If you had to pick the 2012 Green Car of Year, what would your choice be? Naturally the Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius, and the Nissan Leaf come to mind – maybe even the exotic Fisker Karma. What if I told you Green Car Journal selected the Honda Civic as their 2012 Green Car of the Year. No, not the Civic Hybrid, the Civic Natural Gas.
How many of you have heard of the Civic Natural Gas? Previously called the Civic GX, in 2009 it was only available by special order in four states; California, Colorado, New York, and Utah. By 2011 the market expanded to 35 states and now Honda is rolling out nationwide availability as compressed natural gas becomes more available. Right now every state except for South Dakota has at least one compressed natural gas station, with California leading the way with 200+ across the state. The current price of natural gas is close to half that of regular gas, somewhere between $1.49 (Salt Lake City) and $2.60 (San Francisco) per gasoline gallon equivalent. Overall savings depend on a lot of things. Naturally, how often you drive and where you live are the biggest factors. Many states have incentives to encourage alternative fuel vehicles, and you can purchase a Phill ® home refueling station (pun intended) to dramatically cut your fuel costs. Buying in bulk from the state is much cheaper than buying from a fuel station.
The Civic Natural Gas is cheaper to operate, but how green is Natural Gas? The American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy rated the Civic cleaner than the new electric/gas Chevy Volt and tied with the all-electric Nissan Leaf. Natural gas produces half the particulate matter of average diesel vehicles. There is a significantly reduced amount of carbon monoxide emissions. Nitrogen oxide and volatile organic hydrocarbon emissions are cut in half or more. Toxic and carcinogenic pollutants are drastically reduced when using natural gas.
Sold on natural gas yet? Before you take out your wallet all this green will cost you. The regular Civic sedan starts at $15,955 according to Dan Rideout, VP of Operations at GoAuto, and the Civic Natural Gas comes in at $26,305. Ouch. The new Toyota Prius C has a starting price of $18,950 and gets up to 53 mpg.
The Honda Civic Natural Gas is about as green as they come, but what about using natural gas? Is it safe? Isn’t natural gas extremely flammable? Natural gas itself very flammable and can be dangerous, but so is driving and a nearly everything else we do. You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than having an accident filling up with natural gas. While the natural gas vehicles are less than 1% of the cars on the road today, there were no fatalities compared with 1.28 deaths per 100 million miles for gasoline fleet vehicles. Extra precaution is taken with the gas cylinders and fuel cell of the Civic Natural Gas, in-fact that could be its biggest downfall.
The natural gas fuel cell is larger and the extra precautions taken for safety take up valuable trunk space. A Civic Natural Gas owner interviewed said the one drawback is that they have to put their child’s stroller in the front seat and his wife has to sit in the back because the trunk is too small to fit most items.
Bottom line is the Civic Natural Gas is the greenest car out there. It has a much lower operating cost than gas vehicles and doesn’t have the restrictions that electric cars do. If you’re looking for a new vehicle that has the lowest environment impact it should be on your short list of cars to consider.