So, you may be wondering what exactly makes a hybrid car a hybrid, anyway? What's the difference between a hybrid and a typical car? The short answer is, not a whole lot. But there is a lot of sophisticated electrical technology in a hybrid that's somewhat transparent to the driver and passengers in a hybrid. In a nutshell, hybrid power, as in the case of the Honda Civic, Toyota Prius and other popular hybrid models on the market, is part internal combustion and part electric power. The two systems work in unison to move the vehicle. For an in depth understanding of hybrid engines and cars, read the HowStuffWorks.com article, How Hybrid Cars Work.
The 2009 Civic hybrid engine is Honda's fourth-generation gas-electric power plant. Similar to the engines found in the rest of Honda's lineup, the Civic Hybrid is equipped with an inline 4-cylinder engine featuring a three-stage version of the company's VTEC (variable valve timing and lift electronic control) system. It's called the i-VTEC (intelligent-VTEC) system. The three-stage i-VTEC system uses three separate stages of valve control to optimize efficiency at low-rpm, high-rpm and at idle. The three stages utilize five rocker arm assemblies dependent on engine rpm and driving conditions. Computers analyze all the variables and adjust the camshaft profiles to maximize power and efficiency. To aid in the engine's overall efficiency, the computer brain of the system shuts down and seals the combustion chambers in each cylinder when the engine is at idle, under deceleration. This measure adds an additional 10 percent fuel efficiency over the first-generation Civic Hybrid engine.
Keeping along the lines of efficiency, Honda implemented creative friction-reducing construction methods when building the internals of the engine. For instance, the pistons are crafted from die-cast aluminum that doesn't expand much. The result is less expansion and reduced friction under extreme temperatures. The cylinder walls have been plateau-honed, and ion-plated piston rings make for silky smooth operation under power.
A continuously variable transmission (CVT) feeds the engine's power to the front wheels. According to the manufacturer, the 1.3-liter engine provides the Civic Hybrid with 110 horsepower and 123 pound-feet (167 newton-meters) of torque. And, as you might have guessed, the fuel economy numbers are pretty good, too. The Honda Civic Hybrid is said to achieve 40 miles per gallon (17 kilometers per liter) in the city and 45 miles per gallon (19.1 kilometers per liter) on the highway. For comparison, the standard Honda Civic gets 26 miles per gallon (11.1 kilometers per liter) in the city and 34 miles per gallon (14.5 kilometers per liter) on the highway.
So, maybe you've had enough of all of these numbers and you just want to know what it's like to actually drive a car like the civic hybrid? Well, read the next page to find out.