November 05, 2009
So after spending last weekend in our Mini E and jumping into our 2007 Honda Civic GX last night, I think I'm able to develop a quasi-educated opinion about our two green cars. As you already know the Honda is our natural gas long-termer, the Mini E our electric car.
Honda Civic GX
- Even though it has a small trunk at least you can carry three passengers.
- Awesome fuel range.
- Can fill at home with Phill
- Ours has a single occupant car-pool lane sticker. Woo!
- The limited availability of natural gas fueling stations makes it tricky for planning long road trips.
- Not fun to drive but at all.
- Still retains some of its gokartness.
- I find it easy to drive in stop-and-go traffic once I got used to taking my foot of the accelerator to slow down, etc.
- No gas required.
- Can charge it at home even without a specially installed wall charger.
- With only two seats and a tiny trunk, you can't haul much around.
- Takes a lonnnng time to recharge.
- Very limited driving range means you have to carefully plan your trips or take none at all.
- Would have to be your second car.
Which one do I prefer?
Um. Hmmm. If I HAD to choose one, eeesh.....I guessssss, huh, I'd say the Mini. But remember, I'm a single city dweller who likes fun cars (the Mini for me is more fun to drive than the Civic) and who likes the idea of no gasoline. And for long road trips, I have the Edmunds fleet to choose from. Suffice it to say, not everyone will share my opinion. But then again, after two years in our fleet the Honda Civic GX has inspired only 55 posts. The Mini E after only four months? 70. Just sayin'.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 35,301 miles (2007 Honda Civic GX)
July 01, 2009
It's been two months since I last drove our Honda Civic GX, and unlike most of my colleagues, I'm actually looking forward to getting back behind the wheel.
I've enjoyed the natural gas-fueled Civic ever since I started using it back in October of 2007 for most of my daily commuting between my home in Orange and Edmunds' offices in Santa Monica - not because it's a particularly exciting car to drive but because it is the ideal Southern California long-distance commuter car.
It comes with a single occupant car-pool lane sticker, which cuts about an hour a day from my 100 mile-plus round trip; it's saved hundreds of dollars on fuel and, with a Phill home fueling unit in my garage (thank you, boss!) I don't have to worry about where my next tank will come from.
And consider this: Fuel consumption has averaged 32.8 mpg over the last 19,000 miles, and the average cost of fillingl its tank from the home natural gas pump is a mere $1.22 per gasoline gallon-equivalent. That's for both the natural gas and the electricity to compress and pump it.
So even though it's sluggish off the line and pretty basic in the amenities department (power windows and locks, AC, base Honda stereo and that's it), it's been nice to have around - sort of like a longtime acquaintance who's always reliable but doesn't demand much attention from day to day.
I've not been driving it because of a pinched nerve in my back that's made sitting in the Civic's low-slung seat somewhere between awfully uncomfortable and incredibly painful for the 90 minutes I spend on the freeway most mornings and evenings on days I drive into Santa Monica.
What's even more painful though is the time it takes to commute on some of the nation's most crowded freeways without being able to legally jump into the carpool lane - and, of course, the amount of cash I have to fork over to fill the SUV I've been driving because its chair-height seats are easier on the back during a long commute.
But I've managed recently to get the discomfort level down to a steadily bearable ache - you gotta love those steroids - so I'm climbing back aboard the Civic GX.
In the SUV I've been paying $3.13 a gallon for its required premium fuel and averaging 20.3 mpg on the commute. That's about $17.25 per round trip.
Compare that to the Civic GX's $4.01 per round trip and its easy to see why I'm happy to get back behind its wheel, and to heck with a little back pain.
Warren is absolutely correct in his recent post - having a Phill does make a huge difference. And Erin's right about the temporary unavailability of the Phill (although there are other - albeit larger and more expensive - natural gas pumps on the market).
But I don't agree with Mark's comment that the GX is only for people with a Phill and that for the rest it's a "pricey novelty" at best.
It certainly wouldn't work in Ohio, or Alabama, but there are places were natural gas fuel is readily available: the LA basin is one - there are 5 retail natural gas stations along the main freeway I use when commuting to the office instead of working at home (that's one every 11 miles on average).
