehicles themselves, both models will come straight from the factory with the same warranties as their gasoline-powered siblings, with the expectation of greater confidence in CNG from the consumer as a result. The Civic and Impala will likely drum up competition among other CNG vehicle manufacturers for the first time in a decade, as well.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

56 Comments on “Chevrolet, Honda Give CNG Passenger Cars Another Chance...”


  • avatar
    vvk

    Amenities? What about an in-home charging solution for CNG?! Is that available?

    That’s what counts for anyone buying these things for commuting. Not leather seats…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      You can have a fueling station installed at your home just like a fleet would at their facility. The up front cost might not make a lot of sense for an individual for commuting though.

      • 0 avatar
        Gardiner Westbound

        The last time CNG cars were in the news a home fueling compressor cost C$10,000 and required six hours to fill a car tank. You will be hard pressed to find an NGV fueling station on the way home. There are only seven in Ontario.

        As natural gas packs much less energy than gasoline the tank must be 3½ times larger than a gasoline tank. The large tank takes up half or more of the car’s trunk.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      IIRC the home fueling units were fragile, and the original manufacturer went bankrupt. Here’s a link to the current product page:

      http://www.brcfuelmaker.com/en/phill-domestico-prodotto-brc-fuel-maker.aspx

      It requires a 220V power supply, and takes a few hours to Phill your CNG tank.

      Hey, wait a moment…that’s just fine for an EV!

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I have heard that the NG that comes out of the pipeline is not always clean enough for use as a motor fuel. I expect that the filtration needed is rather too costly to make a home unit cost effective.

      In times of peak demand, pipeline companies sometimes add a little air to the lines to keep the pressure up. Furnaces don’t mind that but engines do.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I like CNG and LP as an alternative fuel. It’s available, cheap, clean and easily adaptable to existing technology. It makes the most sense for fleets who are the largest operators of vehicles with the systems, and that’s who Honda and Chevy will be targeting with these two cars. The real bummer with the systems is that the tanks take up a lot of space because they’re bulky and are essentially tacked onto a design that wasn’t necessarily made to accomodate them. Ram sells a 2500 pickup with a CNG dual fuel setup from the factory as well and the operation is pretty seamless. It’s really a shame we don’t use more of it as it’s a fraction of the cost of gasoline.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      The lash-ups I’ve seen for passenger cars don’t offer much range and take a lot of trunk space. PHEVS have similar problems. Seems like a better fit for pickups.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        PHEVs have smallish trunks but plenty of range, plus very quick refueling.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        The big differences are 1) a natural gas car can be refilled from a high-pressure tank about as fast as gasoline car while even rapid charging of batteries involves a considerable wait and 2) the range of a natural gas gar remains basically the same throughout its life while lithium batteries lose energy storage capacity after years of charge/discharge cycles.

  • avatar
    shaker

    As you drive your “clean” CNG vehicle, please don’t think about the several hundred-thousand or so holes being drilled, or the countless billions of gallons of poisoned water it takes for your car to purr happily along.

    • 0 avatar
      kosmo

      Right, and never mind the mining operations that produce batteries for all the Pious and their like.

      We’ve all got our crosses to bear, haven’t we?!

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        I’d be willing to bet that (when all factors are taken into account) EV’s are more efficient for the vast majority of commuting, and have the potential to be supplied by very clean sources of energy, if we have the will to make the change and accept some limits.

        If the price of “freedom” is being subservient to a fossil-fuel industry that will poison our environment while waving the flag in our faces, then I’d be willing to give up some of that “limitless mobility”.

        Nothin’ personal, ya know.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        kosmo,

        The battery isn’t consumed in operation, where the NG or oil would be. You might take these niggling little differences into account when pretending to compare environmental impacts..

        • 0 avatar
          petezeiss

          And no fossil fuels are consumed in the production of all the sparkly current flow to our garages?

          Am I niggling?

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          KixStart, the battery is most definitely being consumed a little bit with each charge/discharge cycle and that’s a huge problem for cars. Phones, laptops, and tablets become outdated about the time battery life starts to become unacceptable, but we expect cars to last a decade without major repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Agreed.

      But we, as a civilization, need fuel – so it will me extracted at great environmental cost.

