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Honda offers $3,000 fuel cards to promote CNG Civic

Honda Motor, the only automaker selling compressed natural gas cars to US drivers, will offer $3,000 of the fuel to buyers of its CNG-powered Civic to expand sales of the vehicle amid surging California gasoline prices.

The promotion for Honda’s Civic Natural Gas is being done with Clean Energy Fuels, the largest owner of US natural gas stations, the carmaker said in a statement today. The fuel debit card can be used only at stations operated by Clean Energy, 23 per cent owned by billionaire T Boone Pickens.

“We want to draw even more consumer attention to the many environmental and cost-saving benefits of the vehicle,” said Angie Nucci, a Torrance, California-based spokeswoman for Honda.

Honda has said it wants to sell as many as 5,000 of the Indiana-built Civic Natural Gas this year. The Tokyo-based company’s promotion of natural gas, a domestically sourced fuel that’s cheaper than gasoline and emits less tailpipe exhaust, comes as US-based General Motors and Chrysler Group LLC are readying pickups powered by the fuel.

Gasoline prices jumped late last week in California owing to reduced output at the state’s refineries. The average price of unleaded regular gasoline in California was $4.67 a gallon as of early today, according to AAA’s website. Regular gasoline at the pump averaged $3.82 a gallonnationwide on October 8.

The Civic Natural Gas sedan costs $26,305, or $2,105 more than a hybrid version, according to Honda’s website. The car averages 31 miles (50 kilometers) per gallon equivalent of fuel, and holds the equivalent of 8 gallons of compressed gas.

Honda has inventory of about 1,500 Civic Natural Gas vehicles, Nucci said. While the promotion runs until the end of 2012, the fuel cards don’t expire, she said.

The equivalent of a gallon of compressed natural gas cost an average of $2.05 in July, according to the Energy Department. Incentives for owners in California also include a permit allowing solo drivers to use highway car pool lanes.

Honda’s American depositary receipts fell 2.3 per cent to $29.83 at the close in New York. They’ve declined 2.4 per cent this year. Clean Energy fell 2 percent to $13.59 and has risen 9.1 per cent this year.

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