Capable of 44 miles per gallon, the Coupe HX ($13,610) comes equipped with a fuel-efficient lean-burn engine teamed to the standard five-speed manual transmission. The HX coupe lean-burn engine achieves 117 horsepower. HX is available with an optional continuously variable transmission, or CVT ($1,000).
Civic ES with a manual transmission offers a sporty driving experience. With its more powerful engine, the ES produces lively acceleration, while the manual gearbox affords more driver control. This engine produces 127 horsepower and its torque extends across a broad rpm band, so the driver gets good throttle response at any speed. Shifting is smooth and precise, due to the revised feel of the stick with notched stop points added between gears. A four-speed automatic also works well with quiet and refined shifts, although the automatic dampens any pretensions of a sporty attitude.
** If the vehicle is frequently operated in continuous stop-and-go traffic, in mountainous areas, or when ambient temperatures are above 90 degrees, change automatic transmission fluid at 30,000 miles, and manual transmission fluid at 60,000 miles.
By Alan Richardson Originally published in the May 2002 \"Lookout\"You can now choose among several innovative vehicles that combine the best features of gasoline engines and electric motors to improve performance, increase fuel economy, and reduce the environmental impact of driving an automobile. The gasoline engine we are accustomed to has been constantly refined and improved over the last century, but it still has some fundamental disadvantages for powering a vehicle compared to an electric motor. Pound for pound, a gasoline engine is less powerful than an electric motor. A gasoline engine produces its peak power and torque at high speed, but an electric traction motor has its peak torque at zero speed where it is most needed to accelerate a vehicle from a stop. For that reason, gasoline engines require a clutch and transmission (either manual or automatic) to match the vehicle speed to the engine's 'power' speed range. Most electric vehicles do not have clutches or transmissions and connect the motors directly to the wheels.An electric vehicle also has some fundamental disadvantages compared to a gasoline version. Pound for pound, gasoline contains more energy than electric storage batteries. This is why battery-electric vehicles typically have a very short driving range compared to gasoline vehicles. That would not be a major problem if batteries could be recharged as quickly and conveniently as a gasoline tank can be refilled. Physics prevents recharging batteries in minutes and economics prevent putting a charging station at every home and parking space.Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to combine the power-delivery advantage of electric drive with the energy-storage advantage of gasoline Yes, it would, and you can do that with a hybrid gasoline-electric drive! The primary energy source is still gasoline, so every existing gas station can still be used and hybrids never need to be plugged in to charge their batteries. The energy of the gasoline is used more efficiently because the electric motor can assist (or replace) the gasoline engine while accelerating from a stop. Electric motors can also be used as generators to charge the battery while slowing the vehicle to a stop, which gasoline engines can't do at all. The result is higher fuel economy (more miles per dollar of fuel) and reduced emissions (less smog and less global warming).Three hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles are now available in the U.S.:
Ford has announced they will offer a hybrid Escape mini-SUV sometime next year, without stating a date when they will go on sale.Honda uses an 'Integrated Motor Assist' or IMA system which places an electric motor between the gasoline engine and its transmission. The electric motor draws power from the battery to help the gasoline engine get the vehicle moving from a stop. The gasoline engine then recharges the battery by driving the electric motor like a generator. The IMA allows two features new to most drivers: instant-start and regenerative braking. When a Honda hybrid is stopped for more than a few seconds, the gasoline engine shuts off to save fuel. The electric motor starts the gasoline engine in a fraction of a second when the driver next presses the accelerator pedal. Regenerative braking uses the electric motor as a generator when the driver presses the brake pedal, so the vehicle's energy of motion can be recaptured in the battery for later use. That energy of motion is now wasted to heat up the brakes of a normal gasoline-powered vehicle.Toyota uses a different arrangement: an electric motor, a gasoline engine, and the driving wheels are connected through a differential gear train. This allows power to flow smoothly back and forth between them depending on the situation. For example, the Prius will typically use only the battery-electric drive at low speed. For