Honda just released an incentive, a big one, for those interested in buying the Civic Natural Gas. American Honda has an alliance with Clean Energy Fuels to provide a debit card pre-loaded with $3,000 that can used at Clean Energy fueling stations around the country. Another perk, for those living in California, is the ability to drive a 2012 Civic Natural Gas Vehicle in the High Occupancy Vehicle carpool lanes through January 1, 2015.
Honda says that the natural gas vehicle offers fuel savings up to 40 percent compared to a typical gasoline-powered subcompact car with its 31 miles per gallon combined EPA rating. Natural gas was costing customers $2.05 per equivalent gasoline gallon in July, according to the most recent Deptartment of Energy data. While not covered in its press release (see below), there are other considerations that car shoppers should research, such as:
- Finding a natural gas station: Clean Energy doesn't state the specific number of public fueling stations that there are in the US, but the numbers are limited. A lot of these stations are behind locked gates at government and business fleet facilities, airports, and bus and utility vehicle gas pumps. Looking over Clean Energy's map, it looks like there are about 180 public natural gas stations, about forty percent of them in Southern California.
- Range limitations: The regular Honda Civic sedan has a gas tank that can hold up to 13.2 gallons and has a combined city/highway mileage rating of 32 miles per gallon for the automatic transmission version. That would mean it could travel 422 miles on a tank of gasoline. Honda gives the Civic Natural Gas a range estimate of 220 miles. Part of the reason for this conservative estimate is that different stations refill CNG differently, and ambient temperature has an effect on how much gas can make it into the tank. There's also a limit to how much natural gas the pressurized tank can hold.
- Price comparison: Natural gas is appealing for those interested in reducing their out-of-pocket fuel expense, with a $2.05 per equivalent gasoline gallon the number cited by Honda, compared to the current national average for gasoline at about $3.80 a gallon. The downside is that the Civic Natural Gas is the most expensive version of the Civic, with its sticker price starting at $27,065 after destination.