Here are some of the benefits:
- extremely low emissions
- crazy cheap to run
- solo carpool access(!)
- free parking in L.A. (not Glendale, sadly)
Actually, the best thing about a CNG vehicle is that you can OWN ONE. Its shocking that that of all of the supposed technologies that are going to save us from the evils of oil, there isn't one you can actually BUY TODAY except for the Honda Civic GX.
My car filling up with the big boys at the Burbank CNG station.
The EV1s were crushed. Ethanol is a scam. Biodiesel is cleaner than regular diesel but still pretty dirty. Hydrogen fuel-cell cars cost a million dollars each, though if you are an A-list celebrity, Honda or BMW may loan you a handbuilt prototype. I love the Tesla Roadster, but they've only built a handful and delivered about two to big-time investors in the company.
My first Civic GX at the LAX station.
On the other hand, I bought my first 1998 Civic GX in 2004 at an auction for $3400. I drove the car for several years, loved it, and when my mom needed a reliable commuter, I sold the 1998 to her and bought myself a newer 2001 Civic GX for $6500. In the last year or so, used CNG vehicle prices have risen dramatically, due to high gasoline prices and a huge spike in demand in Utah, where a $3000 tax credit on used vehicles and $0.63/GGE fuel suddenly made CNG a very viable option.
CNG vehicles are still findable though, through eBay, CNG Motors, Nationwide Auction, craigslist, and of course, Honda. Honda is the only company currently selling new CNG vehicles to the public, although used CNG Ford F150s and Crown Vics are also pretty common in the used market.
The drawbacks to CNG are range and cargo space. Since CNG is a gas, not a liquid, it is less energy-dense than gasoline. That means that most of what would be trunk space in a normal Civic is devoted to the CNG tank. However, there is plenty of room for groceries, and I take pride in the ridiculous amount of cargo I've managed to stuff into the GX on runs to Ikea.
Since CNG takes up more space than an equivalent amount of gasoline, the GX has a tank that holds the CNG equivalent to eight gallons of gasoline. Honda claims a 200 mile range, but I fill up every 150-170 miles to be safe. Stations are obviously less numerous than gasoline stations, but there are more than enough stations in Southern California to get around easily. Long road trips are out of the question, although Palm Springs, San Diego and San Francisco are do-able with some planning. The closest stations to Glendale are in Burbank (near Burbank Blvd & Victory) and Downtown L.A. (on Alameda next to Philippe's). There is a also a station in the City of San Fernando that is currently $1.99/GGE, but I did some math and figured that the extra mileage to get there would negate any savings. Also, if you own your home you can install a filling station that taps into your home natural gas line and fill your car's tank overnight.
Another traffic jam at Burbank.
It's cool technology and it's proven. My 2001 Civic has 112,000 miles on it. My mom's 1998 is still running strong at 170,000 miles. If anyone has any detailed questions please comment and I will answer.
Filling up - cheaply!