There are 79 public stations within a 240-miles radius of the office - the approximate range of the GX, which packs 7.5 usable gallons-equivalent of CNG in its pressurized tank.
A GX can easily make the 385-mile trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco without pump anxiety (although going farther north or heading east toward the Sierra Nevada mountains wouldn't be a very good idea unless youve got a thing for tow trucks).
And in Oklahoma and Utah natural gas is not only abundant, it's incredibly cheap, often less that 75-cents a gallon-equivalent at retail pumps!
If you want to check natural gas availability for yourself, the federal Energy Department's got a nifty alternative fuel finder that'll not only show you where the stations are, it will map a trip for you so you can quickly see whether it can be done in a natural gas vehicle.
A number of people have been asking how we figure our fuel consumption and pricing with an unmetered unit like the Phill.
For the long version I'll refer you to the explanation posted shortly after we started using the home unit early last year.
The short version is that we use educated guesswork, checked by the occasion retail pump fill-up to see how close our estimates (a system worked out with Honda engineers) jibe with the metered tallies at retail pumps certified by the Department of Weights and Measures.
So far, we've been within a few hundredths of a gallon-equivalent, which makes us pretty secure in the fuel economy figures we're posting for the Civic GX.
So yes, it's a great commuter car; no, its not gonna serve many people as their primary vehicle; yes, the Phill is expensive and, right now, impossible to buy new; and no, the GX doesn't make sense everywhere and for everyone.
But it is incredibly convenient if you have a long commute and a handy fuel supply; it is helping Honda gather data that could someday lead to a purpose-built natural gas car; it does free you from the tyranny of escalating gasoline prices, and if (or when) we run short of petroleum, it could keep you rolling right past the long lines and/or rioters at the corner gasoline station.
It also is greener than any other internal combustion vehicle (save the few hydrogen-burning BMW test cars) in the country.
And it makes my commute so much easier !
John O'Dell, Senior Editor
March 03, 2009
What a difference a change in the weather can make!
I've been watching the GX's fuel economy pretty closely the past few months (while studiously avoiding writing about it, to the chagrin of several editors around here!) and can now report with the authority of numbers that although the daily drive hasn't changed, fuel efficiency has improved markedly as nighttime temperatures have dropped.
It all goes back to nature of the Civic GX's natural gas fuel - its molecules expand when warm and contract when cold. The tank, which holds the equivalent of 8 gallons, will contain more natural gas, by weight, when the fuel is pumped on a cold day (or night, which is when we fill up) than on a warm one.
Anyhow, the GX averaged 35.77 miles a gallon over the last 2,719 miles, from Dec. 17 through the most recent fill-up on Feb. 26, a period when nighttime temperatures (we fill up overnight) regularly fell below 45-degrees Fahrenheit.
That's almost 5 percent better than the 34.07 mpg average we recorded for the previous 3,347 miles, between Sept. 30 and Dec 16, when nighttime temperatures in our area were in the high 50s and low 60s.
Continuing our backward march through time, the GX averaged 31.68 miles a gallon for the 11,256 miles before that - Feb. 28, 2007, through Sept. 29, 2008, a period of even warmer nighttime temps .
We're not going back any further because Feb. 28, '07, was when we started using the Phill home natural gas fuel pump, which delivers a denser fill-up than the retail pumps we'd been using since the GX came into the Edmunds Inside Line long-term fleet on June 29, 2007.
(If you are curious, our average for that initial period, covering 12,255 miles, was a flat 29 mpg and our average since, for 17,240 miles, has been 32.79 mpg).
And to reiterate, almost all of the driving, save for two weekend mini-vacation drives, has been on Southern Caliofrnia freeways and most of that during the morning and evening rush-hours. We do get to use the carpool lanes, however, so there's been a bit less fuel-wasting, stop-and-go driving than if we were out there in the scrum every day with the rest of the mob.
Oh, and for the whole time we've been using the home fueling system, we've been averaging under $2.25 a gallon-equivalent for our natural gas and the electricity to compress and pump it, even when regular gasoline was up over $4 a gallon.
