2012 Honda Civic Hybrid set to test company’s new hybrid strategy

Article by Christian Andrei, on June 6, 2011

Honda Motor Co. has yet to prove that it can have a successful hybrid despite being the first automaker to sell an electric-gasoline vehicle in the U.S. Its redesigned Civic Hybrid that was launched last April 20 will be the first test of whether the company’s new strategy of utilizing lithium ion batteries, and two-motor systems later on can prove to be a hit.

The company’s previous hybrid vehicles have come short on power, like the Honda Accord hybrid compared against competing non-hybrid units, or on fuel economy, like the Insight compared against the Prius of Toyota.

With the new Civic Hybrid, the company aims to fix the two problems. For one, the lithium ion batteries from Blue Energy Co. -- a joint venture between GS Yuasa Corp. and Honda – are used with the aim to save space and weight, while enhancing fuel economy. However, the new batteries are expensive. The lithium battery in the new Civic weighs 48.5 pounds, unlike the 69 pounds of its predecessor's nickel-metal hydride battery.

In this way, the new model gets 44 mpg in both city and highway driving, edging the EPA rating of 40 city/43 highway of the previous generation. Also, the new hybrid has a lighter and more powerful electric motor, with output increased from 15 kilowatts to 17 kilowatts.

In addition, the new hybrid has more cabin space than its predecessor. Moreover, it has a starting price of $24,800 (shipping costs included), making it only $100 higher than the base price of the earlier version. However, the sticker price in Civic tops the $22,880 base price of Prius, shipping included.

The Civic has become one of Honda’s best-selling and well-known cars. Now in its ninth generation, the all-new 21012 Honda Civic continues to foster the compact car’s characteristics of sportive stylishness, enjoyable practicality, efficiency and durability. It is no mystery then why the Civic has been such a well-loved and reliable vehicle around the world, boasting 8.8 million customers from its introduction in 1973 to 2010 in the US alone.

With each generation, Honda upgrades the Civic line under their development map. The 2012 Civic is constructed under Honda’s basic premise for a “futuristic and distinctive compact.” Under this, the company aims to exceed what customers have grown to expect from the car in terms of modern practicality and drivability. Specifically, these include design refinement, better fuel efficiency in all versions, new interactive and convenient personalisation technologies, performance improvements, and enhanced interiors for better comfort.

Civic owners represent a wide slice of the total population of car drivers. They can be younger or older, working or retired, students or teachers, professionals or stay-at-home types, young families or soccer parents, performance buffs or environmentalists, and all kinds of other people. They come from all over the US, from North to South, East Coast to West Coast, Alaska to Hawaii and all other places. Still, despite representing all population segments and geographic locations, they all share a common trait: being young at heart. That’s why the Civic is perfect for them. It is not only comfortable, safe, efficient and durable but also fun to drive.

The new Civic line features a Civic Hybrid version, which implements the latest version of the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system. A petroleum engine mainly provides the power and an electric motor acts as an auxiliary power source and also provides electricity regeneration. The connected components of this system are the larger 1.5-litre iVTEC 4-cylinder engine, the electric motor upgraded for more power, and a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The 23hp electric motor uses a new Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery pack for electricity capture and storage. This battery is more compact and light than the nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) seen on the older model.

The combined power output of the petroleum engine and the electric motor is 110 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 127 lb-ft. of torque at 1000-3500 rpm. Power output is unchanged from its predecessor but it is attained at 500 rpm less. Torque output is increased by 4 lb-ft. and it is over a wider rpm range. All of these mean that the new Honda Civic Hybrid performs better especially in regular city driving conditions.

When accelerating, the electric motor may help the petroleum engine to move the car. However, over long cruising drives, only one or the other is usually used. When braking, the petroleum engine stops providing power and the electric motor charges the Li-Ion battery. When at a stop, an idle-stop mode for the engine can be activated, where the engine is turned off while the brake pedal is stepped on, and turned on again upon release of the pedal.

The new Honda IMA powertrain, on its 5th generation, enables improved high-speed acceleration, but maintains a 44-mpg EPA-estimated rating for fuel economy. This is 3 mpg better than the older Honda Civic Hybrid.

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