In Translogic episode 6.2 we took a look at one of the cleanest yet most obscure green cars sold in the U.S., the 2011 Honda Civic GX. The GX is just like every other Civic, except that its engine burns compressed natural gas (CNG) rather than gasoline. Honda confirmed to Translogic that when the company redesigns the Civic for its ninth generation, there will be a Honda Civic GX. Since the GX sells in such small numbers, there was speculation that it might be dropped when Honda undertakes a complete overhaul of the Civic, as it has scheduled for the 2012 model year. But Honda is dedicated to the CNG Civic and says hopes to make it a bigger part of their alt-fuel efforts.
Ever since the car's introduction in 1998, the Civic GX has really been more of a fleet car rather than typical retail car the average shopper would consider. In 2009, Honda sold just 1,757 Civic GX's.
The car's fleet origins mean the interior is a little lackluster. It's no secret, Honda already knows the Civic GX lacks the bells and whistles even sub-compact owners have come to expect. Jessica Fini with American Honda said "Due to customer feedback, the 2012 Honda Civic GX NGV will be more comfortable and offered with desirable options like a navigation system and upgraded stereo." Perhaps the secret of the Civic GX is about to get out.
Honda also confirmed that the 2012 Honda Civic GX will not deviate from the current car's basic formula of being a Honda Civic first and foremost and a NGV second. The Formula seems to be working; the 2010 Civic GX was named "Greenest Vehicle" by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.
But the picture isn't all rosy for the natural gas powered Civic, a lack of public CNG fueling stations could put a damper on Civic GX ownership. For instance, according to cngprices.com, there are just two CNG refueling stations in the Atlanta area and one requires special key-card for access and there's just one CNG station between Miami and Jacksonville. On the other hand, cities like Boston, Denver, New York, Salt Lake City and Tulsa, Oklahoma have many CNG stations. California seems to have the most CNG stations of any other state: San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles combined probably have more re-fueling stations than the entire rest of the country. Even so, some CNG stations in the Los Angeles area are 10-20 miles away from the center of many suburban communities. There is a reward once you find a station, many people are paying the equivalent of $1.07-$2.60 per gallon.
Some Civic GX owners can capitalize on the low price of CNG and skip the infrastructure worries by outfitting their homes with a refueling mechanism that uses the natural gas already piped to most homes. The cost is about $4,600 but you can get a tax credit of $2,000. The company that made the Phill refueling unit was purchased by another company so it's unclear if an individual in every state can still get a natural gas compressor installed at home. Gas Equipment Systems Inc has offices in California and Texas so that's a good place to start.
Honda says the Civic GX is the cleanest burning internal combustion engine in the world. But for every advantage with the CNG powered Civic, there seems to be a disadvantage. The Civic GX isn't especially thrilling to drive; with its 1.8 liter engine making just 113 hp, the car feels slower than a regular Civic. A gasoline powered Civic with a 1.8 liter engine makes 140 hp – a difference that's noticeable to the average driver. Also, the Honda Civic GX costs a little more than $25,000. By comparison, a Honda Civic EX with leather and navigation is still about $2,000 less. And the Civic EX cruises to a combined EPA estimate of 29 mpg. The equivalent combined fuel economy estimate for the Civic GX is 28 mpg. Those who buy a new 2010 Honda Civic GX may qualify for a $4,000 tax credit and Californians who buy a new Civic GX will qualify for the states zero emission HOV stickers which means you can use the carpool lane even if you're alone in the car.
In the end, the Honda Civic GX's green credential are rock solid, what's not so clear is if the car makes sense for the average green leaning motorist. Honda already has a Civic Hybrid, Insight Hybrid and the sporty CR-Z Hybrid plus the gasoline powered Honda Fit gets a respectable 36 miles per gallon on the highway. The difference is all of Honda's fuel sippers can be fueled up at the local filling station while the Civic GX can't and that's really the car's Achilles heel.
Click the image below to watch episode 6.2