How the Honda Civic Hybrid Works

Driving the Honda Civic Hybrid

A Honda Civic Hybrid on display in New Delhi, India.
A Honda Civic Hybrid car and its displayed engine, left, are seen at an event in New Delhi, India, on June 18, 2008.
AP Photo/Gurinder Osan

To experience a somewhat low-tech example of the hybrid driving experience, you don't have to go any farther than your local golf course. Have you ever driven a gas-powered golf cart? Well, if you've never driven a hybrid car, the golf cart example may be the best way to describe how it feels -- sort of.

If you're familiar with gas-powered golf cart operation, then you know that the engine in the cart doesn't continuously run while you're on the fairway hitting your approach shot to the green. Instead, the engine comes on as soon as you press the gas pedal. Hybrid vehicles, like the Honda Civic Hybrid, work in a similar way. Of course, the Civic Hybrid is far more advanced -- and then there's also that bit about the electric motor, too. And that's why the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system that you learned about earlier is so important to the Civic Hybrid.


Here's how the Honda Civic Hybrid's i-VTEC engine and electric motor work together in various driving conditions:

  • At a stop: The engine is off and no fuel is being consumed.
  • Initial acceleration: The electric motor powers the Civic Hybrid away from a stop, and the engine starts and operates at the low-rpm valve timing stage.
  • Hard acceleration: The engine operates at the high-rpm valve timing stage along with assistance from the electric motor.
  • Driving at low speeds: The combustion chamber of each cylinder is sealed, and the engine stops running. The Civic is powered by the electric motor only.
  • Deceleration: The combustion chamber of each cylinder is sealed, and the engine stops running. The electric motor switches modes from providing power to storing energy for the battery.

Pretty cool stuff, right? And all of this works seamlessly so that the driver doesn't have to do anything other than drive the car as he or she normally would.

If you'd like more information about the Honda Civic Hybrid and other hybrid vehicle technology, follow the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Healey, James R. "Undercover hybrid's a winner." USA Today. Jan. 9, 2009. (March 21, 2009)
  • Honda. "2009 Honda Civic Hybrid." (March 17, 2009)
  • Honda. "Honda Insight -- Integrated Motor Assist." Sept. 15, 2000. (March 21, 2009)
  • "Integrated Motor Assist System." (March 21, 2009)
  • Levenstein, Steve. "Made in the USA Honda Accord Celebrates 25th Anniversary." (March 21, 2009)
  • Reynolds, Kim. "Road Test: 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid vs. 2006 Toyota Prius & 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid." Motor Trend. (March 29, 2009)
  • Schroeder, Don. Car & Driver. "How We Won the Insight Fuel-Economy Challenge. Without Cheating. Much." Jan. 2000. (March 21, 2009)
  • "New Honda Hybrid Engine System." July 5, 2005. (March 19, 2009)