Honda, GM Expanding CNG Vehicle ProductionBy Danny King October 6, 2011
Honda will expand the production and dealer network for its compressed-natural-gas (CNG) fueled Civic sedan for the 2012 model year, as the Japanese automaker looks to boost sales of the only production CNG passenger car in the U.S. Meanwhile, General Motors will start selling commercial pickup trucks by the end of the year that will be able to run on CNG in addition to gasoline. Honda renamed its Civic GX the Civic Natural Gas for the 2012 model year, will broaden the vehicle's distribution network to 35 states from just four, and will double its annual production to about 2,000 vehicles. The greenest vehicle sold in the United States for eight years running according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the 2012 Civic Natural Gas (above) will manage 11 percent better fuel economy than the 2011 version while the base price jumps 2.6 percent ($665) to $26,155.
Honda stopped production of the 2011 Civic GX in March and sold out of the vehicle in June according to Honda spokesperson Jessica Fini. Honda remains the only company making factory produced natural gas cars for the U.S. market, and its production is far below the annual demand threshold of 10,000 to 15,000 models that U.S. automakers like to see before ramping up for production of a new model. Still, some in the fuel and auto industry say that growing concerns about carbon emissions and energy security may be a springboard for broader CNG-vehicle production for both fleets and individual owners. As a fuel, CNG burns cleaner than gasoline or ethanol, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions. It is also much cheaper than gasoline and reduces periodic engine maintenance because it doesn't contain the impurities that leave deposits in a gasoline engine. Annual global sales of natural-gas-propelled vehicles in the United States will almost quadruple to 33,000 vehicles in 2016 from about 8,400 in 2012, Pike Research said in a report last month.
In another boost for backers of natural-gas vehicles, GM said Monday that it would start selling commercial bi-fuel pickup trucks which can run on CNG by the fourth quarter of 2012. GM, which offers CNG-powered Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana CNG cargo vans, is working with IMPCO Automotive on the bi-fuel pickup fuel-delivery system and says the trucks will meet both EPA and California Air Resources Board emissions standards. In June, GM and Westport Innovations, a Vancouver-based natural-gas engine maker, reached an agreement to develop natural-gas engine components for the automaker's light-duty vehicles. At the time, Westport estimated that 97 percent of natural gas is sourced from North America and that natural gas cuts emissions relative to conventional gas and diesel engines by as much as 20 percent.