The 1.3-liter Civic will be Honda's second hybrid vehicle. The 1.0-liter Insight coupe went on sale in Japan in November 1999.
Honda says the five-seat hybrid Civic gets the equivalent of 69 mpg, compared with about 47 mpg for the conventional model. Honda did not announce a price or production target for the hybrid Civic.
Honda and Toyota Motor Corp. are ahead of other automakers in developing and marketing hybrid systems, although Insight sales have never ignited. While Honda sold 3,451 Insights in the United States and Japan this year through July, sales of the Toyota Prius totaled 15,523 in those markets in the same period.
The Prius debuted in Japan in December 1997.
Honda said it also plans to put a fuel cell vehicle on the market by 2003, the same target date that Toyota has set. As a step toward that goal, Honda said it has developed a fuel cell vehicle that can run for 186.5 miles without refueling, an improvement over the 112 miles of the previous version, FCX-V3, which was introduced in September of last year.
The maximum speed of the new version, FCX-V4, increased to 87 mph from 80.1 mph for the FCX-V3. The FCX-V4, like its predecessor, uses a fuel cell stack developed and supplied by Ballard Power Systems Inc. The stack generates electricity by combining compressed hydrogen stored in the car as fuel with oxygen in the air.
Honda has studied the market feasibility of fuel cell vehicles by participating in the California Fuel Cell Partnership, a real-road test project. From November 2000 through last month, Honda's fuel cell vehicles have accumulated 6,300 test miles in the program.