      I hope to opt out of being part of the problem at some point, but my kids’ education has taken priority over the necessary investmentszin an EV, PV panels, and geothermal – and I’m OK with that. Hopefully I’ll get some slack in the budget soon, though.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        A reasonable response – which is why I’m all in favor of government subsidies to help those who wish to install PV panels (with the overall goal of decentralizing the electric grid) to make the payback period realistic. This will have the effect of expanding the market for these solutions, dropping the price and increasing demand.
        In the Southern states, a PV/Storage battery installation could make a huge difference in electricity use, and would likely make enough excess power to make an average commute in an EV independent of the electric power supplier. (of course, not “Free”)

        • 0 avatar
          jacob_coulter

          We’ve been subsidizing solar panels since Jimmy Carter was President.

          At what point do we make these companies and technology stand on their own two feet? If after 40 years it still needs “help” to become mainstream its become a boondoggle. We don’t need any more Solyndras.

          I’m sure you can point to all sorts of other industries that also get taxpayer subsidies, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

          Either solar is viable or it isn’t.

          • 0 avatar

            We’ve been subsidizing fossil fuels since long before Jimmy Carter was President, and at far greater cost than any solar subsidies. (Solyndra is a nothing compared to the fossil fuel subsidies, and less than $2/taxpayer.)

            http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2012/01/fossil_fuel_subsidies_and_global_warming_we_could_cut_the_climate_change_problem_in_half_simply_by_abolishing_inefficient_fossil_fuel_subsidies_.html

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Thanks jacob. It’s nice to read a bit of sense in an alternative fuels thread. The real cost of solar is about 22 cents a kWh compared to 4 cents for coal. Anyone that wants to see what life is like when energy is a luxury good is a bigger threat to our existence than terrorists.

          • 0 avatar
            jacob_coulter

            Like I said, two wrongs don’t make a right.

            But I love what counts as a “subsidy” in the eyes of solar companies trying to justify taxpayer graft.

            Like the energy companies deducting exploration expenses off their taxes. That’s not a subsidy, it’s legitimate cost of business. No different than a solar company deducting their R&D expenses.

            In contrast, the government handing you a check to put a solar panel on your roof is most definitely a subsidy.

            Solar is a joke, but as long as lobbyists are handing legislators money and people are misinformed, the corporate welfare will continue.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            A subsidy to the poor to cover their winter heating bills does more for the poor than for their energy providers.

            Giving them cash in lieu of a discount will encourage them to not heat their homes, as other needs compete for that money. That’s not a particularly good idea, either, unless you’re assuming that the poor are unique wasteful in their use of winter energy or if you believe that they should go without heat.

  • avatar
    Frankie the Hollywood Scum

    Which is different than oil and its wars? Or electric that’s green in some places when the sun is out or wind is blowing but not to worry for the rest of the time we have coal?

    Your argument would have more merit if nuclear made up a bigger % of our grid.

    Its about minimizing dammage. There is no solution.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    CNG is the most practical alternative fuel, followed by electric.

    I like the idea of an EV better, and they’re easier to buy out here in flyover country.

    But CNG vehicles will definitely have a big place in our future, as oil supplies wane over the coming decades.

    It’s also much cheaper than gasoline and diesel, and will likely continue that way.

    The disadvantages are that the tanks usually go in the vehicle’s cargo area on converted vehicles. Also, less fuel will fit in the same physical volume. Oh, and CNG long-haul trucks cost more than their diesel equivalents. All of these can be designed around if there is enough sales volume to justify the necessary engineering work. And money, in the form of cheaper fuel, talks.

    • 0 avatar
      xtoyota

      CNG will not be cheap…as soon as our Government sees a demand they will tax the hell out of it
      Every knows that the Government needs your money so they can give it to someone else
      The tree huggers won’t be happy until we are back to the 16th Century and we live in caves :=)

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I rented a CNG honda civic in San Fran about ten years ago and it drove just fine, the two issues I had was I had no idea where to refuel, there was a book in the glove box but as a tourist I had no idea where the twins were , not an issue today with GPS, and the range was about 200 miles IIRC, and the truck was tiny, I am sure they fixed that by now.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      ” there was a book in the glove box but as a tourist I had no idea where the twins were ”

      For some reason I find that statement pretty hilarious. Googling “san francisco twins” doesn’t make it any more coherent, but it does ratchet up the amusement.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    As far as saving the planet there is not one solution, it will be a combo of fuels, in the mean time if we could just get people to do the little things, like turn off your car while waiting for JR to come out of school or turn it off while you run into 7-11 for your big gulp, that would help and is super easy.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Historically, CNG has gotten more love than hydrogen. After all, there are actual CNG-powered vehicles on the road, unlike hydrogen (with the exception of Honda’s Clarity).

