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LTLFTcomposite
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Leaf vs Civic NGV

Mon Mar 05, 2012 8:07 am

A friend of mine is looking at the Civic NGV. In areas where natural gas is available what are the pros and cons of Civic NGV vs Leaf?

At a glance it looks like Civic NGV is $10k cheaper list price, not sure about what all subsidies apply, apparently varies by region. He said range is 220 miles and he can get a home refueling station for $4500, minus a couple thousand in subsidies.

IMO you've got a better chance of seeing L3 built out before you see a lot of NG stations in FL but nothing to back that up. So is it better to go with the Leaf and let FPL burn the gas more efficiently in their power plants?

For all the fussing over battery safety, the idea of this device in the garage producing 3000psi natural gas pressure is a bit unsettling, but again nothing to back that up.
LTL
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Devin
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Re: Leaf vs Civic NGV

Mon Mar 05, 2012 8:44 am

We've had our Civic GX for over 2 years and there are a few others on here who also have or have had Civic GXs.

Cons
-Fueling infrastructure can be dodgy, I've pulled up to CNG stations that were not functioning properly for a variety of reasons - the most common being that the credit card reader is down. There's rarely ever an attendant on duty so if it doesn't work you can call the fueling company and hope for the best - but repairs can be a day away. The other big problem is that some stations will not give you a full tank because their equipment isn't capable of compressing the gas all the way up to the 3600PSI the Civic can store and some stations only have older 3000PSI filling equipment or the 3000PSI pump is the only one operable.

-Don't bother with home refueling. It's a headache. You need the natural gas plumbed to the station in your garage as well as upgraded 240V electrical wiring. Then you can count on a refueling experience of 4-12 hours. The home refueling devices also have a limited run time and must be refurbished at 6,000 hours. There's more discussion on that here on CNG Chat. After a lot of research we decided to forgo purchasing a home refueling appliance.

-Service and maintenance are costly and must be done by specific CNG certified Honda dealers. Regular car stuff can be done at any dealer or by yourself (my girlfriend does the oil changes and stuff) but the CNG specific stuff must go to Honda, and that can be every other service. For us that means a 50 mile drive to Palmdale to the competent and reasonably priced Robertson Palmdale Honda. Also, the CNG cylinder is only certified for 15 years so after 15 years by law it MUST be replaced.

-Performance and acceleration are not even comparable with the Leaf. The Civic GX is slower than the regular petrol Civic.

-CNG cost can fluctuate/rise with petrol cost, though there is some protection from that when you have home refueling (but not always worth it as described above). For us, operating costs for the Civic GX are not too different from operating costs of the Prius.

-We bought our Civic GX used so I'm not up to date on the current subsidy status, but I'm pretty sure the subsidy for a CNG car is not as large as the $7500 subsidy for a Leaf from the federal government.


Pros:
-Aside from a smaller trunk and different performance it's pretty much a regular Civic so expect everything you'd get with buying a Civic.

-Higher range than Leaf and where there is already fueling infrastructure refuels are only a 5-minute affair. There is no Level 1, 2, or 3 to worry about. If you're not using a home refueling device, and the fueling station is up and running properly, you'll get a fast refill. What you might not get is a completely full refill.

-In California at least you get carpool stickers just like the Leaf.

-As an alternative to petrol it makes a lot of sense if the fueling infrastructure is present in your region. Honestly we'd keep our Civic and sell the Prius if it weren't for the fact that Civic GX resale values are very good right now, our Prius is a newer car and still under warranty, and it makes more sense for us to keep at least one vehicle that's capable of a road trip to Vancouver and back.


I do like the Civic GX and the concept of CNG, particularly when compared to regular petrol-fueled vehicles, but when you compare it to the amenities and convenience of EVs I don't think it holds up as well. A Civic GX isn't a bad choice of vehicle by any means and if there were no plug in vehicles available today I'd likely have bought another new Civic GX.
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LTLFTcomposite
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Re: Leaf vs Civic NGV

Mon Mar 05, 2012 8:57 am

Wow Devin thanks for the response with lots of great info. I will certainly pass that along. I was just reading about the refill time on the home refueling, that's pretty bad, on par with L1.
LTL
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Re: Leaf vs Civic NGV

Mon Mar 05, 2012 9:07 am

LTLFTcomposite wrote:Wow Devin thanks for the response with lots of great info. I will certainly pass that along. I was just reading about the refill time on the home refueling, that's pretty bad, on par with L1.

