Honda and Chevy Only Ones Fueling Natural Gas Car Market
When people talk about the green car movement, they’re usually referring to hybrids and electrics. Meanwhile, natural gas is getting left out of the conversation about alternative fuel vehicles.
Although the plentiful low-emissions fuel source is about half the price of gasoline, few car companies have taken advantage of the obvious appeal that compressed natural gas (CNG) cars have for long-distance commuters.
Currently, Honda is the only company selling a CNG car, as the brand updated the natural-gas version of its Civic earlier this year. In a few months, Chevy will be joining Honda with the release of its dual-fuel Impala, which will run on a combination of natural gas and traditional gasoline.
Todd Clements, who drives an older model CNG Civic and runs a website called AltFuelPrices.com that tracks the location of CNG filling stations, said that, “if you want a passenger car you have a choice right now of a Civic or a Civic.” Once Chevy joins them in the CNG car market, together the two auto companies could succeed well enough to convince other manufacturers to develop their own natural gas-fueled offerings.
They will be fighting an uphill battle, though: according to IHS Automotive, the first half of 2014 has seen just 254 new CNG autos registered, compared to 47,000 electric car and 46,000 plug-in hybrid registrations. CNG cars cost more to make and to sell, and most car companies don’t see much demand for them.
Additionally, CNG cars have little support from environmentalists, because although they reduce smog-forming emissions of carbon monoxide by 70 percent and produce 20 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline powered cars, they still obviously leave a larger carbon footprint than all-electric models.
Still, Honda is hoping it can appeal to drivers who are put off by the relatively short ranges that plague the majority of electric vehicles. While most electric cars have a range of just 80 miles, Honda’s natural gas Civic can go 220 miles between fuel stops.
The Civic CNG has a starting price of $26,640, which is $4,000 more than its gasoline counterpart. When released, the dual-fuel Chevy Impala will have a base price of $38,210, which is 23% higher than the comparable gasoline version.