Oklahoma teamed with 22 other states to get the best possible price on vehicles fueled by compressed natural gas. Now, a Honda dealership in Tulsa is passing those savings on to state employees.
Michelle Williams, specialty accounts manager at Don Carlton Honda, said the offer should help compressed natural gas gain more traction as an alternative fuel to gasoline.
“The more of these we can get out there on a retail basis, the more platforms that will come, the more infrastructure that will come,” Williams said.
Honda produces the only dedicated CNG vehicle available in the United States, the Civic Natural Gas. It retails for $27,000, or about $5,500 more than the comparable gasoline-powered model.
Williams said available rebates, tax credits and the state bid price help narrow the gap for those on Oklahoma's payroll. Zero percent financing is available as well.
Jay Albert, the state's deputy energy secretary, said he had thinking about trading in his Toyota Prius hybrid for a CNG Civic for a few months because of the potential savings afforded by the tax credit and $1,000 rebate funded by Oklahoma Natural Gas. The ability to buy at the state bid price sealed the deal for him.
“The fact that they're making it available to all the state employees is a great thing,” he said.
Albert said he figures he spends about 7 cents a mile to drive his Prius. He will be able to cut that figure by about two-thirds when he starts driving on CNG.
“The cost savings are pretty incredible,” he said.
Albert said he recently drove to Little Rock in a state-owned CNG Civic, using only a single tank of gas. It cost $8.77.
He said Oklahoma has enough CNG fueling stations that he isn't worried about any “range issues” as he switches away from gasoline.
Williams said the CNG Civic gets about 39 miles a gallon, giving it an average range of about 250 miles on a single tank of gas.
Williams said she has seen increased interest in the CNG Civic due to rising gasoline prices. A number of state employees have made purchases, even though the program is only a couple of weeks old.
She said Gov. Mary Fallin's focus on adding CNG vehicles to the state fleet has made them a visible option for state employees and others.
Williams said the state started placing orders in November, accounting for about 10 percent of the CNG sales in the nation for that month. She figures that number has grown since then.
Eric Rosenberg, who manages Honda's Civic Natural Gas program, said the multistate bid has attracted a lot of attention.
“There was a lot of press and all the states involved garnered a good deal of public relations benefit,” Rosenberg said in an email. “Unfortunately, only one state (Oklahoma) has firmly embraced their commitment and has invested in a significant number of Civic CNGs this year.”
Albert said some states may have made CNG purchases that did not show up on the multistate bid because they have put out duplicate bid requests for the same vehicle.
Oklahoma has ordered more than 200 CNG vehicles since receiving bids in October.