Honda has formed an alliance with FuelMaker Corporation to market a practical refuelling appliance that takes advantage of natural gas supplied to homes. The two companies are completing development of a product called Phill which compresses natural gas to the very high pressure needed for automotive use.

As part of the alliance, Honda and FuelMaker have announced plans to begin retail sales of the refuelling appliance and Civic GX natural gas vehicle beginning in California in spring 2005. Up to now the car has been sold only to fleets.

The popularity of natural gas-powered vehicles is gaining momentum as more states enact legislation to permit such vehicles in carpool lanes with just a single occupant. Vehicles powered by natural gas are inherently cleaner than their conventional petrol-powered counterparts, produce less CO2 and have low fuel costs.

"The biggest obstacle to broader acceptance of natural gas vehicles is the limited availability of refuelling stations," said Tom Elliott, executive vice president of American Honda. "This alliance with FuelMaker is great because it will give our customers a personalised solution to refuelling. Our research indicates people like the convenience of filling up at home. Plus, natural gas offers many benefits as an alternative to gasoline and is an abundant domestic resource that strengthens America's energy independence."

In Europe, the advantages of natural gas fuel are offset by the limited number of CNG stations and the limited driving range of the vehicle - although there is an extensive network in Northern Italy and Germany and a growing one in France.