He Doesn't Need Gasoline

It's finally time to retire my 1998 Chevy Lumina.

My car is for commuting. I drive from my home in Moore to work in north Oklahoma City and back. On the weekends or anytime my family is together, we take my wife's van.

So when I went to replace my car, I wasn't looking for something large, luxurious or able to drive cross country. I simply wanted something that would take me 45 miles each day to and from work comfortably and as inexpensively as possible.

For me, that meant something that runs on compressed natural gas.

So I bought a 2009 CNG Honda Civic. It's a retired fleet vehicle with about 33,000 miles.

With my new car, I can pay more for a Big Gulp than for a gallon of fuel — at least at the CNG station by my house, and until the 50 cent-per-gallon tax credit expires at the end of the year.

I topped off my tank this weekend, adding nearly 3.7 gallons for $2.93.

Even without the tax break, I should notice a pretty nice savings.

I've only had the car for less than a week, but so far, I'm pleased.

The natural gas tank holds only about 8 equivalent gallons, but that's enough for at least 200 miles — about four days' commute.

The car has good pickup and, as far as I can tell, runs about the same as a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle.

Some concessions have been made. To make room for the natural gas tank, there are no rear speakers and the trunk is quite small. But, again, it's a commuter car. The trunk has plenty of room for my laptop and camera, which is about all I carry.

Before picking up my new car last week, I first downloaded CNG Now's Fuel Finder app, which locates public CNG fueling stations on a map. According to CNG Now, 19 stations blanket the Oklahoma City metro area with eight in Tulsa and another 45 scattered throughout the state.

Dedicated CNG vehicles are not for traveling cross country. Not yet anyway. Stations are scattered thought the country, but with my 200-mile range, I would have a hard time making it too far outside Oklahoma.

But the efforts of Chesapeake Energy Corp., Oklahoma Natural Gas, Love's, OnCue and others have made it easy to travel on CNG throughout the state.

But I'm still a little paranoid about running out of fuel.

It's been a while since I have run out of gas, but I have cut it close several times.

In a gasoline car, running out of gas would be annoying, but it wouldn't be too difficult to walk to the nearest gas station, fill up a gas can and return to my car. But if I run out of CNG, I'd have to have my car towed to the nearest CNG station, which might not be very near at all.

I'll probably just fill up more often, keeping plenty of gas in the tank.

Topping off my tank every few days for less than the cost of a hamburger is a small price to pay.​

This article was first published by The Oklahoman.

Home page feature image by Adam Wilmoth / The Oklahoman.

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