For the past few months, with gasoline in the $2.10-$2.40 range here, our CNG fuel at home has run well under $2 a gallon.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Edmunds Green Car Advisor @ 29,479 miles
November 21, 2008
The Civic GX's odo says it has traveled 25,611 miles, and the last posting about the car on this blog was at 19,683!
Apologies. It is hard to regularly find something new and exciting to write about when you drive the same car day after day. At least it is when the car is a 2007 Honda Civic GX. Barring a natural gas incident (the car, not the driver) , the GX is wonderful but unexciting basic transportation. Period.
This posting is occasioned by three things: The GX's first brake job, a mileage and fuel-cost update and a Honda transmission idiosyncrasy that we've discovered.
We got the brake job -- $183.85 for front pads and rotor resurfacing, after we noticed a slight noise -- not grinding, but not right, either -- when braking hard at freeway speeds.
Turned out the rotors weren't warped, but were glazed and discolored from excessive heat - the result of all the braking we do in our 100-mile-plus round trip commute in rush-hour traffic.
The service advisor at our local Honda dealership told us we were actually doing pretty good: that the range for a first front-end brake job was 5,000 to 25,000 miles, with an awful lot of people coming it at under 15k. The composition of the Civic's brake pads, he said, can make 'em wear out pretty fast.
On the fuel economy front, we're still averaging around 33 miles per gallon-equivalent, not bad for a car that's EPA-rated at 28 mpg and is usually driven in the worst of all conditions for decent fuel economy - Southern California freeways during morning and evening rush hours.
It should be even higher.
One thing I should have written about a while ago but have been too embarrassed to tackle is my inability to drive the car in the proper gear.
I'm constantly finding myself roaring down the freeway in 3rd instead of in the far more fuel-efficient "drive," which gives you 4th and 5th gears to play with.
Actually, I'm told (by guys at Honda, no less) this can be a problem with many Hondas with automatic transmissions .
The console-mounted shifter is all the way forward in "Park" and as you pull it back through "Reverse" and "Neutral" you'd think the logical stopping point would be in "D."
But Honda's engineers, for reasons known only to them, designed the shifter mechanism so that it easily pulls right through the "drive" position and locks into "D3," which locks out 4th and 5th gears.
If you shift by feel, which I do all too often, you can easily end up winding it out in 3rd, which I do and which gulps fuel .
Fortunately, with a Phil natural gas pump in the garage, our fuel costs are well below market rates - even with gasoline and natural gas prices at the retail pumps down around the $2 per gallon mark now.
We've been averaging about $2.10 a gallon all along, even when retail pump prices were nearly $3.25 for natural gas and over $4 for gasoline.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @ 25,611 miles
July 20, 2008
The 2007 Honda Civic GX, fell into my hands for two wonderful weeks and I had a chance to really experiment with stretching every last whiff of natural gas (as opposed to every last drop of gasoline). I filled it five times and got an average of 35 mpg over about 700 miles. With the price of natural gas at $3.15 a gallon, this seemed like a real bargain. For the record, the best tank I got was 41.2 mpg and the worst was 31.4 mpg.
My two weeks in the GX didn't evoke any new impressions. There were moments when the power was definitely missing such as when I climb an onramp to the freeway and needed to go from about 45 mph to 70 mph with all manner of vehicles hurtling up my tailpipe. But that one moment is largely erased by low cost fuel, life time car pool stickers and the Honda refinement present in the GX.
One thing that irritates me is how people just don't get this car. Is it a once-a-year family vacation vehicle? No. Is it a once-a-month canyon carver? Absolutely not. Is it a break-the-bank exotic? Forget it. It's an everyday commuter vehicle plain and simple. And it does that beautifully.
Philip Reed, Edmunds.com Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 19,683 miles
June 09, 2008
Our 2007 Honda Civic GX is the kind of car that doesn't generate much news. If gas prices go up the story is always the same: Hey, you can buy natural gas at the equivalent of $2.99 a gallon! If gas prices are down, the story is also the same: This thing doesn't have much power.
But this week something actually happened.
A pickup truck stopped short and we were two inches away from missing him. That's how far his trailer hitch punched into our front bumper. It also popped out the side of the bumper but one of our editors hammered it back into place. Boring? Well, we tried.
