"The market is coming to us," said Gunnar Lindstrom, head of Honda's alternative fuels division, in an interview with the Associated Press.
The Honda Civic GX looks and runs the same as a regular Civic. It even sounds the same, so drivers don’t have to put up with the kind of rattle and hum that have been a problem with diesel engines. The new model costs about $4,500 more than a basic gasoline-powered Civic, but that’s not what has made it a hard sell. Many consumers like the idea of driving a car that is less polluting, costs less to operate and doesn’t rely on foreign oil, and they’re willing to pay more for it.
The big problem up until now has been that there are relatively few public stations that sell natural gas for automobiles—only about 600 in the United States—so drivers were afraid they wouldn’t be able to get fuel when they needed it.
That problem has been solved by a Toronto-based company, FuelMaker, Corp., which sells a home-based refueling machine that motorists can keep in their garage and use to refuel their cars overnight. The machine, about the size of a suitcase, compresses natural gas from the lines in your home and pumps it into the fuel tank of the Honda Civic GX. Refueling takes about eight hours.
Other benefits of driving a car powered by natural gas include hefty tax credits in some states and a new federal tax credit (beginning January 1, 2006) of $3,600 for the car and $1,000 for the home-based refueling machine. Another federal tax credit of $30,000 for anyone who builds a public refueling station, plus 37 cents for every gallon sold, may also increase the number of refueling stations along the highway.