We Talk NGVs With Honda – Honda Talks Back!

Playtime with the Honda Civic GX was (for me) one of the highlights of last month’s Chicago Auto Show.  A few things happened after Gas 2.0 published the article, however, which were totally unexpected.  The first:  someone at Honda’s PR department actually read it.  The second:  they (the someone at Honda’s PR department) made contact (!).

It’s like I’m a real writer!

After some initial chit-chat and small talk about the “new” Acura nose (which looks like the old Acura nose), we got down to an informal “interview”, which I’ve organized and edited below, in a manner which makes me – ideally – seem like some kind of professional writer with organized and linear thought patterns. (He gets one good interview and it goes to his head – Ed.)

Without further ado, then …

Question 1.  It looks like the Civic GX has been enough of a success in its trial markets to, at least, warrant a new version based on the 2012+ Civic. How different is the new GX compared to the previous generation?

Answer 1. As you may know, the Civic GX is entering into its fourth generation – with the first generation introduced back in 1998. The Civic GX has continued to evolve and improve with each generation, and this fourth generation is no exception. Over the years, the Civic GX has moved from being considered primarily a fleet vehicle to a car embraced by retail customers.

To answer your question: at the moment, we cannot disclose many details on the 2012 Civic GX (those will be announced soon, though). What we can tell you that the new car will have some added features to make it even more appealing to retail customers, and will achieve better mileage (7-8% improvement over the 2011 model). The Civic GX driving experience will also get more customizable, with the first-time application of Honda ECO Assist technology. ECO Assist is also found in our hybrid models, and enhances efficient vehicle operation by providing driver feedback that promotes a more efficient driving style. Basically, we’ll be giving GX drivers more of what they look for in a GX – which is to say additional, driver-focused features that make for a more enjoyable commute and improved fuel economy.

Q2. … and these new, 2012 + GX Civics will be available through every Honda dealer? What about the home fueling rigs – are those available through Honda stores as well?

A2At Honda’s most recent national dealer meeting, we announced that the Civic GX would be made available to any Honda dealers expressing an interest in selling it. It is up to the individual Honda dealership to decide if they will sell the GX to retail customers. Factors like customer interest and CNG infrastructure in their area will come into play when a dealer selects whether or not to sell the GX.

As for the home refueling appliances, there are a few available in the marketplace. The most notable appliance is probably the BRC Fuelmaker system, which is marketed as “Phill”. The Phill is sold through a number of vendors, but not through Honda dealerships – although, at one point, Honda had an ownership stake in the Phill.

Q3.  Do you know what the Phills cost, and how easy or difficult they are to install in a customer’s home?

A3Any customers looking at a home fueling option should contact their local gas company about installation. A Phill distributor would be the best contact for current price information, also.

Q4.  Back to the car itself, then. How different, from a technical point of view, is the engine in the GX compared to say, the engine in a “regular” Civic or the Civic Hybrid? I’m sure you can guess my next question, too.

A4The Civic GX has several different components that separate it from the conventional, gasoline Civic.  I’ve gotten a short list from one of the Honda powertrain guys, which includes:

  • dedicated gaseous fuel injectors
  • single stage, low pressure oil trap filter
  • a tank pressure sensor
  • a tank temperature sensor
  • a fuel rail pressure sensor
  • a fuel temperature sensor
  • a unique fuel shut-off solenoid valve
  • unique fuel filters
  • a CNG fuel receptacle (as opposed to a standard fuel nozzle)
  • inlet valve delay closure
  • a closed-coupled catalyst, with an exhaust manifold integrated into the cylinder head and a close-coupled two bed catalytic converter
  • a unique tank valve, plumbing, and fuel joint block where line fittings in the trunk are contained within a fuel pipe duct that vents to atmosphere

Q5.  I’ve already alluded to it in the last question, and you even mentioned that the new GX will have ECO Assist, just like the Honda hybrids. So … why not do a GX-style, CNG Hybrid?

A5Right now, Honda is focused on developing conventional, gasoline-electric hybrids – although we are always watching and studying the market.

Q6.  Getting more towards the Civic line, in general, it seems like Hondas have always appealed to people who were concerned about efficiency – but the Civic in particular has a strong presence in the performance and automotive aftermarket industry, as well.  Honda even touched on this with the “Civic Nation” ad campaign a few years ago.  Looking at that, and considering that CNG, of course, has a much higher “octane” rating than gasoline (it’s equivalent to about 130 octane) the idea of a high-performance CNG Civic seems like a very attractive alternative for guys like me and Chris (who are performance enthusiasts as well as green car enthusiasts).  That’s a leading question, I know, but do you think Honda would support enthusiasts tuning the GX/CNG cars for more power and performance the same way they’ve supported the Civic tuners in the past?

A5Honda has always appreciated the creativity of its customers in the marketplace, and we appreciate their passion. Honda engineers have developed the GX specifically to be the best balanced car for the customer. The engine and other areas are specifically tuned to provide a reliable and dependable driving experience. We discourage any modifications to the engine that could void the warranty.

Maybe a nice set of wheels or a Honda accessories spoiler would be a better modification.

(aside:  this is a very standard, professional OEM response that roughly translates to:  “We warranty what WE build, not what YOU build.” which is a topic I’ve discussed at length on the Mercedes-Benz boards)

Q7. Fair enough. We’ve already discussed some of Honda’s hybrid technology, and how that first came to market on the original Insight, but since spread to other vehicles like the Civic, CR-Z, and Accord hybrids. Might the same thing happen with CNG? In other words: what’s the next CNG car coming from Honda?

A7We know there is some demand for a larger CNG vehicle. Customers have expressed interest in a CNG-powered Hondas with more passenger and cargo carrying capacity, and with the new nationwide dealer expansion opportunities, we can now gain a better understanding of what customer demands for CNG powered vehicles will be on a larger scale.

Can we pose that question to your readers? What model would they like to see powered by CNG?

So, Gas 2.0 readers (Gas2ronaughts?), the answer to “What’s the next CNG Honda?” might be found in the comments, below.  If you’re craving a CNG/electric CR-Z hybrid or an ultra-high-compression VTEC Civic Si or a CNG-fueled minivan to pull airport shuttle duty for your hotel, SO HAVE YOUR SAY in the comments.

Source:  Jessica Fini at Honda PR. (Big thanks to Jessica for the awesome interview!)

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.