Glad to be of help!

In all honesty though, home refueling of CNG is more comparable to L2 charging than L1 because you have to consider the range gained for time connected to fueling device which is about on par with a 3.3kW L2 charger. Imagine the Civic's tank is equivalent to 2x a Leaf's battery. For comparison against a Leaf the time to refuel isn't the issue, it's the cost to refuel factoring in the installation of the refueling appliance and it's required rebuilds.

Installation costs for a L2 charger in your home can be dirt cheap (EVSE Upgrade and an L6-20R) but even with a full AeroVironment (or similar) L2 charger the costs are must lower than a CNG filler, if for no other reason than that you should never need a $2500 rebuild of your EVSE.
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garygid
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Re: Leaf vs Civic NGV

Mon Mar 05, 2012 9:28 am

Are you allowed to have a high pressure
"supply" tank at home for fast-refills at home?

In a typical home refill, do you reach 3500 psi?

How much electricity does a "full" refill use at home?
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Re: Leaf vs Civic NGV

Mon Mar 05, 2012 9:32 am

So in round numbers 1 hour of home refueling is about 10 miles of driving? 6000 hours sounds like a lot, but if that's the case that's only about 60,000 miles... maybe 5 years.

Any ideas how much that tank replacement will set you back in 15 years? In addition to the parts that sounds like pretty technical work. Certainly a 15 year old car doesn't owe anybody anything, but you see plenty of regular gas cars living beyond that. Since it's a time limit high mileage drivers stand a better chance of getting their money out it.
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evmike
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Re: Leaf vs Civic NGV

Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:06 am

Last I read Honda no longer supports home CNG stations citing a water in the gas issue.

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Devin
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Re: Leaf vs Civic NGV

Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:10 am

garygid wrote:Are you allowed to have a high pressure
"supply" tank at home for fast-refills at home?

In a typical home refill, do you reach 3500 psi?

How much electricity does a "full" refill use at home?

From my knowledge you cannot have a high pressure tank at home without extensive permitting and potentially re-zoning. The Robertson Palmdale Honda dealer that we go to for servicing actually had a 3600PSI CNG station installed on the premises and from everything I've understood about it it's a much bigger deal than installing an L3 DC QC. The last time we were there for service (not long after the station was installed) it was non-operable so we had to drive to the SoCalGas facility to fill the car before we headed home.

From what I understand a typical home refill does allow you to reach ~3600PSI. I'm not sure how much electricity is consumed during the course of a fill. The 240V is required to supply enough electricity on demand to the compressor in the unit so I believe it consumes large jolts of electricity for short periods of time, off and on in a cycle. Not having first hand experience with one of these units though I cannot say for sure.

LTLFTcomposite wrote:Any ideas how much that tank replacement will set you back in 15 years?

I've heard estimates of about $3000-$4000 for the Civic, likely exceeding or matching the total value of the car at 15 years of age. In the Civic I think it's harder to replace the cylinder than in a lot of the commercial trucks and vans as their tanks are generally exposed in the truck bed or cargo area.

It's a conundrum that is not drastically different from the concept of replacing an EV's traction battery at age, the only difference is that it is illegal to operate a 15+ year old CNG cylinder whereas it is not illegal to operate a 15+ year old EV traction battery.
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LTLFTcomposite
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Re: Leaf vs Civic NGV

Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:53 am

Looks like Phill draws about 1kw:

http://www.brcfuelmaker.it/eng/casa/phill.asp?click=no

If that's true that's not very good for 10 miles of driving considering that electricity alone would take the Leaf 4 miles.
LTL
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Drivesolo
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Re: Leaf vs Civic NGV

Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:03 pm

CNG and HFC vehicles have so much potential for things to go horribly wrong. Some people have a tough enough time feeling safe charging an automotive battery in their garages due to the concern of H2 out gassing. How much more of a concern would someone have w/ a large high pressure tank(s) of CNG or even a vehicle w/ its own tanks in the garage.

High pressure tanks are nothing to take lightly for automotive applications. The threat of a catastrophic explosion in an accident would always be a concern. Forget the concerns w/ an EV catching fire; a NG ruptured tank w/ the gas being ignited makes any concerns about BEVs or even traditional ICE's look absolutely insignificant.

If you recall the video of the NG Korean bus that had it's tanks fail:

Just the blast alone is deadly, it's hard to imagine how much more tragic it would be if it was ignited.
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