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1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #1

Honda’s reputation as an innovator and technology leader wasn’t earned with the first hybrid brought to the U.S. market or its stubborn commitment to a hydrogen-powered prototype. Honda built its brand on the fundamentals of its most accessible and popular vehicles. Americans admired the simplest solutions to the most complex problems; they respected diligent engineering that set a standard of continuous improvement; and they believed in the company that was consistently one step ahead of the competition.

The company that once sold an affordable compact so clean it met emissions standards without a catalytic converter is hell bent on owning the hybrid market -- small as it may be, Prius be damned, and cost no object. So next year, Honda will add to its crowded stable of hybrids -- CR-Z, Civic, and Insight -- with a mid-size plug-in hybrid.

Not your typical Honda hybrid
Honda’s plug-in hybrid powertrain is far more sophisticated than the simple Integrated Motor Assist system found in Honda’s existing hybrids. It is also significantly different than the configurations used by the Toyota Prius and the Chevrolet Volt. No matter whether the Honda plug-in is relying on energy from its 6-kWh lithium-ion battery or its fuel tank, the wheels are primarily powered by a 161-hp electric motor. A second electric motor functions as a generator to convert power from a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder into electricity for range far beyond the battery’s 10 to 15 miles. If the driver calls for quick acceleration or exceeds 62 mph, the gas engine will also kick on before the battery’s charge is exhausted. Recharging takes about one and a half hours with a 240-volt connection.

The Honda’s unusual trick (all good hybrids have at least one) is that the gas engine can be mated to the front wheels through a fixed gear ratio. While single-speed transmissions are common in electric vehicles, gas engines require multi-speed gearboxes to match the narrow rpm band where the engine is most efficient with the wide range of road speeds. Both the Prius and the Volt use continuously variable transmissions to blend electric and gas power on its way to the wheels. Honda’s single gear ratio has been optimized for low-load highway cruising, such that the gas engine never engages the wheels below 40 mph. An electronically controlled clutch engages the engine when the computer decides to send power directly from the gas engine to the wheels.

A test drive shorter than its electric range
Over an extremely short, city-like loop, we sampled the hybrid powertrain packaged in the chassis of the current Honda Accord. The electric motor is plenty powerful to move at a normal pace without calling on the gas engine. Stomp on the throttle, though, and there’s a slight lag in power delivery and a CVT-like audible awakening as the engine spins up to high rpm and parks itself there. The Honda mule drove with less moaning than a Prius but less engine isolation than the Volt. Maximum acceleration is adequate but not quick.

We were never able to discern if the engine was driving the front wheels, although that doesn’t necessarily mean the system is seamless. It’s possible that the computer simply never saw fit to engage the clutch during our limited test drive. Brakes are easily modulated by hybrid standards.

Honda has committed to production for 2012, but it hasn’t let on if the powertrain will appear in the next Accord or an exclusive hybrid model. If Honda delivers on its claimed electric range of 10 to 15 miles, the mid-size plug-in hybrid will be aimed squarely at Toyota’s forthcoming Prius plug-in, a car that will certainly benefit from instant recognition as a hybrid.

The mysteries that remain
It’s clear that Honda is hoping the more sophisticated powertrain will be a feather in its cap and a step toward reclaiming its reputation as a technology leader. For that to happen, though, buyers will have to respond to this hybrid more strongly than they have to any of Honda’s previous gas/electric cars. While the plug-in hybrid features some genuine innovations, its chance of success depends just as much on unknowns like styling, pricing, and fuel economy.


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #2

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. has developed a new SPORTS HYBRID Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive system, a lightweight and compact 1-motor hybrid system optimized for small-sized vehicles. This new hybrid system will be the latest addition to the Earth Dreams Technology series of next generation powertrain technology that realizes both excellent driving performance and high fuel efficiency.

Together with the SPORT HYBRID Intelligent Multi Mode Drive, the world's most efficient1 2-motor hybrid system optimized for mid-sized vehicles, and the SPORT HYBRID SH-AWD® (Super Handling - All Wheel Drive), the 3-motor hybrid system optimized for large-sized vehicles enabling independent control of torque distribution to both right and left rear wheels, the newly developed SPORT HYBRID Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive will constitute the lineup of 3 different Honda SPORT HYBRID systems that accommodate different vehicle characteristics. Honda will continue expanding the application of these hybrid systems based on vehicle characteristics.

