Honda wants to reverse the claims award over Civic Hybrid fuel mileage

Article by Christian A., on April 24, 2012

American Honda Motor Co. has filed an appeal to reverse a decision that awarded $9,867 to a woman who sued the automaker because the fuel economy of her Honda Civic Hybrid was falsely advertised, according to an Associated Press report. A small claims court decision last February had favored Heather Peters, 46, a lawyer from Los Angeles.

She filed a suit against Honda in small-claims court in Torrance, Calif., where American Honda is based. Honda filed the appeal after 1,700 other hybrid owners opted out of a class-action settlement that gave between $100 and $200 cash plus a rebate to about 200,000 owners of 2003 to 2009 Civics to settle these claims.

Last month, Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor approved the class-action settlement that included $8.5 million in plaintiff attorney fees. This settlement of this case was heavily reported last January. Peters had claimed that her 2006 Civic Hybrid didn’t meet fuel economy expectations. The court had ruled that Honda had negligently misled Peters when it claimed that the hybrid would get as many as 50 mpg.

Peters opted out of the class-action settlement achieved in September 2011 so she could attempt to get a bigger damage award. The original class-action suit was filed in 2007.

Honda's appeal of the small claims verdict went back to court last Thursday before a superior court judge who is listening to testimony from both sides. Honda has legal representation while Peters is offering evidence that she has found since she got her award.

Unlike the fourth generation of the Honda Civic Hybrid, the Integrated Motor Assist, or IMA, of the fifth generation’s powertrain is able to deliver excellent acceleration on the road. Despite this, the EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of combined city/highway is at 44 mpg, 3 mpg better than the prior generation. The power delivered to the IMA system is mainly due to the gasoline engine.

There is however an electric motor which delivers extra power and even has regeneration capability. Specifically, the system is composed of a 4-cylinder i-VTEC 1.5-liter engine and is paired with a powerful electric motor and the Continuously Variable Transmission. The electric motor has its output at 23 hp and sourced from the lithium-ion battery pack which stores and gets the needed electricity.

This lithium-ion battery replaces the nickel-metal hydride version and is not only new but is more compact and lighter. With the gasoline engine and the electric motor combined, total output is 110 hp and is available at 5,500 rpm. Maximum torque is at 127 lb.-ft. from 1,000 rpm all the way to 3,500 rpm. These figures reveal that while the new Civic Hybrid has the same output as that of the previous model, it is possible with less than 500 rpm.

Furthermore, the additional 4 lb.-ft. of torque has been spread on a wider range. What this does is that performance on a normal drive is improved. While accelerating, the vehicle is moved by either the engine or the combination of the engine and the electric motor. When cruising, the gasoline engine and the electric motor can individually, or even work together, to move the vehicle.

Once the vehicle starts braking, the gas engine is deactivated and then the electric motor serves to recharge the battery pack. Once the vehicle comes to a complete stop, the engine shifts to an idle-stop mode. This helps it lower fuel emissions and reduce CO2 emissions. It is only when the brake pedals are released that the engine is turned on again.

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