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The new Honda hybrid you've seen on TV commercials gets its review!

stsburns

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Honda Civic Hybrid

What to drive until the perpetual-motion machine arrives.
BY TONY QUIROGA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY AARON KILEY
January 2006


Hybrids seem to be having the same impact the Volkswagen Beetle had on our society back in the ’60s and ’70s. Hybrids are seen as anti-establishment symbols, the anti-status status symbol. But there has been some discontent with these feel-good cars as owners have found they’re not getting the advertised mileage. So if you’re on the verge of being overcome by the environmentally correct need to get behind the wheel of a hybrid, be advised that they don’t all work in the same way. You’ll need to curb some of your speedy habits and learn some new driving skills to achieve their fuel-economy claims.



In a hybrid, the trick is to drive like a grandmother. You have to accelerate away from a stop slowly enough to minimize the role of the gasoline engine and maximize the role of the electric motor. Very simply, hybrids use an electric motor as a supporting source of power that doesn’t require gasoline, and that’s the whole point. Indeed, a Toyota Prius can pull away from a stop using only its electric motor, although the Civic hybrid shown here cannot.

There are two major reasons why the Civic can’t do that. First, it has a weakling 20-hp electric motor, whereas the Prius’s makes a robust 67 horses, so it’s better able to move almost 3000 pounds off a dime. Second, the Honda’s engine and electric motor are sandwiched together and then connected to the transmission, so if one is running, so is the other. The Prius’s electric motor and gas engine, on the other hand, are hooked up at separate points to the transmission, and therefore, one power source can be driven while the other is shut off. The Toyota system makes electric-only driving easy and is the primary advantage of that configuration. Honda’s hybrid system is more simple and compact and is more easily adaptable than the Toyota system to different vehicles.

Interestingly, although the Civic can’t move away from a stop using only the electric motor, Honda says there is one situation where its hybrid can run on just electricity—at about 15 to 20 mph when cruising on a flat surface at a steady speed with a fully charged, or nearly so, battery pack. Since the electric motor and the gas engine rotate inseparably, the Civic must cut off fuel to the engine and use its variable-valve-timing system to close the engine’s valves and make it easier for the electric motor to do its job. The Civic’s only giveaway that it’s running on electricity alone is the digital bar graph that lights up suddenly when juice is being sent to the motor. So it might not have the beans to get the Civic going from a stop, but the 20-hp electric motor does have enough gusto to keep the car moving at low speeds—all by itself, if only briefly. However, it’s such a short span of time under such specific and not-often-encountered conditions that the fuel savings are likely minuscule. Honda probably makes the claim to equal those of its major rival hybrid, the Prius. http://www.caranddriver.com/article.asp?section_id=3&article_id=10393
Feel free to post your comments. But in my own personal point of view are hybrids worth the extra effort for 10 or 20 miles more to the gallon? :mrgreen:
 

scottyz

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I don't feel that Hybrids are worth the extra cash. The actual MPG they get can be duplicated in regular 4 cylinder/5speed eco-boxes. The way they calculate MPG is extremely outdated and misleading to the customer IMO. It hasn't been updated since the 70's IIRC.
 

shuamort

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That's a big disappointment. I wish that Car and Driver would've mentioned something about Honda's other hybrid in comparison. I'm in the market for a new car and have been checking out the hybrids. I test drove the Ford Escape a couple weeks ago and was really not impressed, it took way too long for the electric engine to kick in and it won't work at all when the heat was on. Since I live in Minnesota, that's a bit of a problem.

I was up in Thunder Bay, Ontario last month and saw a Smart Car on the road. It looks like they may be showing up in the states soon and get an approx. 60 mpg. They're itty bitty cars though (but check out this video where they run one into a wall at 70mph!).

My friend's mom has bought the Prius and I got to give it a spin a while ago. It had a bunch of gadgets I had never driven with which were fun (GPS tracking and maps, power on button to start it, and a small knob to switch to reverse/drive. Here's someone's pic of the dash to get a sense of what I'm talking about.) The problem with the car is that it just doesn't feel solid.

As for actual MPGs that cars get, here's a great article from USA Today which talks about how the EPA is really sitting on their hands.
 

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shuamort said:
As for actual MPGs that cars get, here's a great article from USA Today which talks about how the EPA is really sitting on their hands.
That article is pretty much on the ball. Consumer Reports also had a great article on the same subject a couple issues back. I wouldn't be surprised if the EPA's leniency is one of the reasons U.S. auto makers fell so far behind in the 80's and 90's.
 

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I don't put too much stock in these tests of "hybrids" that are not true hybrids. My new 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid gets about 50% better fuel mileage and is otherwise transparent in operation. It's electric motor has 94 horsepower and much of the time around time is in EV mode. The gasoline engine that comibines to produce full power is actually more than in the conventional V6 model.

