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Belated Earth Day Reflections – Hondas and Pandas

May 13, 2010
The Ohio State University and its Center for Automotive Research was host to the Moving Ahead 2010 conference on sustainable transportation for the 21st Century which brought thought leaders, engineers, politicians, city planners, educators, suppliers and others concerned with shaping the direction America goes for alternative energy for all forms of private and public transportation. An event that I enjoyed immensely was the “Ride and Drive” which allowed the attendees to sample the next generation of ‘green” transportation.  


The Honda Civic GX looks and drives like its gasoline-powered twins, but runs on compressed natural gas (CNG), the same clean burning fuel that heats your home and dries your clothes. You won’t win any drag races in a Civic GX, but you will enjoy a gallon of gasoline cost equivalency of about $1.00 to $1.25 depending on local rates. CNG offers a couple of interesting benefits along with lower operating costs. You can fill at home, if you have natural gas service and a proper CNG filling station already , which allows you to refill when its generally convenient for you. And you won’t punch a hole in the ozone since the only thing coming out of the tailpipe is water vapor.


Fiat brought its CNG Panda for the event. This was an eye-opener for me as it gave me a feel for what Europeans drive on a daily basis. Fiat sold about 65,000 CNG Pandas last year for about 11,000 Euros (about $13,000). The 40 kilowatt (53 horsepower) motor felt like it couldn’t get out of its own way, but in a country where gasoline (and diesel) is always over $5 per gallon, you might overlook this. The cramped little Panda scooted around the test track with little fanfare, but succeeded in expanded my understanding of the wide world of automobiles beyond our shores. As seen by the grins on drivers like EWI Energy Center Director, Kimberly Gibson, its good to have new automotive options.



Posted By: Kevin Arnold – EWI Energy Center