When Honda Motor Co. rolled out its latest-generation Civic hybrid, it was sold as the automaker's green car of the future.
But five years into production, Honda has discovered that its high-tech batteries can die years early, a potentially expensive flaw that the automaker has been addressing with a software update that many owners claim has made the car less environmentally friendly.
Jason Marchesano of Overland Park, Kan. said the battery in his 2007 Civic hybrid started losing its ability to hold a charge last year. Rather than replace the battery, which was under warranty, Honda loaded a software program into the car's computer that he said made the car sluggish and slashed the vehicle's gas mileage.
When he complained again several weeks ago, Honda installed a second software update, cutting efficiency further. Today he gets just 33 miles per gallon, compared with 45 when the car was new.
"I've been sitting here scratching my head and asking, why did I get a hybrid?" said Marchesano, a computer consultant whose hybrid's gas mileage these days is scarcely better than the conventional Civic, which is rated about 30 mpg and costs several thousand dollars less.
Marchesano and other hybrid owners fear that Honda has decided to sacrifice their vehicles' performance in order to avoid the huge cost of replacing thousands of faulty batteries, which are still under eight- or 10-year warranties and cost as much as $3,000 each to replace.
Oh just wait until the Toyota Prius starts to show early battery wear. There will be congressional hearings on C-Span for weeks.
One of our cars is a Toyota Echo that we bought used for 8K. It gets about 35-36 MPG. Now compare that to a hybrid Toyota Prius that can cost 25-27K out-the-door. Do the math. Even with federal and state rebates/credits which would bring the price of the Toyota hybrid down to about 20K, gas would have to be at 4 bucks a gallon for more than EIGHT years before any real "savings" in gasoline costs were realized. The odds that gas prices are going to be at $4 for 8-10 years are long at best. And in 8-10 years, if you have to deal with waning battery power all of the savings on gas will essentially go up in a large puff of CO2. It is amazing that there are so many people that have been taken in by the advertising and the "green" culture that surrounds these very expensive vehicles.