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2008 Honda Civic GX Compact Sedan

As gasoline prices soar, drivers are driving less, downsizing vehicles and looking at alternatives like hybrids. One option overlooked is natural gas (NG) that is very environmentally-friendly, is domestically produced or comes from friendly countries and is significantly less expensive than gasoline.

Today, the Honda Civic GX is the only car offered by an auto manufacturer that can run on natural gas. Previously, Ford, GM and others offered cars and light trucks that could operate on NG. Only Honda is left in the U.S. market.

Both compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid natural gas (LPG) are rapidly growing in popularity in the medium- to- heavy market. NG is now widely used in transit buses, school buses, refuse trucks, package delivery trucks, and vehicles used in ports.

The 2008 Honda Civic GX is Honda's latest natural gas vehicle (NGV). The first was the 1998 Civic LX. Unlike bi-fuel vehicles that can run on both natural gas, or gasoline, the Honda's NGVs are dedicated natural gas vehicles so they can only burn natural gas. Thus, the engine can be optimized for NG.

According to EPA, the Honda Civic GX is the world's cleanest internal-combustion vehicle. The California Air Resources Board has designated it an Advanced Technology Partial-Zero-Emission Vehicle (AT-PZEV).

The 2008 Civic GX comes only as a four door that looks identical to gasoline Civics. It is powered by a 16-valve, i-VTEC four-cylinder engine that produces 113 horsepower. This compares to 140 horsepower for the gasoline version of the engine.

The engine if equipped a Drive-by-Wire throttle system and only a five-speed automatic transmission is offered. The cylinder in the trunk holds the CNG at 3600 psi has a Gasoline Gallon Equivalent of 8.0 GGEs. The EPA rating are 24 mpg city/36 mpg city, about the same as for the gasoline version.

At a MSRP of $25,225, it about $7,000 more than Civic LX, but the GX usually qualifies for tax credits and other incentives because it is of its extremely low emissions and because it reduces our dependence on imported oil. Also CNG is significantly less expensive compared to gasoline. Maintenance cost can also be less since NG is such a clean burning fuel, carbon deposits in the engine are nil reducing cylinder and ring wear so engine life can be many time longer. Oil change and tune up intervals can also be extended. Finally, in California, at least, you can drive in the HOV lane even with only one aboard.

You can even eliminate stops at a gasoline stations by filling up at home while you sleep. Honda offers the Phill Home Refueling Appliance made by Fuelmaker in Canada. Phill can be installed in the garage or outside so you can refuel off of the household natural gas supply. Phill refueling does require as much as 16 hours to fill an almost empty tank, but an overnight top-off will usually be sufficient for the daily commute. The GX has a range of 220 to 250 miles on a full tank of CNG. Refueling at a fast-fill CNG station takes no longer than tanking up with gasoline.

CNG is a much safer fuel than gasoline. After all, natural gas is found in almost every home. In case of an accident or leak, unlike gasoline that can pool on the ground, NG dissipates harmlessly into the air. With a very narrow range of flammability and nearly twice the ignition temperature of gasoline it is less likely to cause a fire.