higher speeds, the gasoline engine is started to drive the vehicle and recharge the battery. Regenerative braking is also available to charge the battery and the gasoline engine can be shut off when it is not needed to save fuel.What's the catch Initial purchase cost will be higher since two power sources are carried on each vehicle and because this is a new technology for the automakers. The customer's purchase cost for a hybrid will be higher than other vehicles until the best design is established and it is produced in large quantities. In later years, the cost increase will be small, just like it is now for power steering, air bags, and anti-lock brakes.To learn more about these vehicles, visit the websites www.honda.com or www.toyota.com/prius, call 1-800-33-HONDA or 1-800-GO-TOYOTA, or visit your local dealer. Back to the 'Clean Car' index
By Alan Richardson Originally published in the November 2002 \"Lookout\"What is a hybrid vehicle A hybrid vehicle has a gasoline engine, but also uses an electric motor and a battery to store and release energy during normal driving to increase overall efficiency.A common misconception about gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles is that they are like battery-electric vehicles and need to be plugged into a wall socket to recharge after driving a short distance. Let me clear that up right now: YOU NEVER HAVE TO PLUG IN A HYBRID, they keep their batteries charged up by normal driving. The increased energy efficiency of a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle combined with a normal gasoline tank capacity means that you can drive a gasoline-electric hybrid about 1 1/4 times as far as a normal gasoline vehicle and 5 or 6 times as far as a battery-electric vehicle.I recently drove a Honda Civic Hybrid for a few days and was very impressed with it. That comparison is relative to my 1998 Civic GX natural gas vehicle. All Civic models were updated for the 2001 model year, with many improvements in all features. The model I drove was a 2003 Civic Hybrid with the optional continuously variable transmission (CVT).Several improvements were immediately obvious as soon as I sat in the driver's seat. The Hybrid has automatic climate control and a CD player in the radio in contrast to the manual system and basic radio in my 1998 model. All the good features of the earlier Civic were retained, such as power windows, power locks, power outside mirrors, cruise control, and adjustable steering wheel.As far as I could tell during my daily I-94 commute to Detroit, the hybrid vehicle performed the same as my natural gas vehicle. I had no problems accelerating, merging, or passing at posted speed limits and beyond. The operation of the hybrid system and the CVT was so smooth that it was almost unnoticeable. The CVT does not shift like a regular transmission and the car just kept speeding up smoothly as long as I pushed on the gas pedal. (If you buy a new natural gas Civic, the CVT is standard.) The electric motor either boosted or braked as needed, but that also happens completely automatically. The only way to tell what was happening was to watch the special display on the instrument panel to see the power flowing between the gasoline engine, the electric motor, and the battery. The display is very easy to read, but can be distracting if you let it. The hybrid system automatically shuts down the gasoline engine to save fuel when you come to a complete stop, and then starts immediately when you take your foot off the brake. I never noticed a delay in pulling away from a stop, and the engine idled so smoothly anyway that I only knew it was off because of the 'Auto-stop' light on the instrument panel. The trip odometer can be set to show instantaneous and average fuel economy, and that could be distracting to watch while driving, too. My best mileage over a single commute was 46 MPG, but my typical mileage was about 40 MPG. Honda's advertising shows the Hybrid CVT highway mileage to be 47 MPG, and the equivalent gasoline version mileage to be 38 MPG.The Honda Civic Hybrid still burns gasoline (although not as much) and so is not as clean for tailpipe emissions as my natural gas Civic. The Hybrid is, however, much more attractive to the average driver. It seats 5, has a full-size trunk, will drive from Ann Arbor to Chicago and back without refueling, and can fill up at any gasoline station. The Hybrid does cost a few thousand dollars more than a gasoline Civic because of the added equipment, but some financial help is available. A recent IRS ruling has extended to purchasers of hybrid vehicles the same $2000 income deduction that was previously available only to dedicated alternative fuel vehicle. Pending federal legislation may increase the amount and convert it to a tax credit, stay tuned.So, if you want to limit your fuel consumption (and contribution to air pollution) without limiting your vehicle's performance and convenience, you should give serious consideration to a gasoline-electric hybrid