Natural Gas vs. Electric Hybrid: Which is Cleaner?

ngv.jpg While at the Alternative Fuels and Vehicles Conference in Las Vegas yesterday, I gleaned insightful information regarding natural gas vehicles (NGVs). According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Honda Civic GX (which is currently the only NGV passenger model being produced today) ranks higher than the Toyota Prius in their Greenest Vehicles of 2008. While the GX has a lower mpg rating than the the Prius, the GX releases less GHG emissions than the Prius – thereby making it the “greener” of the two. Thus, even though the GX uses more gallons of natural gas than the Prius uses in petroleum, natural gas burns cleaner. Natural gas is also cheaper than petroleum and widely available (there are 1,500 NGV fueling stations in the U.S.) While natural gas use is increasing for buses and medium- and heavy-duty trucks, it is surprising that there are not more passenger NGVs available in the U.S. A Honda representative I spoke with mentioned that there is increasing consumer demand for NGVs, especially now in light of higher petrol prices.
Natural gas may not be a renewable resource, but it is considered an important component for the transition away from petroleum sources. Since the technology is available now and releases less emissions than any other vehicle on the market, NGVs are an attractive option for fleets and consumers alike.

Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D., is a clean tech educator and cutting-edge consultant for the auto industry. You can follow her test drives in the cars of the future at

6 responses

  1. Thanks Pablo, I appreciate that reference. So according to your article, CNG releases less CO2 (about 25% less). However, when adjusted for the energy intensity of extracting and transporting CNG, that figure needs to be modified a bit. So, upon what basis do you think that “Greenest Vehicles of 2008” is based on? Based on what I could tell, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy looked specifically at GHG emissions…..your thoughts?

    1. There wouldn't be enough space for the hybrid components. The CNG Honda already suffers from decreased space in the trunk due to the CNG tank. Furthermore, it experiences far less range than the gas model.

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