SPORT HYBRID Systems Lineup

1-motor SPORT HYBRID Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive
In addition to top-level fuel efficiency in its class2, the fun of driving is realized with acceleration g-force more powerful than that of existing models as well as a rhythmic and linear acceleration feeling. This drive unit combines a newly developed inline 4-cylinder 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle engine with a 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) system with a built-in high-output motor and a Lithium-Ion battery to improve efficiency by more than 30 percent compared to a conventional one-motor hybrid system.

The combination of the 1-motor hybrid system and the engine realizes sporty driving during acceleration and high-speed cruising by using the clutches to engage the engine
Highly efficient electric vehicle (EV) driving is realized during startup and low- to medium-speed cruising by using the clutches to disengage the engine
This system contributes to the improvement of fuel efficiency by increasing energy regeneration using the clutches to disengage the engine during deceleration​

2-motor SPORT HYBRID Intelligent Multi Mode Drive / Plug-in:
Through the adoption of high-efficiency/high-output motors, both brisk acceleration with an EV-like driving feel and high fuel efficiency are realized at the same time. This hybrid system realizes the world's highest efficiency1 by combining a newly-developed engine dedicated to hybrid vehicles coupled with two built-in motors and a lock-up clutch, along with a Lithium-Ion battery, and by optimally switching the driving mode among three different profiles depending on the driving situation. This hybrid system, which is also suitable as a plug-in hybrid system, will be available in the North American version of the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in, scheduled to be introduced to the market in January 2013. The system switches the operation among the following 3 driving modes depending on driving conditions and the battery charge level:

"EV Drive" for driving by the electric motor only, using electricity from the battery and regeneration during deceleration
"Engine Drive" for medium-to high-speed cruising with the engine and axle directly connected by a lock-up clutch, with engine power mechanically transferred to the wheels
"Hybrid Drive" for urban driving and powerful acceleration using the motor with electricity generated by the engine​

3-motor SPORT HYBRID SH-AWD ® (Super Handling - All Wheel Drive):

The combination of a V-6 engine and this high-output 3-motor system realizes acceleration performance equivalent to that of a V-8 engine with fuel efficiency better than that of an inline 4-cylinder engine. A new direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 engine is installed in the front of the vehicle and combined with a newly-developed 7-speed DCT system with a built-in motor. This unique Honda technology uses 2 electric motors installed in the rear to control torque distribution to the right and left rear wheels.

Using independent motors for the right and left rear wheels, positive torque is applied to the outside wheel and negative torque is applied to the inside wheel, making independent control of torque distribution to the rear wheels possible without relying on engine output
Depending on the radius of the curve, the energy generated by the inside wheel is recovered electrically and applied to the outside wheel to self-generate torque necessary for the vehicle to make the turn​

1 Per Honda internal research as of August 2012
2 Hybrid systems for a 1.5L engines

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #3

Just how close do cars get to their official EPA gas mileage figures?

We expect it's a question many of our readers are familiar with--either in keeping an eye on their own car's gas mileage, or from friends asking about their next car.

It's become all the more important in recent months, with high-profile criticism for makers like Ford, whose recent hybrid models struggle to attain the figures returned in EPA testing. And while some cars routinely struggle to reach their official numbers, other cars are often much better in the real world--as Volkswagen diesel owners are often all too eager to point out!

We decided to browse some of the more well-known gas-sipping models using's roster of driver-inputted numbers, to see which models fare best, and which aren't so good in the real world. It's looking good for Honda and Volkswagen, but not so much for Ford...


Honda CR-Z
EPA: 34/37 mpg combined (manual/CVT)
Real world: 37-40 mpg

The economy of Honda's sporty compact hybrid might have disappointed some critics at launch, but in the real world the hybrid hatchback actually does a lot better--averaging as high as 40 mpg for many drivers. Dive further into the figures, and there's no clear distinction between manual or auto either--suggesting driving style, rather than transmission, matters most for the CR-Z.

Honda Insight
EPA: 42 mpg combined
Real world: 43-46 mpg

Another much maligned Honda, the Insight seems able to beat its official 42 mpg figure by as much as 10 percent. 2012's sample of 48 cars is faring best, with up to 46.4 mpg on average. Figures well into the 50s aren't uncommon for individual users, and only a handful are doing less than 38 mpg--the Insight really does punch above its weight. It's also 1 of the cheapest hybrids on sale, so represents a good way of getting high mileage for less money.

