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GREEN GARAGE

Hybrid sports car on the drawing board

Acura concept car showcases dual-power muscle

October 16, 2002|John O'Dell | Times Staff Writer

The system compresses gas from the residential line and pumps it into the vehicle's tank through a special nozzle.

It will be certified as a natural gas appliance, meeting the same safety requirements as natural gas water heaters and clothes dryers, and come with a gas leak warning alarm that automatically shuts down the system in the event of a leak, Chaput said.

The Civic GX sedan uses a 1.7-liter four-cylinder engine with a range of up to 220 miles on an eight-gallon tank of compressed natural gas. Base price is $20,510, and Honda figures it will sell about 5,000 a year.

Honda describes the GX as a "nearly zero-emissions" car, and the California Air Resources Board certifies it as a super-ultra-low-emission vehicle. (It also qualified for the board's special PZEV, or partial zero-emission-vehicle, credit when the state's zero-emission-vehicle mandate was in force, but that has been put aside until a General Motors suit challenging the ZEV mandate is resolved.)

One immediate boost for natural gas vehicle sales in California might be that state law lets them use freeway diamond lanes as single-occupant vehicles, the same benefit allowed motorcycles and electric vehicles (hybrids, which combine gasoline engines and electric motors, cannot use the diamond lanes unless there are two or more people inside).

In addition to the Civic GX, another natural gas vehicle now available is the Ford Crown Victoria, said Paul Vetter, spokesman for the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition. Consumers, however, will face the task of persuading a dealer to order one.

Chevrolet makes a natural gas Cavalier sedan; Ford and General Motors make natural gas pickup trucks; and Ford, GM and Chrysler make natural gas vans, but those vehicles are marketed almost exclusively as commercial and government fleet vehicles, Vetter said.

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John O'Dell writes about the auto industry for Highway 1 and The Times' business section. He can be reached at john.odell@latimes.com.

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