My first tank returned 35.43 mpg.
 

bandaidwoman

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My 2005 honda hybrid averages 43 mpg. It is my company car so I lease it. I paid more in gas driving to work and back in my SUV than I do for the monthly premiums for this lease so I save my S corporation partnership money overall. (In other words I had a monthly gas stipend that was more than the monthly honda premiums plus its gas usage.) I don't drive like a grandmother so I don't get the maximum 48mpg but it is close.
 

stsburns

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shuamort said:
That's a big disappointment. I wish that Car and Driver would've mentioned something about Honda's other hybrid in comparison. I'm in the market for a new car and have been checking out the hybrids. I test drove the Ford Escape a couple weeks ago and was really not impressed, it took way too long for the electric engine to kick in and it won't work at all when the heat was on. Since I live in Minnesota, that's a bit of a problem.
Good point!
I was up in Thunder Bay, Ontario last month and saw a Smart Car on the road. It looks like they may be showing up in the states soon and get an approx. 60 mpg. They're itty bitty cars though (but check out this video where they run one into a wall at 70mph!).
Do you mean this car?
My friend's mom has bought the Prius and I got to give it a spin a while ago. It had a bunch of gadgets I had never driven with which were fun (GPS tracking and maps, power on button to start it, and a small knob to switch to reverse/drive. Here's someone's pic of the dash to get a sense of what I'm talking about.) The problem with the car is that it just doesn't feel solid.
Maybe size does matter? :lol:
As for actual MPGs that cars get, here's a great article from USA Today which talks about how the EPA is really sitting on their hands.
Yea, hybrids are the reason why the automotive industry puts a bandaid on dependence on oil. :confused:
 

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I've got somewhat of a unique perspective in that I previously owened a 2003 Escape with the V6 I bought new in 2003. It got a realistic 20-21 mpg overall and it's gas tank could have benefited from being a little larger. My new 2006 Escape Hybrid has returned at a minimum of 50% better fule mileage in all conditions and it's fuel tank is one gallon smaller and has about an extra 150 miles cruising range. I keep meticulous records. Couple that with more acceleration with both the electric motor (which has 94 hp) and engine and the energy recovery and quietude in stop and go traffic and I'm as close to pleased as I can possibly be. It is a true hybrid. On the other hand, I believe the Honda is not a "true hybrid." That is a distinction worth noting regardless of what one chooses to buy. I would only consider a true hybrid or a conventional model.
 

shuamort

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stsburns said:
Do you mean this car?
That's the car! Don't know if I can get my american-sized ass in there tho'.
 

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stsburns said:
Feel free to post your comments. But in my own personal point of view are hybrids worth the extra effort for 10 or 20 miles more to the gallon? :mrgreen:
I read somewhere that from the time of purchase to the average time of getting rid of the car, a hybrid will cost as much as a normal gasoline car. Hybrids are more expensive than the same class of gasoline engine car. The extra savings on fuel often will not be more than the extra expense of the vehicle unless you manage to keep the car for a longer period of time than the average new car buyers do.

I unfortunately don't have the article where I read this anymore. It was technicle and I didn't feel like saving it. So you can choose to take my word or not.
 

stsburns

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shuamort said:
That's the car! Don't know if I can get my american-sized ass in there tho'.
:rofl Or how bout "An American Sided SUV Crash point" that keeps SUV's from taking off the roof during and accident! :rofl

Oh, Oh, you gotta see the "Turbo" Version of it!!!!! RIMS, Sport gas tank cover, wire mesh rear bumper with the exaust in the center, Leather, etc... It's funny to see their approach to the motorhead crowd! :rofl

 
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kcasper said:
I read somewhere that from the time of purchase to the average time of getting rid of the car, a hybrid will cost as much as a normal gasoline car. Hybrids are more expensive than the same class of gasoline engine car. The extra savings on fuel often will not be more than the extra expense of the vehicle unless you manage to keep the car for a longer period of time than the average new car buyers do.

I unfortunately don't have the article where I read this anymore. It was technicle and I didn't feel like saving it. So you can choose to take my word or not.
You recover the extra cost after 3-4 years of owning the vehicle (for the honda hybrid that is) not for the prius which was selling for $10,000 more when I was looking. Leasing hybrids for a company makes sense. As I stated, my S corporation paid more for monthly gas stipends driving my SUV back and forth to work ( and I have to go to more than one office) than I do my monthly lease premiums and gas stipend for this hybrid. My accountant actually crunched the numbers for me:smile: I don't see why companies that have a mobile sales force (example: biotech sales reps who drive hundreds of miles a day going from hospital to hospital their company would save money on gas.) aren't going that route.
 

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Instead of just looking at miles per gallon, look at cents per mile. Factor in the cost of just one battery bank replacement, and the hybrids fail at being economy cars, not to mention that maintenance can be a nightmare.
Yes, they are ecologically cleaner, but cars like the new VW Bug with the diesel engine are a far better deal.
 

