Natural gas fuels new car excitement
The atmosphere was festive Tuesday afternoon as Barbara Ihle awaited the arrival of her new car.
Unlike most new car buyers, though, Ihle was joined by officials of the Metropolitan Utilities District and technicians from A-1 United Heating & Air, who were just as excited about her new car as she was.
According to M.U.D., Ihle is the first Nebraska resident to purchase a natural gas-powered car and a home-fueling station for private use. She bought the Honda Civic GX Natural Gas Vehicle at Omaha's O'Daniel Honda.
Ihle researched natural gas vehicles for more than a year before deciding to buy one. She knew she would be the first private citizen in the state to do so.
"Somebody has to take the initial step," she said.
M.U.D. foresees greater demand for natural gas-powered vehicles once the advantages— ease of use, cleaner emissions and lower fuel prices — become apparent, said Doug Clark, marketing vice president for the Metropolitan Utilities District.
Ihle's research revealed that she would be paying the equivalent of $1.23 per gallon. "It was very attractive when gas was $4 a gallon," she said.
A natural-gas vehicle costs about $6,700 more than a traditional Civic, said Matt O'Daniel, general manager of O'Daniel Honda. Most buyers would qualify for a $4,000 tax credit, he said.
The vehicle can go about 225 miles on a full tank, Ihle said.
With the purchase, Ihle also installed a natural gas fueling station, called a Phill station, which will allow her to refuel the vehicle at her west Omaha home.
On average, the cost of such a station would be about $6,000 to $8,000 installed, according to Ray Barr of A-1 United Heating & Air, which installed the station.
Ihle expects to recoup her expenses in about five years from the fuel savings. She also will receive $6,000 in federal incentives toward the cost of the filling station and the car.
Clark has been driving a similar natural gas-fueled Civic for almost a year, part of a fleet of more than 60 vehicles owned by M.U.D.
Throughout the year, fuel prices ranged from 48 cents to $2 a gallon, he said, with highway mileage ranging from 32 to 42 miles per gallon. The car handled Clark's 120-mile daily commute to Lincoln without a hiccup, he said.
A public fueling station would cost about $400,000, making one unfeasible until there are more such cars on the road, Clark said.
"(But) once you've established a consumption pattern, then we can financially justify the construction of a public fueling station, so that's our goal."
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