Why is this car so important to the American public? It represents what many experts would predict is the long-term alternate fuel for this country and the world’s vehicles. Compressed Natural Gas is clean and efficient; domestically available; and at least 30% less expensive than gasoline. The Honda Civic CNG is currently the only production CNG car available to the public and the winner of the Green Car Journal’s 2012 Green Car of the Year.
So how does it compare to a regular gasoline sub-compact? CNG engines offer the same driving experience as any car on the road with just a few exceptions. First, the trunk is minimal due to the larger CNG tank. Second, the Civic CNG range is approximately 240 miles due to the amount of CNG the Civic’s tank can hold (gas-equivalent of 8 gallons).
Third, the number of CNG refueling stations may be limited but there are over 250 stations in Southern California, all which are programmed into the navigation system of this Civic. There are municipal CNG stations throughout the United States which are happy to sell CNG to the public during operating hours so some planning for refueling is involved, especially in rural areas.
However, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are more CNG pumps being installed at gas stations across the country. “There are two types of CNG stations: fast-fill and time-fill. The type of station needed is dependent on the application. Typically, retail stations use fast-fill and fleets that have central refueling and the ability to fill overnight use time-fill.” Projections for installations run from $10,000 up to one million dollars, depending on the type of station and other factors. These costs are part of the infrastructure needed for any alternative fuel source.
As for the advantages, all Civic CNG’s can run in the carpools lanes! Driving the 2012 Honda Civic CNG for a week and approximately 600 miles proved that this sedan is very normal. There were no surprises in performance and midrange power was always available, even with 4 large adults aboard. This 1.8 liter CNG engine starts right up in any weather condition, requires a regular auto battery, and can be serviced by all Honda dealerships and most mechanics.
This CNG engine develops 110 horsepower and 106 lb-ft of torque, just like the gas engine but it produces a much cleaner exhaust. The Civic Natural Gas GX is certified to the Federal Tier II, Bin 2 emission level, and is also certified as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). With less carbon, it should run this clean for up to 150,000 miles.
This Civic has an EPA-estimated city/highway fuel economy of 27/38 miles per gallon. I averaged 35 mpg in overall driving. The CNG Civic model includes a driver-selected "ECON" driving mode. The throttle opening moves more gradually for better fuel efficiency, alters shift timing in the standard 5-speed automatic transmission, and alters the operation of the air conditioning system. I did not achieve a great variance in mileage with the ECON button engaged.
Honda continues with the two-tiered dash readouts as found in all Civics. In fact, there is nothing but a small CNG symbol on the fuel gauge to indicate that this Civic is unique. Again it all looks and feels normal. The hybrid-type green instrument indicator does help drivers get the most out of the Civic’s drivetrain system.
One issue with reading a CNG fuel indicator is the variation in readings depending on temperature and tank pressures. The trip computer read 57 miles to empty. The gauge read one quarter of a tank. It was 90 degrees outside and the tank would only take the equivalent of 4 gallons before it was full. Compared to a gasoline tank reading, the CNG is less accurate and is more difficult to determine exact ranges to empty.
Another advantage; consumers can refuel their Civic at home overnight with a wall-mounted CNG unit (purchased separately) manufactured by BRC Fuel Maker. This brings the cost of refueling to about half of current gas prices. The 2012 Honda Civic CNG "Navi" model has no options and the navigation system is key to finding Compressed Natural Gas wherever one travels.
The MSRP comes to $28,425 (including destination charges) which is comparable to any plug-in or all-electric vehicle today. Each state has a different rebate system. However, California and Federal rebates combined will bring the original MSRP down to a well-equipped gasoline-powered Honda Civic.
Civic Natural Gas 5-Speed Automatic $26,305 27/38/31
Civic Natural Gas Navi 5-Speed Automatic $27,805 27/38/31
Standard amenities exceed most of the modern electric vehicles with solid performance, greater range, more stations, Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™ with Voice Recognition, XM® Radio, FM Traffic and CNG refueling station mapping, Bluetooth®, and all the reliability of a Civic. More importantly, Honda is the front-runner in what I predict is the fuel of the future for the USA. By the way- we have almost all the CNG we need right here on American soil instead of depending on foreign oil.