Volkswagen Jetta TDI
EPA: 34 mpg combined
Real world: 38-39 mpg

All those VW drivers are right--the Jetta TDI really does attain better numbers than the EPA credits it. While officially rated at 34 mpg combined, drivers in the real world are averaging closer to 38 or 39 mpg--14 percent better than quoted. Dozens of drivers are even getting numbers in the high 40s, but after then it tails off. For any driver doing mostly highway miles, the appeal of VW's TDI models is clear to see.

Good effort​

Honda Civic Hybrid
EPA: 44 mpg combined
Real world: 43-44 mpg

Honda's highest-mileage hybrid on paper isn't quite as good in the real world as the cheaper Insight, but most drivers are still matching the official 44 mpg combined rating. That means you can either appreciate the Civic Hybrid for what it is--a usefully economical sedan--or save a few thousand and buy an Insight instead...

Lexus CT 200h
EPA: 42 mpg combined
Real world: 42+ mpg

If you want hybrid economy mixed with a little luxury, the CT 200h is about as good as you can get at the moment--and drivers are just creeping over its official 42 mpg figure. Not spectacular then, but you shouldn't feel short-changed either.

Toyota Prius
EPA: 50 mpg combined
Real world: 48 mpg

The archetypal hybrid isn't a champion when it comes to beating the EPA figures, but most drivers are getting within 2 mpg of its 50 mpg combined figure and some are getting significantly more. A few hundred of the Fuelly's 2,300 Prius users are still managing to beat 50 mpg, so the potential is there.

Toyota Prius C
EPA: 50 mpg combined
Real world: 50+ mpg

Even better news for the smaller Prius, with drivers matching its 50 mpg combined number without too much trouble. Like the regular Prius, and a few other cars here, some users are getting significantly more, while only a few people are dipping below 45 mpg. As a city car, there are few better choices.

Toyota Prius v
EPA: 42 mpg combined
Real world: 42-43 mpg

The biggest Prius is also a good choice for those wanting high mileage, particularly as there's plenty of utility to go with it. Matching the EPA's numbers doesn't seem like much work--not bad for a car clearly designed to carry more stuff on a regular basis.


Ford C-Max Hybrid
EPA: 47 mpg combined
Real world: 40 mpg

Missing out by almost 15 percent, drivers are struggling to match the 47 mpg EPA figure claimed for the C-Max Hybrid. They're also failing to match the 42-43 mpg of the less sophisticated Toyota Prius V, which must be a little galling. The Ford is nicer to drive of course, but a few more MPG wouldn't go amiss...

Ford Fusion Hybrid

EPA: 47 mpg combined
Real world: 41 mpg

Sadly, but predictably, the Fusion Hybrid joins the C-Max with real-world economy 12 percent down on EPA figures. The slight increase from the C-Max might be down to driving style, or it may be due to sleeker aerodynamics. 41 mpg is still good for a sedan the size of the Fusion, but may be a disappointment for those expecting more.

Lexus RX 450h
EPA: 30 mpg combined (FWD)
Real world: 24-28 mpg

It's not just Ford drivers failing to match sky-high EPA numbers--Lexus is at it too. We've included the RX as we've experienced its lackluster real-world economy 1st hand, on more than 1 occasion. Drivetrain does play a part here (better with front wheel drive than all 4), but ultimately it's a struggle for economy-minded RX owners.


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #4

Honda Motor Co. will end production of the Insight model, the 1st hybrid vehicle introduced in the United States, after demand plunged and sales lagged behind Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius.

Honda informed dealers in November that the current generation of the Insight will be discontinued this month and asked them to stop taking orders, said Yuka Abe, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman for Honda.

She declined to comment on whether there will be a new version of the model.

The Insight was the 1st hybrid vehicle in the U.S. market when Honda introduced it in 1999, 7 months earlier than the Prius.

The Toyota hybrid went on to become the best-selling dual-powered car of all time, with cumulative sales of 3.19 million vehicles as of January, according to the company.

By comparison, Honda delivered a cumulative 280,629 vehicles of the Insight globally as of the end of last year, of which 157,275 were sold in Japan.

U.S. sales of the model plunged 18% to 4,802 last year, making it the 2nd-worst selling car in the Honda brand lineup, behind only the CR-Z hybrid.

Honda began this month with 237 days worth of supply of the Insight, according to Automotive News Data Center, almost 4 times the 60-day inventory that automakers generally consider to be ideal in the U.S. market.

Honda stopped production of the 1st-generation Insight in 2006, before reviving it in 2009. Honda has 5 hybrid models in its lineup, including the Accord sedan and the Fit compact car.
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