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Honda is currently the only automaker offering CNG vehicles in the United States. Although it is nice to own an exclusive niche in the vast automotive market, it does have its limitations.
Compressed natural gas stations are uncommon in North America and Honda hopes to change this by installing pumps at its dealers as it pushes plans to double the sales volume of its CNG vehicles to between 4,000 and 5,000 units. Honda is involved in negotiations with California, the biggest CNG market within the U.S., as it hopes to place CNG pumps at two or more Honda dealerships later this year.
According to U.S. vice president for Environmental Business Development Steve Center, “If the [Honda] dealer had a fueling station, it would really reduce some of that concern for the customer. 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.”
Of course, the strategy for these stations are still in a beta phase. Through this project, Honda expects a better understanding of CNG station costs, the volume of vehicles a CNG station can serve, and how many facilities may be established. Honda will work with the dealers to gain the necessary permits, provide financing, and will apply for public incentives as well. Steve Center said, “Something like this helps fill in holes. We want to select a couple of test cases and walk through it.”
Earning the title as the 2012 Green Car of the Year at November’s LA Auto Show, the Honda Civic Natural Gas sedan is priced at $26,155, a $2,100 premium over the Civic hybrid. The Civic Natural Gas is capable of attaining an equivalent 31 mpg and can hold 8 gallons of compressed gas. What’s more, based on findings by the Energy Department, the average cost of CNG per gallon is approximately 65% that of a gallon of regular gasoline. Finally, one of the major perks of owning a CNG Civic is the privilege to use HOV lanes without passengers.
GALLERY: 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas