Honda Civic Hybrid Software Patch a Potential Problem for Used Car Buyers
Do you own a 2006 - 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid whose battery just doesn't seem to be holding a charge like it used to? You are not alone. In fact, according to a story found in the Los Angeles Times a growing number of complaints from Honda Civic Hybrid owners has kicked off an investigation by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), as well as attracted the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
A growing chorus of Honda Civic Hybrid owners has voiced its anger and disappointment with the shrinking range of their electrically-powered automobiles, with many Honda Civic buyers going straight to Honda demanding some kind of fix. A significant number of Honda Civic Hybrid drivers have had to have the battery packs on their cars replaced due to the deterioration of the nickel-metal-hydride units that store the electricity needed to motivate the automobile. In fact, CARB automatically became involved when more than four percent of the 2006-2008 Honda Civic Hybrids sold in California underwent this replacement procedure, which is the highest battery failure rate in the hybrid car industry.
Honda Civic Hybrid owners are specifically concerned about the dismal fuel economy and dramatically reduced battery range associated with the battery failures. Some owners have reported losing as many as 10 miles per gallon or more - dropping down from the factory rating of 45 miles per gallon in the city to the low 30s. In fact, about 30 percent of all complaints received by the NHTSA for certain model years of the Honda Civic Hybrid have been about poor battery performance. In extreme cases, the battery system 'crashes'? entirely, which not only impacts fuel mileage but also removes the additional power generated by the battery entirely from the driving equation.
Honda finally responded to both regulatory and customer inquiries on the issue by sending notice to over 100,000 Honda Civic Hybrid owners that a software patch would be made available in order to preserve battery life by altering certain characteristics of the vehicle's electric charging system. Among the changes made: reducing the amount of additional thrust provided by the electric motor while working in tandem with the car's gasoline engine, which limits the number of charging cycles for the battery, and also changing the vehicle's shutdown behavior at idle.
Some owners were placated by the software patch and lauded Honda for stepping up. Others, however, have been disappointed by seemingly tempered fuel mileage compared to when the car was new, and many have reported that their vehicle no longer seems to enjoy the same acceleration as it did before. This latter point is related to the absence of full battery-powered assist under full throttle. An additional wrinkle is added by fact that the patch itself does not repair any batteries which may already have deteriorated. Given that Honda will only install new batteries if the original ones are completely dead, there are many Honda Civic Hybrids out there which are currently running on only a partial charge, with their owners counting down the days until they finally run out of steam so that they can get a warranty replacement.
If you are considering purchasing a used Honda Civic Hybrid, make sure to ask about the condition of the vehicle's battery pack. If the vehicle has ever experienced any battery crashes, or if its fuel mileage is considerably less than it once was, you may want to move on. You should also inquire as to whether the Honda software patch has been installed on the vehicle, and if so, take it out for a test drive to see if you can live with what many have termed a compromised hybrid system. Finally, you may wish to put off purchasing this vehicle if you live in the state of California, as CARB is currently investigating whether the patched Civic Hybrid is still capable of meeting emissions regulations.