By all accounts, Honda not only designed the heck out of the Civic, they engineered it to the extreme. The Civic hybrid breaks the 50-mark for both highway and city EPA numbers, and qualifies or Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions status in all 50 states.
How did Honda achieve more power and efficiency, and cleaner emissions, all at once?
Deactivation down to zero:
There are a few cars on the road that save gas by de-activating cylinders when they are not needed. The Honda Civic Hybrid, in certain cruising modes, can deactivate ALL of its cylinders. During this time, the electric motor alone powers the vehicle. At other stages of acceleration and cruising, Honda’s variable valve system allows cylinders to open and close for the right mix of performance and efficiency.
Smaller more powerful powertrain:
Honda is on the fourth generation of its integrated engine/motor design. The ’06 Civic combines a 1.3 liter iVTEC 4-cylinder engine with a 20-hp electric motor to deliver a total of 110 hp. The new powertrain is 20 percent more powerful and five percent lighter than the previous model.
The Civic utilizes friction-reducing efficiency-boosting engine design, such as aluminum die-cast pistons, ion-plated piston rings, and smoother surfaces on the cylinder walls.
More efficient combustion:
The Civic Hybrid uses eight spark plugs that operate in two modes: sometimes they fire one after the other, with the plug situated near the intake valve firing first and the exhaust plug firing later. Flexibility with the firing order allows for a more complete combustion of fuel in the cylinder.
More powerful electric motor:
The Civic Hybrid uses an improved motor magnet design developed for the Accord Hybrid. The wire windings in the motor are now made with rectangular shaped wire instead of round wire, to provide larger wire surface area. And there’s better integration of the electric motor and control units for more precise digital control. The result is increased output horsepower by 50 percent and improved maximum torque by 14 percent. When idling, the air-conditioning and accessories run exclusively off the electric motor. The AC and accessories can also run off the motor when the car is moving, depending on the driving conditions.
More powerful batteries and more of them:
The new Civic Hybrid’s rechargeable batteries, supplied by Sanyo, have a 25% increase in energy density. The vehicle uses 132 cells to store up to 158 volts of energy-up from 144 volts in the previous version. In both the 2005 and 2006 models, the batteries take up 1.6 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats, which means the rear seats can’t split and fold as in the other Civic models.
Improved regenerative braking:
The 2006 Civic Hybrid is less reliant on traditional braking. A brake pedal sensor sends a signal to the car’s computer, activating systems that proportion braking power between traditional hydraulic brakes and the electric motor. Also, because all the cylinders can deactivate during deceleration, pumping losses are greatly reduced. This allows more-170% more-of the braking energy to be sent to the batteries. The driver doesn’t feel the difference, but new advanced hydraulic boosters provide a better brake pedal feel.
The Civic Hybrid uses multiple "load paths" to limit penetration of the car’s structure by absorbing more of the crash energy. Whatever energy gets through is mitigated by the car’s eight standard air bags. The 2006 Civic Hybrid has earned top safety rankings from NHTSA and IIHS.
The new and improved 2006 Civic Hybrid fetches a slightly higher price: $21,850 or $23,350 when equipped with Honda’s optional satellite linked navigation system. That’s still a very affordable car. With fuel efficiency above 50, a full-hybrid system, and a sleek new design-and a price thousands below the Prius-Honda might finally give Toyota a run for its money. Honda is targeting 28,000 sales for the 2006 model year.