2007 Honda Civic Long-Term Road Test

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2007 Honda Civic GX: CNG Comes Home

March 03, 2008

Phinally.

The Phill has been installed.

After waiting almost two months from the time we placed the order for the home fueling device at the end of December, I pumped the first made-at-home CNG into our long-term 2007 Civic GX on Friday evening, after the electrician did his thing and hooked the machine up to a 240-volt circuit.

Dr. Drain, aka Michael Fossler,  the only Phill installer in my area of  Southern California, had delivered, unpacked and hung the nifty little natural gas compressor/pump unit on the garage wall on Thursday.

Took about 3 hours to do the job, which involved boring a 6-inch hole through the wall for an external vent; hooking up the gas intake and exhaust plumbing (there's an exhaust line that lets natural gas spew to the outside in case of a breakdown) and a gas leak sensor and alarm and checking things out to make sure it all works.

I'll probably get in trouble, but I couldn't resist trying things out even before the system has been inspected by the city (that's supposed to happen this week). But honest, your honor, I only used it a little bit, and only once.

One thing with the home unit is that there's no gauge or readout to tell you how much gas it is delivering to the vehicle, and it is not metered separately from regular household natural gas consumption, so there's no really accurate way right now to continue tracking the GX's fuel economy.

We're trying to work out a system with Honda engineers for making accurate estimates of gasoline gallon-equivalents pumped as the retail CNG pumps do by assigning values to each of the 20 little bars that track fuel usage on the car's instrument panel.

Soon as we get a good system going we'll lay it out right here.

Meantime, I can report that the car had 82.3 miles on the trip odometer when I started the Phill at 4:35 pm Friday and that eight of the fuel gauge bars had disappeared. Today I'm also down eight bars, but with 109.5 mileson the trip meter.

It took almost 9 hours to top up the tank (the Phill pumps for a while, stops to cool itself down and run a drying cycle to purge any water vapor that came in from the home gas line, then repeats the cycle until the tank is full.

It's slow FuelMaker Co., the manufacturer, says it takes about 12 hours to fill an empty GX tank pumping the equivalent of about 7.5 gallons, but ambient temperature, the state of the car's fuel tank when you start and a few other things can affect the fueling time.

The slow pace is supposed to help it give a better fill than a retail pump.

The Phill fills until its sensors read that the tank has reached full pressurization of 3,600 pounds per square inch.

That slow trickle at full pressure puts more fuel into the tank than do retail pumps that are listed at 3,600 psi but often only pump to around 3,200 pounds because the gas in the underground storage tanks isn't up to maximum pressure. I've noticed more than once that at least one of the bars on the fuel gauge isn't lit up after I've stopped to top off the tank and the readout on the pump says the car's tank is full.

Now I'm in the process of emptying the tank as much as possible to see if filling with the Phill gives me any more distance on my daily commute route than does filling at a retail pump.

Stay tuned.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @12,561 miles.

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