Now, back to gas prices.
The GX is usually driven by John O'Dell, editor of the Green Car Advisor, but since he was out of town, I took the wheel. I babied the car, drove during off hours, loved the car pool lanes and got a high of 34 mpg.
One morning, while filling up, another GX slid up beside me at the pump. This gentleman commutes 100 miles a day from Santa Monica, to Ontario, CA. He bought the GX for fuel prices and to get into the carpool lanes. With gas prices shooting up he is bursting with smugness over his decision.
I input the GX's fuel data and found that our lifetime average in this green vehicle is 30.1 mpg.
Philip Reed, Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor@ 17,702 miles
May 09, 2008
Hey, Hey! We Won't Pay! Home fuel unit has CNG cost down to $2.04 a gallon. After just over 16,000 miles -- hard plastic , intruding hand brake , pitifully poor acceleration and boring exterior notwithstanding -- the Civic GX is humming along quite nicely, and economically, thank you.
For sheer driving pleasure it's way down the queue, but as a daily commuter on Southern California's [insert colorful adjective of your choice here] freeways, it ranks way up at the top of my list of cars I want to keep using.
Except for two scheduled oil changes at 7,000 mile intervals, a recall to install a safety gasket and a round of tire adjustment when we discovered during Edmunds.com's Earth Day tire pressure projectthat inflation was high by about 2 pounds, or 6 percent, per tire, we've had no problems, although one might be developing.
We'll be making a service appointment because several of us have noticed a very slight and intermittent shiver or shudder when the car is idling. It's unpredictable, but most assuredly there. Feels like it might be caused by a clogged fuel injector nozzle.
It's not so significant that we're thinking of an immediate check up, but we'll be asking the service guys at the dealership to look at it during our next scheduled oil change, in about 5,000 miles.
Aside from that, things couldn't be better, especially since the home fueling unit was installed in my garage. That has ended the daily detour to find a retail CNG station and has lowered the GX's fuel bills considerably.
Regular gasoline is selling for $3.839 a gallon in my part of Southern California and CNG at the admittedly pricey Clean Energy pump near the office is going for $2.849. But $2.036 per gallon is what fuel from the natural gas pump in the garage cost during the past month.
That's a 46.8 percent savings over the cost of fuel for a conventional gasoline-burning Civic LX and is 28.5 percent cheaper than fuel from the Clean Energy outlet.
The per gallon cost for the GX for April also is down considerably from $2.53 per gallon we computed for March, largely because the April bill from the Southern California Gas Co. included a discount the utility offers households that have a home CNG fueling unit.
It cut the average price of natural gas to $1.11 per therm (that's equal to 0.784 gallon-equivalent when the gas is compressed and pumped into the car via the Phill fueling unit.
Add the Phill's share of the monthly meter fee from the gas company (about $4.50 in April) and a few bucks for electricity to run the pump (based on our five-year averaging method it was $7.29 for April) and you'll get a total of $53.93 for the CNG equivalent of 26.496 gallons of fuel.
The per-gallon price will bounce around a bit each month because of minor adjustments based on total household usage of both natural gas and electricity, but I'm expecting it to stick close to the $2 per gallon mark and will let you know if it gets off that mark by more than a dime on either side.
Meantime, fuel economy continues creeping up, thanks in large part to the increased density of fill we're getting with the home fueling unit. (A denser fill means more energy per gallon, thus better mileage.)
Overall average since we put the Civic GX into our longterm fleet last June is now is 29.96 mpg, up from 29.38 mpg the last time we figured it 2,385 miles ago and a 5 percent, or 1.5 mpg improvement, from the 28.4 miles per gallon average we recorded over the first 5,234 miles we drove the car.
Better yet, in the month since we computed the first home fueling bill, the Civic GX has averaged 31.16 mpg.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @ 16,171 miles.
March 28, 2008
In the previous post, I laid out how we were going to be computing fuel economy in the 2007 Honda Civic GX now that we're using a home fueling unit that doesn't provide a way of measuring the amount of compressed natural gas being pumped.
