Honda Motor Co. is looking to boost sales of its natural-gas powered cars by distributing its natural gas Civic GX to major cities next year, the Detroit Free Press reported. The carmaker, which currently sells the auto only in California, is hoping to increase its sales of about 500 this year to close to 1,500 in 2006. On of the problems in selling the cars to the public was the lack of natural-gas refueling stations available. California posed less of a problem, as it has 135 natural-gas stations across the state. However, Toronto-based FuelMaker Corp. is trying to solve the problem by offering refueling machines that car owners can store in their garages, according to the report. The company has already sold 50 units. The machines, about the size of a suitcase, compress natural gas from the lines in the home to fuel the vehicle. Filling up takes about eight hours. Honda first offered its line of natural-gas Civics to fleet operators. General Motors Corp. has followed suit with the introduction of its natural-gas trucks last year. Though Honda will be the only automaker to make available a natural-gas vehicle to individual drivers, the report said. The Civic GX is the same as the gasoline-powered Civic in nearly every respect – from look to sound to how it runs. But the natural-gas Civic gets about 220 miles per tank while the traditional version can run for 350 miles. Natural gas, however, is about 65 cents cheaper per gallon than gasoline, with an expected 50-percent jump during the winter months only, the Free Press reported. By 2004, there were about 130,000 natural-gas powered vehicles on the road compared to the 230 million gasoline vehicles.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet