2012 Honda Civic Hybrid
2012 Honda Civic Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

By Jim Kerr

The Honda Civic has been available as a hybrid model for nearly a decade in North America, and although the basic premise of utilizing an electric motor to assist the gasoline engine (Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist) has been consistent, improvements in design and operation have been continuous. For the 2012 Civic Hybrid, these improvements are numerous and include a new lithium-ion battery. Let’s look at what’s new with this hybrid system.

First, the Civic Hybrid’s performance is improved significantly over the previous generation model. Peak power numbers remain the same, but it comes in 500 rpm sooner. Torque is up four lb.-ft. to 127, available from 1,000 to 3,500 rpm, which is a broader range than the torque band of previous models. The result is quicker acceleration and better fuel economy, now estimated at 4.4 L/100 km city and 4.2 L/100 km highway.

The lithium-ion battery pack is one of the changes that contribute to these improvements. Located behind the rear seat back on the driver’s side of the car, the battery boasts a 35 per cent increase in efficiency over the Nickel Metal-hydride battery previously used. The battery is also smaller and lighter, which helps improve both trunk space and vehicle performance.

There are well over 100 different types of lithium-ion batteries. Each has its own unique chemistry and some are more efficient than others. In discussion with the Honda engineers, they said they chose their battery design based on performance and safety, with a particular emphasis on latter. There have been examples of lithium-ion batteries in consumer products, such as laptops, causing fires because of internal shorts developing, but the engineers tell me this happened because of that battery’s specific composition. The materials and design of the Honda battery are such that even if by chance an internal fault did develop or it was damaged in a collision, the battery would remain stable and safe.

A larger 1.5-litre gasoline engine is now used in the Civic Hybrid, and it is combined with a more powerful electric motor. The control module optimizes the combination of gasoline and electric power to maximize the vehicle’s efficiency. One of the major changes has been the ability of the car to operate in Electric Vehicle (EV) mode for a greater distance than in the past.

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