Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Natural-gas-powered Honda Civic can stay in California carpool lane

By JAKE LINGEMAN on 7/11/2011
Honda Civic GX drivers in California are smiling this week as they continue to have access to the high-occupancy-vehicle lane, even with just one person in the car. Even though one-occupant hybrid cars have lost access to the carpool lane, natural-gas-powered vehicles get to use it for another four years.

Beginning on July 1, yellow-stickered partial hybrids were banned from HOV areas on the highways unless they carried the mandated number of people. Natural-gas-powered cars and fully electric cars with the super-ultralow-emission-vehicle notation get a white sticker. Both the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Roadster also fit the mold.

Demand for the natural-gas-powered Honda is up, with sales tripling over the same period last year. Owners of no-longer-exempt cars have gone to dealerships in droves trying to snatch up the remaining copies, new or used. Dave Conant, owner of Conant Auto Retail Group, told Automotive News that he found only one or two used models that were available as of last week.

Unfortunately for Honda, and for HOV-lane drivers, the 2012 Civic NGV won't be ready until the fall. It has a 1.8-liter engine capable of delivering 110 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque. It gets 31 mpg combined in the gasoline-gallon equivalent. New interior features include a multi-information display and, for the first time, navigation.

The price of natural gas historically has been about 30 percent less per gasoline-gallon-equivalent compared with gasoline.


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