What if we told you there is an energy source available to power your car cheaper than gasoline, cleaner burning, and accessible right outside your home? What if we told you there are abundant supplies of this fuel available right here in the United States, there’s no need to import it, nor worry about supplies being cut off by a government hostile to ours?
Further, what if we told you cars have been running on this fuel since 1998 — its proven, reliable and absolutely feasible? Would you want to know more about it? Or more importantly, would you buy a car that ran on this miraculous fuel?
Well, it’s absolutely true.
The car is the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas.
Natural gas, like all petroleum-based fuels, formed from the fossil remains of ancient plants and animals buried deep in the earth. While natural gas gives off a lot of heat and light when it burns, it doesn’t produce smoke because it burns cleaner and hotter than oil-based fuels. The main ingredient in natural gas is methane, which is also produced as a byproduct of the fermentation at landfills. Yes, our garbage dumps also produce this fuel.
Honda sold the first natural gas burning Civic back in 1998 and to date, the company is the only mainstream manufacturer mass-producing a natural gas automobile. Relegated mostly to fleet sales at first, the Civic GX was made available for retail sale in four states (California, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah) in 2005.
However, with the introduction of the all-new 2012 Honda Civic, the manufacturer decided to go all-out to make the Civic GX a viable player in the green car marketplace. To increase its visibility, marketers renamed the car Civic Natural Gas. To improve its availability, sales were expanded to 200 dealers in 35 states. And, to improve its desirability, the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas comes quite nicely equipped.
Standard features include air conditioning, power accessories, cruise control, and a four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system capable of streaming music wirelessly from portable devices via Bluetooth or a wired USB connection. The Natural Gas Civic’s Multi-Information Display integrates vehicle information and compatible personal electronics with a color LCD display in the dash, and can be controlled from the steering wheel. To ease concerns about refueling, the optional Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System hosts a database of publicly accessible Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) refueling stations across the United States.
Powered by the cleanest burning internal combustion engine ever certified by the EPA, the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas uses the same basic 1.8-liter inline four cylinder engine found in other Civic models — modified to cope with the higher temperatures and increased output of the hotter burning fuel. The compression ratio is increased and a stronger crankshaft, connecting rods and pistons are fitted. Additionally, the fuel injectors, intake and exhaust valves and valve seats are redesigned to work with natural gas.
Engine output is 110 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 104 ft-lbs of torque at 4200 rpm. The Civic Natural Gas has a fuel capacity equivalent to approximately eight gallons of gasoline and will travel about 250 miles on a tank of fuel. Fuel economy is rated at 27 mpg in the city, 38 on the highway and 31 combined. By comparison, the Civic Hybrid is estimated at 44 miles per gallon and holds just over 13 gallons of fuel, for a theoretical range of about 570 miles.
So why go Civic Natural Gas over Civic Hybrid?
As of this writing, a gallon of unleaded is averaging $3.25. The equivalent of a gallon of natural gas is about $1.52. Natural gas fill ups are considerably cheaper. However, the Civic Hybrid will travel farther for less money overall. But on the other hand, the Natural Gas Civic runs cleaner and can be refueled at home.
Still though, while the base price for the Civic Natural Gas is $26,905 with destination charges, the Civic Hybrid starts at $24,800 with destination charges. And, to further exacerbate the Civic Natural Gas model’s overall disadvantages, the Civic HF, which does 28 mpg in the city, 29 on the highway and 32 combined — in its least efficient guise — only costs $22,755 (including destination charges) loaded.
So, why buy the Civic Natural Gas? Well, it really boils down to personal preferences. If the idea of running your car on a domestically-sourced fuel that is cheaper and cleaner burning than gasoline, as well as somewhat renewable and accessible right outside your home appeals strongly to you, the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas is currently the only car on the market from a proven mainstream manufacturer that will allow you to do so.