After a lot of calculating, estimating and talking to Honda engineers, we decided to assign a value of .368 gallon-equivalent to each bar on the Civic GX's fuel gauge. Thus, if we were down 10 bars and refilled overnight, we'd figure we'd pumped 3.68 gallons.
To double check, I ran the tank down by 12 bars this morning and pulled into the neighborhood Clean Energy retail CNG pump to fill it back up on a pump that does measure gallonage.
At our assigned value of .038 gallon per bar, I expected to pump 4.416 gallons
The readout on the pump said we got 4.471 gallons when the tank registered full.
So our "best guesstimate" method of figuring fuel use was off by just fifty-five thousandths of a gallon (0.055 gallon, to be precise).
John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @14,192 miles
March 21, 2008
A full tank is 20 lighted bars on fuel gauge. Each represents 0.368 gallon.
The city inspector has signed off on it, so our Phill home natural gas pump is officially up and operating. For the 1,395 miles the Civic GX has traveled since at-home refueling began, average fuel economy has jumped by a little more than 3 miles per gallon an extra 21 miles per tank as best I can figure it.
Warning: What follows is a lengthy discourse on how we are computing fuel economy with a system that doesn't tell us how many gallons are being pumped into the tank.
For those who don't care about the how, the net result is that we're now averaging 29.38 miles per gallon in our compressed natural gas Civic GX after 13,562 miles, up from a little over 28 mpg at 10,000 miles. The boost comes mainly from the average of 32.34 mpg we're recorded over the 1,395 miles that we've been using the Phill.
If you do care, or are hoping to catch me in an error (not hard to do), feel free to read on 'til your eyes glaze over.
Physics explains the jump, but I'm not a physicist, so the best that I can do is pass on the explanation I received from Eric Rosenberg, assistant manager of American Honda's alternative fuels unit:
The Phill pushes more compressed natural gas into the car's tank than does a rapid-fill pump at a retail station; so even though the fuel gauge reads full with either type of fill-up, there's more fuel, so more miles per gallon, in a tank filled by the Phill.
It's all about heat and pressure.
The Phill reads the pressure in the tank and fills until it hits 3,600 pounds per square inch. Because it is a very slow fill, averaging the equivalent of just 0.4 gallons an hour, the Phill doesn't cause much of a heat build-up in the tank.
Retail pumps, however, shove the gas in at a rate of close to 2 gallons per minute, which causes a heat build-up which causes the internal tank pressure to rise which fools the pump into thinking the tank is full when it isn't. Additionally, the retail pumps merely pump til the fuel tank pressure is equal to the pressure in the pump's storage tank, and that's often well below 3,600 pounds
I've put 1,395 miles on the GX since the first fill-up with the Phill, and under a system co-developed with Honda's Rosenberg, figure that it's pumped the equivalent of 43.138 gallons, for a fuel economy average of 32.34 miles per gallon.
We averaged 29.05 mpg for the first 12,173 miles we put on the car and had been seeing fuel economy increase a little with each tank.
The denser Phill fill explains the fuel economy increase, although, as Rosenberg admits, there's no easy way to get a really accurate read on gallon-equivalents delivered by the home pump.
Some gas utilities provide a separate meter for it, but here in Southern California, the Phill unit is hooked into the home meter, so it's hard to figure out exactly how many therms went into the car versus the hot water heater, clothes dryer, stove-top, gas fireplace and whole-house heating system. Best you can get is a pretty good estimate by comparing several years of gas bills on a month-to-month basis, and I've not received a new bill since I started using the home system.
Using the Civic's fuel gauge isn't any more accurate.
It has 20 bars that all light up when the tank is full, and then disappear one by one as the compressed natural gas in the tank is depleted. But with the Phill, at least with our Phill, the system shuts off and registers full when 19 of the bars are lighted.
Rosenberg says that he's received a mix of reports from GX users, with many others also reporting that their cars' tanks appear to be full when that penultimate 19th bar lights up and that they never see the20th bar.
February 04, 2008
A landmark, of sorts.
The odo passed 10K on the way home Friday (it is difficult to get a decent picture of a lighted digital odometer while stopped, in the dark, in the carpool lane but as the traffic was cooperating, I tried!).
