2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas Wins Green Car of the Year

Los Angeles —The 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas was named the Green Car of the Year on Thursday at a ceremony at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The Civic beat out a diverse field of finalists: the Ford Focus Electric, Mitsubishi i, Toyota Prius V and VW Passat with a diesel engine. The finalists, in conjunction with new models and concept cars shown by other automakers, represent virtually the full spectrum of green technology available on the market today.

Michael Accavitti, vice president of marketing for American Honda Motor Co., said of the honor, “This, to Honda, is everything.”

“Environmental awareness is right in our wheelhouse,” he said.

Last year’s winner was the Chevrolet Volt extended-range hybrid. This year, General Motors Co. had no finalists, nor did Chrysler Group LLC.

The Civic is the fifth-generation model to run on natural gas.

“There is no other vehicle like the Civic Natural Gas on American highways, and this recognition has been a long time coming for Honda,” said Rob Cogan, editor of the Green Car Journal.

The Civic Natural Gas debuted in 1998 but was largely a fleet vehicle. A few years ago, Honda started selling some to retail customers in four states. But with the redesigned 2012 model that went on sale last month, the automaker is expanding distribution to 200 dealers in 36 states.

Honda is targeting 2,000 sales a year initially, but expects that to double, Accavitti said of the $26,155 car that gets 38 miles per gallon in highway driving and can be filled at home. A tank of compressed natural gas provides a range of about 240 miles.

The winner was decided by a panel of judges representing the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Futures Society and Global Green USA, as well as talk show host Jay Leno and car icon Carroll Shelby.

At the auto show, Honda showed the new 2013 Fit EV that will go on sale next year as a leased-only vehicle.

BMW AG had two electric car concepts on display: the i3 Series compact electric vehicle and the i8 Series performance coupe.

Both will go into production, said spokesman Dirk Arnold.

The i3 is a four-seater that will be sold both as a pure electric vehicle with a range of about 100 miles and as an extended-range hybrid with a small gasoline engine.

Both versions will go on sale worldwide at the end of 2013.

While the i3 will get conventional seats and doors, the production model will keep the carbon fiber body, aluminum chassis and floating instrument panel from the concept. The lighter body will save 220 to 330 pounds and compensate for the added weight of batteries, Arnold said.

The i8 is a plug-in hybrid that will go about 20 miles on battery power before the 1.5-liter, three-cylinder gas engine kicks in.

It will have the performance of an M3 but get 80 mpg, Arnold said.

It will go on sale in early 2014.

They will all be built in BMW’s Leipzig, Germany, plant.

BMW has an electric version of the 1-Series on sale now, but only 600 to 700 converted coupes will be sold in the U.S. as a field trial to gather data and feedback. The i3 and i8 will be BMW’s long-term electric vehicles.

Alisa Priddle/ The Detroit News

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