Monday, March 19, 2007

Vacaville now halfway to environmental goal

Vacaville now halfway to environmental goal

By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer

Article Launched:03/08/2007 06:45:08 AM PST

Vehicles fueled by compressed natural gas are among the most environmentally friendly around, according to the city of Vacaville, and a local program has put nearly 50 of them on the road so far.

Dealerships have leased or sold 47 of the alternatively fueled vehicles, primarily the Honda Civic GX, through Vacaville's Compressed Natural Gas Vehicle Incentive Program.

This development led the city to announce that it is halfway to its 100-vehicle goal.

The city is a national leader is this effort, said Ed Huestis, the city's Alternative Fuel Vehicle Program Manager, who explained that it is made possible through federal and regional air quality grant funding.

"We would like to hit 100 by the summertime," Huestis said, adding that the city would continue to pursue funding for the program well beyond that point. Those who live or work full time in Vacaville, Dixon or Rio Vista are eligible.

Aside from driving the cleanest internal combustion vehicle on Earth, according to Huestis, participants receive numerous financial incentives. For example, the local Honda dealer is offering a $1,000 discount on Honda Civic GXs, in addition to a $6,800 incentive through the city program.

The bottom line is the car, which is normally priced at just over $25,000, then becomes $17,400. This does not account for a $4,000 tax credit that is also available, or the exemption these drivers receive from bridge tolls during commute hours.

Households that install the Phill Home Refueling Unit, which Huestis said is mounted in the garage, receive additional benefits. The city offers a $2,000 incentive from the city toward purchase and installation, which together would run approximately $5,600. Owners are also eligible for a $1,000 tax credit and special gas and electric rates.

If they don't buy this unit, CNG vehicle owners can still fill up at 30 to 35 PG&E fueling stations throughout Northern California, including one on Peabody Road, and another 22 that are not PG&E fueling stations.

"Most of them are 24/7 and very well lit," Huestis said.

"It takes about 3 to 4 minutes to refuel."

With gas prices creeping toward $3 a gallon, he said owners can purchase the equivalent of a gallon of natural gas for $2 at these stations or $1.25 in their own homes. Aside from being less expensive, Huestis said this fuel "is 95 percent cleaner than gasoline."

With the number of filling stations expanding, the program manager added that the Civic GX is very capable on road trips and can average up to 39 miles per gallon on the highway.

"We didn't even have the low fuel light on, and we made it to Seattle this past weekend." he said of his own travels. "We love it as a long-distance vehicle."

With concern about global warming at a fever pitch, Huestis said he expects alternatives to become increasingly popular. Vacaville offers another incentive program for electric vehicles that is also cutting edge, he explained, earning the city the nickname "Voltageville."

"People are looking for options and may not even realize that this exists," Huestis said. "But by word of mouth, it is spreading."

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at

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