Green Update: Switching to Natural Gas

2012 Honda Civic GX

The 2012 Honda Civic GX (above) is announced as an “all-new” car, the only dedicated natural-gas-powered car produced and sold in the U.S. Honda introduced it in 1998; it has won various awards; and it keeps on selling here in fairly small numbers—about 2,000 units in 2009.

As often happens, being green will cost you: The GX costs $26,155, a big premium over the standard Civic sedan. Is it worth the extra green?

Of course it is—if:

  • you live near one of the estimated 946 operating natural gas fueling stations
  • you want to do your part for clean air (CNG is the cleanest burning fuel available, almost no CO2 emissions)
  • you want to use no imported fuel; CNG is 85 percent homegrown
  • you get a $4,000 incentive from the Feds, or live in a state like California that offers credits of $2,000 for home chargers
  • you want to drive your car a long time (CNG-powered engines last much longer than gas-powered ones)
  • by investing in a home charger, you’ll fuel up at less than half the cost of gasoline
  • you want to achieve fuel economy of 27/38/31 mpg.

Honda Civic GX engineDrivers won’t notice any real difference in performance. The biggest problem is and has been infrastructure. Honda is increasing its dealers from 38 in 4 states to 200 in 35 states. If they build out the dealer network, will the buyers come?

Only if they can fuel their cars conveniently. Honda offers an extra-cost nav system that locates CNG dealers nationally. Good, but it should be standard in the car.

The company seems to be figuring that the government and potential buyers will recognize the inevitability of CNG sooner rather than later. Under ordinary political circumstances, that would be my guess, too. Under the collapsed, dysfunctional “system” that rules our roost today, it is much more of a longshot.

And yet, CNG is a lot more popular and available than you might think. One of every five city buses uses it. There has been increasing interest in fleet use, which makes a lot of sense.

General Motors will soon (early 2012) market its first CNG-powered truck in the form of the GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express cargo vans.

Congress would be smart (can you imagine that?) to kill the ethanol subsidies and devote at least as much to promoting CNG. A bill to develop CNG incentives—the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions (NAT GAS) Act of 2011 got some traction last month in the House.

The NAT GAS Act has 184 sponsors – half Democrats, half Republicans. T. Boone Pickens is for it; the Koch brothers against. Which side are you on, and why?

—jgoods

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Honda Civic
Used GMC Savana
Used Chevrolet Express

1 Comment

  1. I think I’d lean more towards propane, which is also very clean burning and a lot more available. A good propane powered car should even be able to run from a BBQ propane tank available at just about any party store or gas station, great in an emergency.

    The only problem with the Honda, other than getting the fuel, is having to drive a new Civic– I believe the first Honda in history to be not recommended by CU.

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