Japanese automaker Honda is warning customers that about 90,000 Civic Hybrids are affected by a software issue causing premature battery wear. The software flaw, which affects all 2006 through 2008 Civic Hybrids, can cause the small sedan's nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) hybrid battery to deplete more quickly than usual.
A crucial component of a hybrid car, the NiMH battery is designed to last at least ten years, or upwards of 150,000 miles. Hybrids like the Civic use the NiMH battery to store energy built up from regenerative braking, as well as provide extra energy during acceleration. Without the battery, hybrids are rendered inoperable, demonstrating the importance of Honda's battery fix – especially since NiMH batteries can cost several thousand dollars to replace.
Honda's software correction – described as a "technical service bulletin" rather than a recall since the software issue doesn't endanger drivers – isn't necessary for 2009 and later Civic Hybrids, as Honda had discovered the problem by then, making necessary corrections at the factory. The automaker wouldn't say whether it was Honda customers or engineers who discovered the problem.
Civic Hybrids sold elsewhere are also affected by the battery issue, with Honda fixing the same problem in more than 16,000 Civics in Japan. In other countries, the Civic Hybrid isn't as highly popular, leaving the issue mostly to American and Japanese markets.
Current Civic Hybrid sales are lagging, undoubtedly brought down by rival automaker Toyota's all-new Prius and Honda's own new hybrid, the Insight hatchback. However, Honda has announced the imminent arrival of the CR-Z, a sporty hybrid hatchback which will join the Civic and Insight as Honda's third current hybrid. With the exciting, miserly two-seater, Honda may get a chance to begin taking market share from Toyota, which sells more than 70 percent of all hybrids sold in the United States.