First Glimpse of Accord Plug-in Hybrid

By · December 17, 2010

Honda 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.)

Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid

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.


· · 7 years ago

The question is, in "regular hybrid" operation once the initial charge is largely depleted, will this car be able to achieve efficiency anywhere near that of the current Prius? That is precisely where the Chevy Volt comes up short. If the plug-in Accord ends up achieving efficiency on par with the smaller plug-in Prius, then Honda might have a real winner.

· · 7 years ago

@abasile - Good point. That is the lesson that emerged from the Volt, huh? Of course, it's completely fantastic to have X miles of all-electric range, but it's also critical to have great hybrid-like mileage during charge depletion. Even more important for a PHEV-15, than a PHEV-25/50 like the Volt.

Is Honda making a mistake to dedicate its plug-in hybrid system to mid-size or larger cars, when a PHEV in a small platform would give great EV range, and excellent charge-depletion MPG?

· · 7 years ago

I wonder if that motor spec is right. A 120kW is twice the size of the Prius plug-in hybrid motor and the Prius can also travel up to 62mph on all electric. I wonder if the 120kW on the Accord plug-in hybrid is really the combined power of the motor and ICE.

· · 7 years ago

indyflick - Yeah, that spec is right on the edge of being questionable. Not out of the realm of possibility... but 120 kW, and only good up to 62 mph? That's a lot of power on tap to be limited to 62 mph. Twice the power of the Prius motor, and MORE than twice the power of my all-electric Rav4EV that'll go 80 mph. Of course it doesn't quite get to 80 in the blink of an eye. :-)

· · 7 years ago

I think what they mean is that pure EV mode goes up to 62 mph (while there's sufficient energy in the battery) and then the gas engine kicks in. Funny, but that's the exact number that Prius quotes for the plug-in Prius. (Conspiracy in the making! The 62 mph cartel must be behind it.)

Of course, it's more about load than a fixed speed. But apparently, both companies are saying that going past the legal speed limit (or so) and it's more efficient to bring the gas engine into play (even if there's plenty of power available from a 120 kW motor.) That's also sorta what was revealed in the Volt. That in an electric-drive vehicle that happens to have a gas-engine (aka PHEV), you might as well use the engine at 62 mph or higher, and in a blended system (like Toyota's and Honda's), you probably should use both the engine and electric motor. Who knows which one is best or right? But real-world conditions over time will tell us.

FYI. Honda press release:

"In all-electric mode, the vehicle uses a 6kWh lithium-ion battery and a powerful 120 kW electric motor. The all-electric mode achieves a range of approximately 10-15 miles in city driving and a top speed of 62 mph. Fully recharging the battery will take 3 to 4 hours using a 120-volt outlet and 1 to 1.5 hours using a 240-volt outlet."

· · 7 years ago

Brad - yeah, I suppose it does make sense to use the ICE bits when the load is high - I mean you're dragging that thing around anyway! The smaller the battery the more finely-tuned this balance needs to be. So much easier to use a big battery for everything!

The 120 kW motor just means you'll be able to smoke the tires that much easier (The Rav could do it with 50 kW before they torque-limited it to avoid replacing front tires on the fleet vehicles), and get up to 62 mph faster than anybody ever needs to. In other words - exactly what the American Driving public needs!

Mostly joking - I love to see everybody working on PHEVs. Truly, I see it as the best way to get electric drive into everybody's consiousness. The natural extension is that everybody tries desperately to put off the ICE fire, and eventually they realize that HEY! - if I had a bigger battery and no ICE, driving without gas could be lots easier!

· · 7 years ago

No conspiracy re. both using the 62 mph: that's the conversion from 100 kilometers per hour, a standard in their culture like 65 mph (not 55) is in ours.

· · 7 years ago

Yup!... their acceleration tests are typically 0-100 km like ours is 0-60.

Brad just likes to stir the pot. Idle hands...

· · 7 years ago

I was just kidding. :)

But don't get me started on the outlandish conspiracy by a major automaker to destroy the public streetcar system in Los Angeles and then decades later crush of bunch of electric cars. Nevermind, it's too far-fetched.