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UtahBill said:
Instead of just looking at miles per gallon, look at cents per mile. Factor in the cost of just one battery bank replacement, and the hybrids fail at being economy cars, not to mention that maintenance can be a nightmare.
Yes, they are ecologically cleaner, but cars like the new VW Bug with the diesel engine are a far better deal.


That's why I lease them. Hondas I figure will be good for three years without a glich ( i have the three year warranty with the 3 year lease ) and then I'll be trading it in . I think they make better business sense leasing (since they are 100% write offs) vs owning because as you stated, there may be other problems down the line. I am ecological ( I bike commute the 15miles back and forth to work twice a week) so I don't mind the ecological cleanliness. Unfortunately, my business partners aren't , so I sold them on leasing the hybrid when my accountant showed how much they would be saving. (One of them drives the Cadillac SUV and was costing our business over $400.00 a month in gas. The lease was less than his gas bill and he pays less than $80.00 dollars in gas (yes all four of us drives one now.) (the Prius lease was too cost prohibitive and we would not have saved as much even with the extra gas mileage.)
 

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bandaidwoman said:
That's why I lease them. Hondas I figure will be good for three years without a glich ( i have the three year warranty with the 3 year lease ) and then I'll be trading it in . I think they make better business sense leasing (since they are 100% write offs) vs owning because as you stated, there may be other problems down the line. I am ecological ( I bike commute the 15miles back and forth to work twice a week) so I don't mind the ecological cleanliness. Unfortunately, my business partners aren't , so I sold them on leasing the hybrid when my accountant showed how much they would be saving. (One of them drives the Cadillac SUV and was costing our business over $400.00 a month in gas. The lease was less than his gas bill and he pays less than $80.00 dollars in gas (yes all four of us drives one now.) (the Prius lease was too cost prohibitive and we would not have saved as much even with the extra gas mileage.)
So who would foot the bill, in this large web of people, for the $3000-$5000 battery? I'm just curious?
 

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stsburns said:
So who would foot the bill, in this large web of people, for the $3000-$5000 battery? I'm just curious?

hasn't been an issue, and it's under warranty for the three years i'm leasing it.
 

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scottyz said:
That article is pretty much on the ball. Consumer Reports also had a great article on the same subject a couple issues back. I wouldn't be surprised if the EPA's leniency is one of the reasons U.S. auto makers fell so far behind in the 80's and 90's.
Ah, the power of lobbyists.
 

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Whether battery only, or hybrid, a major weak point will be the batteries, and for a long time. The technology just isn't there yet. So leasing for business use seems to be the only viable use for now.
The company I used to work for replaced a lot of its old lead acid battery banks that they had on mountain top microwave radio relay sites, and the new designs are not holding up. The new ones are some kind of gel design, not sure of the chemistry used.
I still think that we are up for some serious lifestyle changes if a real energy crunch ever hits us.
 

stsburns

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bandaidwoman said:
hasn't been an issue, and it's under warranty for the three years i'm leasing it.
So the "Leasing Company" would have to hunt down the manufacturer, and get them to foot the bill. But with every contract, their is a catch. READ THE LEASE. Also can you humor me for just a second. But doesn't the leased car dealer, charge you for ANY damage done to the car during the lease, so they can fix the problems with your money, then resale? Then they become "Certified Used Cars?" I was just curious because I thought that's how that went?
 

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steen said:
Ah, the power of lobbyists.
Lobbing what exactly? Hey your the genius! :confused: :mrgreen:
 

stsburns

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steen said:
I read this off the first page you cited:
1 cylinder Sachs 191cc air-cooled engine
Um...American "Lawn-mowers" have more cylinders than that car does? :lamo
I was just trying to break the seriousnous of the thread! :mrgreen:
 

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stsburns said:
So the "Leasing Company" would have to hunt down the manufacturer, and get them to foot the bill. But with every contract, their is a catch. READ THE LEASE. Also can you humor me for just a second. But doesn't the leased car dealer, charge you for ANY damage done to the car during the lease, so they can fix the problems with your money, then resale? Then they become "Certified Used Cars?" I was just curious because I thought that's how that went?

yes, i made very sure the battery was covered because i was bringing a big leasing contract (all my partners were going to lease the honda) i made very sure the battery was covered. I even had my lawyer for the partnership read it over. Perhaps they give a different contract to private individuals. If I do get into an accident or have dings, i have to pay for it just like any owner that is true. At which point, my auto insurance covers what it normally would cover and I pay for whatever is not covered by my auto insurance. Either way, after a year it has saved the partnership $22,600 in gas already, so my business partners are happy, and my environmental self is happy. (The total lease and and gas used are still less than the $22,600!) The benefit of crunching the numbers with our accountant every quarterly business meeting.
 
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steen

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stsburns said:
Lobbing what exactly? Hey your the genius! :confused: :mrgreen:
Lobbying for less emisssion standards and fuel efficiency. That was the gist of the point I replied to, after all.
 
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