Moving to expand the horizons of compressed natural gas as an automotive fuel, Honda Motor Corporation has sold FuelMaker Corporation, the company that manufacturers its trick Phill CNG home-refueling system to Clean Energy Fuels Corporation, owned by investor and green activist T. Boone Pickens. Honda was quick to point out that the $17-million transaction in no way signifies that it's abandoning CNG. To the contrary, the firm is looking to ramp up production on its super-clean Civic GX model to meet increasing customer demands for the only natural gas-fueled passenger car currently sold in America.

"Clean Energy clearly has the resources and expertise to broadly market the Phill home refueling appliance and Honda believes that this transaction will serve to further enhance the convenience and attractiveness of natural gas as an alternative fuel to consumers," said Dan Bonawitz, American Honda vice president, Corporate Planning & Logistics.

Those sentiments were echoed by Clean Energy's CEO Andrew Littlefair, who noted, "The new era of high fuel prices has created a dramatic increase in demand for lower-cost natural gas fueling in all transportation sectors, ranging from trucking to consumers. Due to the greater worldwide acceptance of light duty natural gas vehicles, we are broadening our strategic focus to offer fueling solutions for small fleets and consumers." Littlefair also pointed out that he expects most of the near-term sales of Phill units will occur outside of the U.S., as the international arena currently boasts a population of over eight million CNG-fueled vehicles.

One of the most attractive aspects of the Phill system for Clean Energy is that it's already certified for use in Canada, Germany, Russia, Australia, Japan, and Argentina, as well as the European Economic Community and the United States. FuelMaker's proprietary gas-compression technology package also is protected by no less than 18 U.S. patents and patent applications and an additional 75 international patents and patent applications.

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