First Glimpse of Accord Plug-in Hybrid
In a week which had Chevy putting hundreds of Volts on trucks heading to dealerships, and the first Nissan LEAF drivers logging miles and range numbers, Honda’s announcement that three demo program participants were going to evaluate electric vehicles seems, well, pretty timid.
Tetsuo Iwamura, American Honda President and CEO, marked the event in Torrance, Calif., with this statement: "The goal of the Honda Electric Vehicle Demonstration Program is to more fully understand the challenges and opportunities associated with such a fundamental shift in technology." Aren’t we passed the “understanding the challenges” stage? Step on the electrons, folks.
The event yesterday, where the Mayor of Torrance participated, might have been a complete yawner if we didn’t get a chance to associate Honda’s recently unveiled two-motor plug-in hybrid system with a specific vehicle: the mid-size mass-mainstream Honda Accord. It's just a test platform for now, so we don't yet know which Honda mid-size vehicle will become a plug-in hybrid. But a PHEV Accord might finally heal the black eye that Honda got from producing a V-6 Accord Hybrid that emphasized speed over efficiency.
We saw back at the L.A. Auto Show that the pure EV platform is the Honda Fit.
That appears to be Honda’s electric strategy in a nutshell: pure EV for small cars like the Fit, and plug-in hybrids for mid-size platforms. (It’s not clear yet which vehicles are slated for conventional hybrids, but it probably will cover the gamut from compacts, like the CR-Z, to a Honda hybrid minivan.)
What do we know about Honda’s two-motor system plug-in hybrid system? First, it can work in three different modes to maximize efficiency: all-electric, gas-electric and apparently all gas (what Honda fancifully calls a “unique, engine direct-drive mode.”)
The mid-size plug-in hybrid uses a 6 kWh lithium-ion battery and a 120 kW electric motor to provide approximately 10-15 miles of all-electric driving, and a top speed of 62 mph. Based on these specs, it seems most similar to the upcoming 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. For all the merits of a plug-in hybrid in an accessible family model, it’s amazing that we’re not seeing more rolled out as future possibilities. So kudos to Honda for taking it to the next level. I suspect that its new two-motor hybrid system will probably get the most play in a conventional hybrid, and signal a transition from the company’s mild IMA system, which was not capable of becoming a plug-in hybrid.
In addition to the city of Torrance, the Honda plug-in cars will be tested at Stanford University and nearby Google headquarters.
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