    As an alternate fuel, I’d much rather have CNG than hydrogen, although I’m not a fan of carrying around a high-pressure gas cylinder under my seat all the time. At least CNG has some infrastructure.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Yeah, the infrastructure for fueling CNG cars is 90 percent in place, and what would be needed to complete it is widely available now. Neither is true for hydrogen. That plus the vehicle cost for a CNG car is far more realistic.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      CNG with a compatible solid-oxide fuel cell at $50/kW would be fairly compelling, assuming one could get 16-20kWh of gas-equivalent conversion efficiency.

      How many years/decades for that? I reckon Tesla will have built out its initial Supercharger plan by then, and would be well into the tuning/upgrading of it.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    CNG and LP have serious issues with storage, infrastructure and energy density that make them impractical. Not as serious as hydrogen, and about on-par with EVs (CNG is harder to refill and store, but more energy dense).

    I do think that hybrids and EVs have pretty much usurped CNG, save for fleets with a dedicated fueling infrastructure.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I can’t even keep the canister in my gas grill from running empty while cooking a chicken breast. I can’t imagine how this would work out.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    You also get a trunk largely occupied by a CNG tank.

    Big fan of CNG, wish OEMs would get serious about it

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    A decade ago, I was picked up by a taxi driver in Vancouver, B.C. who was driving a bi-fuel (gas and CNG) Crown Victoria. The cab driver loved it because Vancouver had high gasoline prices, but it only cost half as much to run the car on natural gas. The trunk was still big enough to fit the luggage of our family of four. The driver was unhappy because the city government was mandating that his company retire the car in a couple months because of their rules on the age of the taxi fleet. The CNG Vic was no longer being made at that time. Another cab on the same trip was a (then new) second generation Prius, which we squeezed into with a suitcase on a lap.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    CNG makes the most sense as a passenger fuel, it would solve most of our energy problems over night and burns about 90% cleaner. I just can’t understand why there isn’t a bigger push for it, especially among the Big 3 that need large trucks and SUVs to survive.

    For whatever reason, too many people get hung up about it being a fossil fuel, but completely ignore how the “perfect” electric car got its electricity.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      As others have mentioned, cars are, for the most part, designed around liquid fuels, the storage of which is much more adaptable. CNG requires cylindrical or spherical containers and the surface area to volume ratio suffers badly the smaller the container is, so there’s a serious trade off from a packaging perspective.

      Last year, Aviat showed off a version of their Piper Cub derivative airplane that had been converted to CNG. It carried a big tank below the fuselage (whose size was limited by the landing gear) and had about half the range of the avgas-powered model. Still, it was interesting as CNG is about one quarter the cost of avgas.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        I predict that individual consumers are more likely to see cars fueled with liquid fuel made from natural gas than compressed natural gas. The problem for individuals is that they don’t drive enough for fuel to be expensive compared to the fixed costs of the car and fuel tanks. Privately owned cars spend most of their life parked, losing value whether they’re used or not. In contrast, fleet vehicles like taxis, police cars, and delivery trucks spend a much larger percentage of each year burning fuel so reducing fuel and maintenance costs by using natural gas makes more sense.

      • 0 avatar
        jacob_coulter

        Have you ever seen the battery of a Tesla? It takes up quote a bit of room also, almost the entire length of the car, and cost about $30,000.

        I understand the packaging issue with CNG tanks, but it’s fairly minor in the scheme of engineering problems, and it’s already been shown that it can be done, even when the vehicle wasn’t designed from the factory to accomodate a CNG tank.

        • 0 avatar
          bunkie

          Have you looked at the ratio of thickness to width and height of Tesla’s battery? An equivalent packaging of CNG tanks would have a pitiful usable volume for its size and weight.

          Hey, I like the idea of CNG. Number one being that we’re not sending money to the backers of ISIS. But it’s not a painless drop-in replacement for liquid fuels, there is a price to be paid.

