Monday, July 10, 2006

This is Honda girl, my Civic Hybrid.

It has a 93hp gas engine, and a 20hp electric motor powered by a battery back which is located behind the rear passenger seats. They work in conjunction with each other, and a little display on the instrument panel lets you know if you are charging or discharging your big battery, along with your overall charge on the big battery.

If you are driving in the city, at a steady speed below 60km/hr, then the gas engine will most likely shut off, and the car will be powered exclusively by the electric motor - if the battery level gets low, then the gas engine fires up again, to charge the battery and to assist with moving the car forward while it's charging the battery. The battery is Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) and is warrantied for 8 years/130,000km. The gas engine is a 1.3l i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine.

Retails for just over $27k. You can get $2k back from the government 'cause it's a green car. You will save money on gas, but you will still end up paying more overall for a hybrid than the conventional version. I'll save around $600/year in gas, but I'll pay more in overall purchase costs. When all is said and done, I'm going to pay a couple of thousand bucks more for this car over the life of the vehicle, and that's entirely due to the purchase price. and it's something I'm willing to do - much like how a person who drives a Hummer is willing to pay more for their particular vision of how they want to get from point A to B.

The transmission is automatic, a CVT (continuously variable transmission) setup that means there is only 1 gear, but the ratio changes depending on what you are asking the car to do. Kinda like a snowmobile! Smile

It comes with all the standard stuff that modern cars do, power windows, locks, air conditioning, cd/mp3/wma player, 2 power outlets, cruise control, ABS, side airbags, etc. The 2006 Canadian model does not come with a GPS system, though the US model does. That's too bad, I was looking forward to actually not getting lost on a regular basis like I do now, but I can wait a few more years until that happens I guess.

It's all about the fuel:

4.9l/100km@100km/hour - Air Conditioner OFF
4.8l/100km@110km/hour - A/C OFF
4.7l/100km@130km/hour - A/C OFF

6.5l/100km@all speeds - A/C ON

The air conditioner is the single greatest factor in gas mileage. City driving vs highway driving doesn't seem to make much of a difference as far as mileage goes.

Acceleration is just fine for a Civic, and I'm betting it's faster than you'd think. The car is rock-solid @ 140km/hour and above (I have only taken it to 165) with very little outside noise.

Inside, it's very quiet. You can hardly hear the engine unless it's revving above 4,000rpm, which it seems to do on steep hills at high speeds.

I like the two-tone interior and teh exterior styling, with the exception of the wheel rims, which are kinda sukky. If a truck load of money appears in my pockets some time, I'll get aftermarket rims which I had never considered before this car.

You just drive it like a normal car, all the hybrid technology is transparent to the user. I mentioned this in a previous post, but one of the most mind-blowing things about this car is when you come to a stop, the gas engine cuts out and you run on the electric battery. A/C still works, as do all your electrical systems. As soon as you take your foot off the brake and hit the accelerator pedal, the gas engine lights up and off you go, with no lag. The accelerator pedal is throttle-by-wire, with no direct mechanical linkage to the engine.

I like that I can realistically get 1,000km on a 46.5l tank of fuel. In 20 years we'll be switching over to hydrogen fuel-cel cars, but until then, I want to squeeze every drop of gas I can into the longest distance I can.

You don't need to plug in the car at all, it's entirely self-contained. There is no electrical cord on the car, you just put gas in like normal.

The battery is charged by the gas engine when required, and by the elecrical motor. The electrical motor acts as a generator when you brake, and it converts your brake energy back into useful energy and stores it in the battery. There is a pretty big power cable under the hood that leads from the electrical motor to the batteries in the back, and it appears that the electrons flow very freely back and forth.

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