I've put most of those miles on our 2007 Honda Civic GX, a point driven home Friday morning when managing editor Donna DeRosa asked me whether I got bored driving the GX all the time.
What can I say?
It is a bit boring, but hey, it's a basic Civic, a slightly underpowered basic Civic, and most of my driving is on Southern California freeways during Southern California rush hours. Driving a Ferrari is boring when stop-go-stop-go-slow down-stop-go-stop-stop-go-slow-go is the pattern and top speed rarely rises above 40 miles an hour.
Still, it is a Civic, so it starts whenever you ask it; goes where you point it, is comfortable, has a radio (audio system is too proud a term to describe the two-speaker AM/FM/CD setup), turns corners without tipping over and stops promptly when required.
Add to that a single-occupant carpool lane permit and better-than-average CO2 emissions because of the lower carbon content of its compressed natural gas fuel, and the Civic GX becomes a blissful commuter car.
Every once in a while there's even is a soupçon of excitement: wondering how much farther you can drive once the fuel gauge hits empty (haven't run out yet); getting the recall notice that says the CNG tank could take off like a rocket if we lit a big fire in the back seat (we still haven't taken it in for the fix a new seal of some sort); visiting Honda dealership at 7,000 miles for the first scheduled oil change (the first time its been to a dealership since we picked it up at the end of June; and getting the Phill.
Actually, we don't actually have the Phill the natural gas compressor and pump unit that will let us fill the GX overnight in our garage. But we got word Friday that FuelMaker Corp., the Canadian company that, well, makes it, finally has shipped our Phill to the installer.
It's supposed to arrive around the end of this week, and we're hoping we can get it installed, inspected and approved by the 15th.
In preparation, we updated the fuel log this morning and can report that at 10,083 miles, we're averaging 28.43 miles a gallon. That's unchanged from the then lifetime average of 28.4 mpg posted at 5,234 miles back in November.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Edmunds Green Car Advisor @ 10,083 miles
December 10, 2007
They told me when I joined the Edmunds team that I would probably be the designated driver for the long-term 2007 Honda Civic GX because I was the "green" guy and because, frankly, nobody wanted to put up with the hassles of finding the natural gas pumps the car requires and worrying about running out of fuel and being left high and dry.
A look at our fuel log over the almost six months the GX has been in the fleet bears that out. Only eight members of the staff have driven it, and most of them only once.
The average distance traveled between fill-ups of compressed natural gas has been well under 150 miles and only once has anyone had to put more than the equivalent of 6.5 gallons of fuel into the 8-gallon tank that's supposed to be good for an average of 224 miles.
Well, we pushed the limits the other day, watching the little light bars on the fuel gauge -- about 0.4 gallons-equivalent per bar --blink out until they all were gone and the bright amber "low fuel" light was all that was aglow on that side of the instrument panel.
The occasion was a round-trip drive to La Jolla from the city of Orange in Orange County -- near D-land for those not familiar with the geography.
Most of it was done at speeds of 65-85 mph on the San Diego Freeway. The top end of that range certainly isn't best for fuel effiicency, but if you travel at less than 80 on the stretch between the San Onofre nuclear power station and the city of Oceanside you are liable to be run over by everyone else -- makes you think everyone's trying to get as far from the power plant as quickly as possible.
Anyhow, at the end of the trip, with that fuel warning light burning away, we pulled in to a CNG station near home and pumped in 6.345 gallons. Paid $16.81 for it, or $2.649 a gallon on a day regular gasoline was going for about $3.30.
The trip odometer read 210.4 miles -- the first time it's topped 200 -- and our fuel economy for the trip came out to 33.16 miles per gallon. The GX is EPA rated at 24 mpg in the city, 35 on the highway and 28 for the combined cycle.
A friend from Northern Califonria who's been driving a GX for several years says CNG stations abound up there, so for our next distance run we're thinking a spring trek to the Russian River wine country just below Mendocino. That'll let us test the fuel supply infrastructure, push the mileage a bit and see how much old vine Zinfandel we can squeeze into the GX's truncated trunk.
And if we run out of fuel before we run into a CNG station, we'll also be able to report on the eficiency of the Northern California AAA tow service.
John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Edmunds Green Car Advisor @ 6756 miles.