(Reuters) - American Honda and natural gas fueling station operator Clean Energy Fuels Corp are offering $3,000 for fillups to customers buying a 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas car, the companies said on Tuesday.
Buyers of the new compact Civic will get debit cards that can be used at any of the 163 Clean Energy stations in the United States.
Honda has sold 1,576 of the car, which runs on compressed natural gas, since it was introduced last October, Honda spokesman Marcos Frommer said. American Honda is the U.S. sales arm of Honda Motor Co.
Honda claims the model's owners can save up to 40 percent on fuel compared with conventional gasoline-powered compact cars. The 2012 Honda Civic natural gas gets about 200 miles to a full tank, about half that of many compact cars.
The average price for natural gas in July was $2.02 for the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, compared with the average price for gasoline in July of $3.38 per gallon.
Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVA), an industry group, notes on its website that natural gas prices per gallon of gasoline equivalent are $1.50 to $2 per gallon less than conventional gasoline.
The Civic Natural Gas, which is sold at 199 dealerships in 36 states, is the only natural gas-powered car made by a major auto manufacturer that is available in the United States.
Peter Grace, a vice president at Clean Energy Fuels, said the $3,000 natural gas debit card represented two to three years of free fuel. The debit card incentive to buy the natural gas Civic is valued at about half the cost premium of the car from a similar gasoline-powered Civic.
The Honda Civic Natural Gas costs $26,305 for the base model without destination charges, which is about a $5,650 premium to the gasoline-powered Honda Civic EX.
According to NGVA's website, there are about 120,000 natural gas vehicles in the United States and more than 15 million worldwide.
Richard Kolodziej, president of the NGVA, said on Tuesday there are about 1,100 natural gas filling stations in the United States, and about half of those are open to the public.
He said natural gas filling stations are being built in the United States at a rate of 20 to 25 per month.
(Reporting By Bernie Woodall)