American FuelMaker has shown a natural gas vehicle Home Refueling Appliance (HRA). Due for release in 2003, the HRA is about the size of a pay phone and can be installed in a garage or outdoors using a home's existing natural gas supply line.Home fueling will help to increase consumer acceptance of natural gas powered vehicles like the Honda Civic GX, a vehicle sold by Honda in America which is designed to run exclusively on natural gas - the engine has the cleanest internal combustion engine (lowest emission levels)in the world. Not surprisingly, Honda is championing the company's cause and has purchased 20% of Fuelmaker.With natural gas vehicles operating cleaner than gasoline or diesel, the impact on air quality is significant. In addition to the convenience of fueling at home, drivers in some areas such as Southern California, will have the advantage of using HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes even without passengers.The new system will go on sale next October in the United States at around AUS$3,700. The company hopes eventually to mass-produce 20,000 to 40,000 units, which would lower the cost to AUS$1,800 each. Unlike high-pressure natural gas pumps which refuel vehicles in about the same time it would take to refill a traditional gas tank, FuelMaker's low-pressure tank takes between five and 10 hours. It is being marketed on the basis that drivers would leave the pump connected to the car overnight and have a full tank in the morning. The availability of the home refueling system could prove to be a key milestone in the road to improved air quality. "Alternative fuel vehicles struggle with the chicken and egg problem," said Robert Bienenfeld, American Honda's senior manager of product planning. "If you don't have vehicles, you can't sell infrastructure; if you don't have infrastructure, you can't sell vehicles."
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