(Darell, your trouble-making ways are contagious.)

· · 7 years ago

By the way, I'd also love to see more PHEVs come to market. Would definitely pave the way for more pure EVs. Especially because a number of auto execs, people I've spoken with, see PHEV as a long-term killer app. Whatever it takes to get rolling with electric miles.

· · 7 years ago

Watch it Brad... you don't want to catch what I've got!

I agree that if auto execs see PHEVs as a killer app... or any kind of endgame - let them run with it for as long as they want. As the consumer starts to demand more and more battery range (and who wouldn't once they've experienced it? - this even happens on the current non-plug-in Prius!), and as batteries get cheaper and lighter, and as car companies begin to transition away from being ICE manufacturers and start getting their hands into the battery biz...the H part of PHEV will taper away organically.

I'm just sad to see that this article is only about yet another "demonstration" project. You know... to see if maybe anybody wants a powerful, efficient car. :sigh: But hey - any time I see Honda taking a step away from the FC dream, I'm (timidly) delighted. Poor guys stuffed their eggs in the wrong basket for too long, I'm afraid.

· · 7 years ago

Yep, the PR is very clear the motor is 120kW. With that size motor this could easily be a serial hybrid platform. The three modes could be a marketing diversion. We know Honda can make gensets. Now can you imagine a 1.0 to 1.2 L Gas Direct Injected (GDI) turbo Honda engine for the genset? Very small, light weight, and kicking out ~125 Hp. Then they would have something. Otherwise, they're late to the party with an "also ran" offering.

· · 7 years ago

Indy... as this won't be coming on the market in 2011 no matter how you slice it, I think we can confidently say that they're late to the party!

· Priusmaniac (not verified) · 7 years ago

@darelldd, sorry but I don’t buy your story of removing the H from the PHEV. We will sure have pure EV vehicles but PHEV are there to stay because they allow more flexibility even if the generator get reduced to a 600 cc and the battery power goes to 50 KWh. That shoebox-sized generator is going to be really appreciated when your grid is unavailable because of a blackout, a war, a snowstorm or a hurricane.

In the same time and more specifically in this Honda vehicle, if power is available there is no reason why they should limit the speed to 62 mph even if that is fast depleting the battery. After all, you are the only one to know your 90 mph drive is going to finish when you arrive home less then 10 miles away. Ultimately, it must be the driver that chose EV mode or hybrid mode whatever the speed as long as the battery charge allows it.

· · 7 years ago

@Priusmaniac: You might be right that some will always be willing to pay for a backup source of power. But give me an EV with a 300 mile range and fast charge capabilities, and I would not want to pay extra to have an engine/generator on board. As for coping with grid disturbances, prices on solar PV panels and battery backup systems should continue to drop. Gasoline is not always available in emergency situations.

I agree that the driver should be able to chose whether or not to use the PHEV charge, as is the case with at least some of the aftermarket plug-in kits for the Prius. On a longer drive, this allows the driver to save the charge for the portions of the drive (i.e., city driving) where it will make the biggest difference in efficiency.

· · 7 years ago

@Priusmaniac, no need to be sorry! At this point we all get to predict the future with impunity. :)

· techman54 (not verified) · 7 years ago

Remember, Li-ion technology for vehicles is still a work in progress. The OEM's control charge/discharge rates to save on battery life. Though these products are durability tested (by major OEM's) you can never replicate ALL of the possible scenarios & driving conditions of a vehicle. The proof is in the recall and TSB list of every OEM. So-called "fast charge" is more of a marketing ploy than reality. The DC to DC charging IS NOT intended for consistent use. Pushing that many amps that fast is not what OEM's want to do to the battery packs. And fast charging during peak electrical load IS NOT what the utility company wants either (contrary to their public pronouncements).

· · 7 years ago

@Prismatic - Meant to add - Give me a shoe-box sized veggie oil generator, and I'll sing the praises of the almighty H! ;)

· Rebounding Master (not verified) · 7 years ago

I would love to have a car I could plug in and charge when the battery gets low. I would hope that the battery might last a few days though without having to charge it every night. I believe this kind of car would be very convenient to own, and will probably own one someday in the near future.

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