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."
A 1.3 kw-hr battery? Really? Why even bother!? It won't be eligible for federal tax incentives with that size battery either!
Other than Nissan, the Japanese carmakers are clearly a follow the leader / let's make sure it works first / never cutting edge / avoid risk whenever possible car manufacturer. We heard just last week that Toyota is sticking to its hybrids because "the world isn't ready for pure electrics yet" . . . I can't wait to watch GM take back the global automotive crown.
I agree Chuck. And those developments will probably go hand-in-hand with hybrid developments. Market acceptance, though, will likely depend on economics. If technology can bring down the price of hybrids and EVs, and if oil prices begin rising again, that could drive acceptance. But fracking has created a wave of new oil in this country. When they start fracking around the world. we'll see oil prices come down for an extended period.
I didn't think of the size of the Accord but now that you mention it, Chuck, yes, 50 mpg seems more like something a Civic (which I used to own in the early 2000s) could achieve. So now I am even more impressed! I hope you're right about the battery issues...if it's something that can be controlled I wonder why mishaps keep happening.
Yes, Liz, 50 mpg is impressive, especially in a car the size of the Accord. As far as pure EVs go, I'm not worried about the overheating batteries. Engineers can always control those issues. The bigger worries will be range and cost.
You're absolutely right, naperlou. Engine management is critical to achieving these numbers. Honda told us that the three modes we mentioned above are dependent on a variety of factors, the main ones being level of load, accelerator position and status of battery charge.
Cap'n, this is an interesting application of control technology to gain fuel effieicncy. In the mid 1990s I got a car that had adaptive shifting for the transmission. This allowed shift points to be adaptively changed according to how the driver used the gas. Recently, I was looking at vehicles with my son, and we were at one dealer who mentioned that the fuel efficiency of his new car had just been increased by a change in the software in the engine management system. I believe in that case that he said the shift points were modified. The Honda in this article uses control technology to pick the mode adaptively. These are all good examples of how much our fuel efficiency increases have been driven by engine controls. I think that 54.5 MPG number is well within reach.
Wow, I am impressed, but not surprised, that Honda has come up with such a fuel-efficient car. I guess until a really viable and affordable EV can be developed (without worry that the Li battery in it will explode or overheat!), cars like this are great options to typical gasoline-powered vehicles. 50 miles to the gallon is nothing to sneeze at.
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.