          • 0 avatar
            jacob_coulter

            The point I’m making is the engineering challenge of “where to put the CNG tank” is a pretty insignificant obstacle compared to the challenges an electric car present.

            When someone touts an electric car, does anyone say “but where are you going to put the battery?

            Yet a Tesla has a battery that is as long as the car, weighs over a thousand pounds, and costs about $30,000 (and has blown up and caught fire) but no one seems to think all those features are disqualifying.

          • 0 avatar
            Russycle

            Just because I’m cranky:
            “Yet a Tesla has a battery that is as long as the car,” Which is a problem because…why? Admittedly, if the battery were longer than the car, that would be a problem. But it isn’t, so it isn’t.

            “…weighs over a thousand pounds” Yes, and it’s powering a motor that has no problem catapulting that battery and the rest of the car to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. And that 1000 pounds rests beneath the car, creating a very low center of gravity that results in exceptional handling.

            “…and costs about $30,000” Admittedly, that’s disqualifying for my wallet. For people dropping 70 grand on a car, it’s not a big deal. Expensive cars have expensive components, news at 11.

            “..(and has blown up and caught fire) ” just like every power source that’s ever been used in a self-propelled vehicle, including CNG. If Teslas are more prone to fires and explosions than other vehicles, I haven’t heard about it.

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      The natural time to build the infrastructure for natural gas as a vehicle fuel would have been in the early 2000’s. Unfortunately we got distracted by two wars that took all the money away from long-term strategic goals for energy security and public and environmental health. We could easily have had the vast majority of commercial vehicles running on CNG by now for a lot less than we spent on the war in Iraq. We could have also had an infrastructure for electric vehicles as well. We wouldn’t need Middle East oil at all.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    I was seriously considering a Civic GX as a cheaper way (than a Tesla or a PHEV, Leaf doesn’t have enough range for round trip) to get on the carpool lane, and I gave up after some research.

    The tank needs to be replaced after 15 years, and that cost much more than the battery of a hybrid ($6k last time I heard), the fueling at home option is not available after Phil goes out of business, nor was fuel at home cheap if you consider the cost to install Phil, and they seems to have a lot of filter getting clogged issue, and fueling station pressure not high enough (i.e. after you wait in line for a fleet of bus , garbage truck, or municipal CNG fleet cars just refueled) and out of the way.

    Sure the fuel is $2 a gal equivalent, but a used CNG car that you have to throw away at year 15 is not a good deal, let alone a new one at full price, when comparing to a plug in or an EV if you want a carpool lane sticker, and even less competitive when you don’t and compare it against a regular hybrid like Prius.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I doubt the price of a hybrid battery is $6k.

      My Leaf’s 24 kWh battery has been priced by Nissan at $5500, and my Optima Hybrid has only 1/16 the battery of the Leaf (1.4 kWh vs 24 kWh).

      So I would guess that my hybrid’s battery would cost less than $1000, and I can’t imagine other hybrids being much different. Besides, the battery in a hybrid is treated much more kindly than the battery in an EV, so you might never have to change it.

  • avatar
    RHD

    It’s also worth noting that although mining is required in order to manufacture the batteries for electric cars, once the battery is no longer usable, it is entirely recyclable.
    At some point the mining required to produce car batteries will be greatly reduced – just as recycled steel, copper and aluminum are being used as a primary resource by industry now.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    From C&D’s review of the 2012 CNG Civic: ” the Civic LX and hybrid cost 9.0 and 8.0 cents per mile compared with just 5.6 cents per mile for the CNG.”

    The 2012 version carried a $5600 premium over the gasoline Civic, so your break even point on the CNG model was about 165,000 miles. And you’re driving those miles with more weight, less horsepower, and a compromised trunk. Honestly, I can’t see the point.

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • ToolGuy: You ok, Matt?
  • MoDo: I wouldn’t be surprised if this backfires on AN. Manley isn’t really a retail guy and that’s...
  • teddyc73: “Janky”? The grill is “janky”. Um, OK. I guess at this point we’re just going...
  • stuki: Population will be controlled. Gaia will be fine. But control will be by external-to-humans factors. Any...
  • stuki: “Retro styling for the youths makes no sense to me.” Parents rebelled against grandparents by...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber