Saturday, November 20, 2010

2012 Honda Civic hybrid switching to lithium

But can it really top the Prius in the city?

At one time Honda and hybrid cars fit well into the same sentence. Not these days. Whether its Civic hybrid owners fuming over IMA issues, automotive critics slamming Insight hybrid execution, or the purpose of a two-seat hybrid sports car that barely feels sporty at all, Honda hybrids aren’t really hot.

But Honda hopes to change that with the lithium-powered 2012 Civic hybrid.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to believe that Honda has found a cure to its hybrid woes.

Sure, the new Civic Hybrid upgrades its 1.3 liter engine to 1.5 liters while mating it to a new lithium-ion battery pack that is said to improve EV range from nothing to at least a little. Still, lithium is found in other hybrid powertrains – both full and mild – and simply coupling a lithium-ion battery pack with Honda’s IMA does not seem enough to challenge Prius fuel economy, particularly city fuel economy.

Of course, maybe Honda isn’t just switching to lithium, but also increasing the capacity of its battery pack. More important, maybe Honda has figured out how to somehow morph the IMA powertrain into a full hybrid powertrain.

At this time the details are still sketchy, and hopefully we learn a bit more at tomorrow’s LA Auto Show. Nevertheless, we’ve heard of Honda’s Prius-conquering plans in the past, and they’ve always fallen short. Ultimately, if this is just lithium instead of NiMH, Toyota has little to fear from the new Civic hybrid.


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