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At a Honda dealer near you: Natural gas cars

Honda Motor Co. is the first to offer a natural gas vehicle with its own home refueling machine at dealerships in California.
In this photo provided by FuelMaker Corp., Dan Baker plays with his two children at his home in Chandler, Ariz. In the garage is a Honda Civic GX with a home refueling machine just above Baker's head. A fueling line is plugged into the GX.Mario Pirraglia / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

In what it describes as an industry first, Honda Motor Co. is offering a natural gas vehicle with its own home refueling machine at dealerships in California.

Honda said Thursday it has been offering its Honda Civic GX sedan to fleet operators for seven years, and estimates there are 7,000 of the natural gas-powered vehicles on the road. But this will be the first time consumers can buy the vehicle in a dealership and lease a refueling machine to go along with it.

"Driving a natural gas vehicle has never been so convenient," said Gunnar Lindstrom, Honda's manager of alternative fuel vehicle sales.

Honda said it expects to sell about 300 of the vehicles this year through 17 dealerships in northern and southern California. Toronto-based FuelMaker Corp., which makes the refueling machine, also will make the machine available to consumers in Arizona, Salt Lake City, Dallas and Milwaukee, although the Civic GX won't be on sale in those cities.

Honda said the Civic GX can go up to 220 miles without refueling and costs about 3.75 cents per mile to fuel. A conventional, gasoline-powered Civic can go approximately 350 miles without refueling and costs 8.8 cents per mile to fuel.

The Civic GX has some of the lowest emissions of any vehicle on the road, Honda said. On average, a car with a natural gas-powered internal-combustion engine emits 87 percent less nitrogen oxide, 70 percent less carbon monoxide and 25 less carbon dioxide than a car with an engine that uses gasoline, according to Honda.

The refueling machine uses a home's existing natural gas lines and can be installed for $500 to $1,500. Dealers will lease it for between $34 and $79 a month, Honda said. The lower leasing price factors in possible clean-vehicle incentives from state and local governments, Honda said.

There are a few downsides. If the vehicle runs out of natural gas on the road, it would have to be towed to the owners' home or one of the 100 California gas stations that now have natural gas refueling tanks. The refueling machine also takes eight hours to fuel the vehicle, which means consumers most likely would have to fill it overnight.

"The car is clearly not your primary car. It's your commuter car, your secondary car," Lindstrom said.

FuelMaker said the machine is registered as a household appliance and is no more dangerous than any other appliances that use natural gas.

Toyota Motor Co. spokeswoman Cindy Knight said Honda's offer likely is a first. Toyota offers no similar vehicle or home refueling option, Knight said.

The Civic GX has a 1.7-liter, 4-cylinder engine and starts at $21,670. Buyers can take advantage of a $2,000 federal tax deduction for alternative fuel vehicles.