American Honda Motor Co., Inc., which markets the Civic GX natural gas vehicle, has purchased a 20 percent interest in FuelMaker Corporation, a privately held Toronto-based company and the leading manufacturer of natural gas vehicle refueling appliances.

In addition, Honda R&D Americas, Inc., will provide market research information to assist FuelMaker’s efforts in developing an inexpensive, advanced technology, home refueling appliance for natural gas vehicles. This new product will allow natural gas powered vehicles to be conveniently refueled from a homeowner’s natural gas line, in addition to refueling at public stations.

“Natural gas offers many advantages and opportunities as an alternative to gasoline,” said Tom Elliott, American Honda executive vice president. “Substantial supplies of natural gas exist in North America and there are significant environmental benefits. The biggest challenge the industry faces is developing an infrastructure that provides customers with improved access.”

Currently, natural gas powered vehicles are primarily purchased by corporate and government fleets that buy alternative fuel vehicles to meet Energy Policy Act goals. These organizations typically maintain their own refueling facilities.

Honda has been selling the natural gas powered Civic GX since 1997. The EPA has referred to the GX as being the “cleanest internal combustion engine vehicle in the world.” The Civic GX also has earned a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) rating and produces almost zero emissions. The new 2001 Civic GX offers increased range, fuel economy and greater interior and trunk space. It is equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for responsive performance and fuel efficiency.

“Advanced technology vehicles like the CNG Civic GX face the ‘chicken and egg’ infrastructure challenge,” Elliott said. “Without more vehicles on the road, the infrastructure won’t grow. But without an expanded infrastructure, vehicle demand remains limited.

“Our research and marketing experience with the Civic GX indicates consumers like the idea of being able to refuel their vehicle at home,” Elliott said. “As natural gas lines already supply most homes and businesses, the availability of an affordable home refueling system will expand the potential for alternative fuel vehicles.”

Recognized as a leader in environmental technology, Honda has been at the forefront of enhancing fuel economy, lowering emissions and developing alternative fuel vehicles. Honda was the first automaker to sell gasoline-powered vehicles meeting California’s stringent emission standards for Low Emission Vehicles (LEV) in 1995, Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) in 1997, and Super ULEVs (SULEV) in 2000. The Honda Insight was also the first gasoline-electric hybrid available in America when it went on sale in December, 1999. About 88 percent of all 2001 Honda vehicles are LEV rated or better.

American Honda, the U.S. sales and marketing subsidiary of Honda Motor Co., Ltd., was founded in 1959. Honda currently produces automobiles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, lawn mowers and engines at its U.S. manufacturing operations using domestic and globally-sourced parts. Honda also maintains R&D centers in California, Ohio and North Carolina that design and develop many of the products sold in America.

FuelMaker Corporation is an environmental technology company providing infrastructure solutions for both the natural gas and hydrogen/fuel cell fueling industries. Development of FuelMaker’s core technology, supported by 94 patents, began in 1989. Since then, FuelMaker has built a base business to satisfy the gaseous fueling needs of industrial and consumer markets. The combination of extensive R&D, a manufacturing and quality focus, and 8,000 FuelMaker Vehicle Refueling Appliances (VRAs) in operation for both natural gas and hydrogen, has resulted in technology and a product line that is recognized around the world as extremely reliable and state of the art. (A VRA is a self-contained system that compresses natural gas or hydrogen and delivers it to the vehicle.)

FuelMaker was voted “Best Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) Company” in a North American industry poll two years running (1998 and 1999). Its 3,600 psi VRA was also voted “Best New Product” in 1998.