The auto industry took another small step up in its long climb to a 54.5 mile-per-gallon average this week, as Honda Motor Co. officially rolled out a 50-mpg hybrid version of one of the country's best-selling cars.
The long-awaited 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid will use a gasoline-electric powertrain to reach an EPA rating of 50 mpg city, 45 highway, and 47 combined. That puts it ahead of competing midsize hybrids, such as the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, and Hyundai Sonata, but still behind the Toyota Prius, which gets 51 mpg in the city.
Honda reached the 50-mpg milestone with a clever combination of all-electric, hybrid, and engine-only driving modes.
Click on the photo below to check out Honda's 50-mpg hybrid.
Honda's 2014 Accord hybrid will offer 50 mpg city, 45 mpg highway, and 47 combined. Manufacturer's suggested retail price starts at $29,155. (Source: Honda Motor Co.)
All-electric. In this mode, the Accord's 124-kW electric traction motor turns the wheels, drawing power from a 1.3-kWh lithium-ion battery for the first few miles.
Hybrid. When the battery is quickly depleted, the Accord kicks into series hybrid mode, using its gasoline engine to power a generator, which feeds current to the electric motor to drive the wheels.
Engine-only. At approximately 40 mph, the unique aspect of the powertrain shows itself. Then, the electric motor is decoupled, and a clutch engages the crankshaft of the two-liter gasoline engine. In this "direct-drive" mode, the car uses only its engine for power.
Honda said the three modes are governed by a number of variable factors, but always with the idea of eking out extra fuel economy. "It always seeks the best possible efficiency," Honda spokesman Chris Naughton told Design News. "It will seamlessly transition between all three of the modes."
The new vehicle, scheduled to go on sale later this month, is a slightly more conventional twist on the 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid, announced earlier this year. Its 1.3-kWh battery is smaller than the plug-in's 6.7-kWh battery, which can take the car approximately 13 miles in all-electric mode. The plug-in also offers owners the opportunity to recharge the batteries by plugging them in at night, which the new conventional hybrid does not.
Automotive experts called Honda's approach a conservative and profitable way to electrify its fleet. "This is what you're going to see from a lot of mainstream manufacturers going forward," Thilo Koslowski, vice president and distinguished analyst for Gartner Inc., told Design News. "There isn't a way yet for volume manufacturers to offer fully electric vehicles at a price point that would guarantee them profit. With a hybrid, you don't need a breakthrough in battery technology to make it competitive."
Honda does offer a pure electric car. The Honda Fit EV, as it's known, is not targeted for big sales numbers, however, with production volumes being limited in the first three years.
"The manufacturers are starting to make their bets," Koslowski said. "And the hybrid is certainly a much safer bet for mainstream automakers than a fully electric vehicle."
Elizabeth, I do agree with you on EVs should be affordable and also should be reliable. So battery warrantee is playing a major role in decision making process. Mercedes Benz new S-class Hybrid is offering a 10 Year warrantee for the battery.
Good analysis, Dave. The scenario you've described is reasonable for the majority of vehicle owners. Of course, if you double it and drive 24,000 miles per year, then you can hit the break even point in half that time. And if you keep it for 200,000, as many people do now, you end up ahead. (I have 198,000 on my car.) So the bottom line is it may not be feasible for a lot of car owners, but those who drive a lot of miles and keep their cars for a long time can realize the benefits.
@Charles: Okay, so let's compare apples to apples: 2014 Accord ($23,625 MSRP, 30 mpg combined) vs. 2014 Accord Hybrid ($29,155, 47 mpg combined). Assuming that you drive 12,000 miles per year and gas costs $3.50, the hybrid will save you about $500 a year on gas. Since the difference is MSRP is over $5000, that means it will take over 10 years to pay for itself.
Of course, if you drive a lot more miles, or if gas gets a lot more expensive, the payback period gets shorter. But it will still be over 5 years for most people. Chances are, your gas savings will never offset your higher car payment until you're done paying for the car.
Interesting point about the Volt battery, ChrisSharek. I recently talked to an EV engineer who told me that he thought the Volt's liquid cooling system was overkill. But your experience tells a different story. I think GM will be glad they took the liquid cooling route in the long run. Check out this story from the MIT Technology Review last year:
Electric vehicles certainly get better mpg, ChriSharek, and I'm totally with you on the advantages. But at this point I don't think EVs are a viable option for everyone, though hopefully soon that will change.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.