Mumbai: In a pioneering move Japanese car maker Honda Motor Company has launched the first hybrid car in the Indian market, the petrol-electric sedan Civic Hybrid through its Indian subsidiary Honda Siel Cars India (HSCI).
A hybrid vehicle is driven by a conventional petrol engine but also has a battery-powered electric motor that helps nealy double the fuel efficiency while reducing pollution.The electric motor helps to reduce the size of the petrol engine without reducing the driving performance, though with higher higher fuel efficiency and reduced exhaust emissions.
In the case of the Civic Hybrid the fuel efficency is nearly 47 per cent higher than a regular petrol version - in the range of 19-23 km a per litre when measured with the existing petrol based model, that offers approximately 15 km per litre.View video of Honda Civic Hybrid
The Civic Hybrid would come with a 1.3 litre petrol engine. From the start-up and acceleration, the engine and the motor function together. However, when the car is driven at a high speed the vehicle runs on the engine. When the car is idling , the petrol engine automatically stops and the battery keeps the vehicle running, saving fuel. At between 40-50 km per hour the hybrid operates only on the battery and offers the maximum fuel efficiency.
According to the company, the fuel efficiency of Civic Hybrid is in the range of 19-23 km a per litre when measured with its petrol variant that offers approximately 15 km per litre.
The Hybrid's engine system features a 3-stage i-VTEC + IMA that employs Honda's 1.3L i-VTEC (variable valve timing and lift electronic control) engine to provide three stages of valve timing (low-speed, high-speed, and cylinder idle mode), combined with a compact and efficient electric motor, Honda's IMA (integrated motor assist) system.
The Civic Hybrid can deactivate all four of its cylinders and operate using only the electric motor in certain steady-state cruising situations.
In addition, the internal combustion engine is switched off when car comes to a stop while the brake pedal is pressed, reducing fuel consumption and the polluting carbon emissions, particularly in city traffic.
Apart from sleek, aerodynamic exteriors and new-age luxurious interiors, the Civic Hybrid offers Honda's safety technology, including Active Headrest and four SRS airbags (driver, assistant and side air bags), besides other safety features.
Honda Siel will import the Civic Hybrid from its parent's Japanese plant where it produces the hybrid car for its global markets, as a completely built unit. To start with, Honda Siel has imported around 130 units and expects to sell between 300 and 400 of these cars in the country.
"In launching this car, our objective is not to get large volumes or to make a statement," said Masahiro Takedagawa, president and CEO, Honda Siel Cars India Ltd, while unveiling the new Civic Hybrid in New Delhi yesterday. "Our objective is to give an opportunity to Indian customers to experience this new technology. And they can do that at any of our dealerships across India."
However, the vehicle does not come cheap. With a 104-per cent customs duty, it is priced at Rs21.50 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), compared to its petrol variants that are priced between Rs11.80 lakh and Rs13.50 lakh.
The company says that currently it cannot import the engine and components as a semi-knocked down unit, which has a lower duty component than as a fully imported car.
Honda says it also plans to launch it premium hatchback, the Jazz, in India by the end of 2009, which will be manufactured at its upcoming plant at Takapura in Rajasthan.
Takedagawa said that Honda was launching a hybrid hatchback globally next year and in India it would concentrate on the Civic Hybrid to gauge the response before launch other variants or models.
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