There’s a good reason that the Honda Accord Hybrid won the overall 2014 Canadian Green Car award, and was voted the top hybrid again for the 2015 edition: it’s one of the few hybrids on the road so far that uses advanced technology normally reserved for plug-in hybrid buyers at a mainstream sedan price. But it certainly won’t be the last.
With gasoline prices fluttering about at lower levels than last year, plus zero or near zero emissions plug-in vehicles are now taking the overall emissions reductions and tech crowns when it comes to green cars. Hybrid vehicles are in a bit of an SUV-friendly market squeeze. Hybrids save gas compared to regular cars, but more than plug-ins, generally. And with lower gas prices combined with the increased efficiency of ‘regular’ cars, it’s perhaps easier than ever for buyers to ratchet ‘fuel efficiency’ down the list of buying priorities.
But even with higher fuel prices, there was always a strong contingent of Canadians that appreciated serious hybrid efficiency combined with mainstream looks. The Toyota Camry Hybrid was the best-selling hybrid in Canada for years, one of the few countries where that was the case, before the Prius family expanded to multiple models. The gas-electric Camry is still the sales leader amongst electrified hybrid sedans, but Honda’s Accord Hybrid has enough advanced technology not only to beat the Camry Hybrid’s fuel efficiency numbers, but to actually land closer to the dedicated Prius mid-size hybrid’s numbers than anything else in this class.
Wants to be an Electric Car
Designed in parallel with the Accord Hybrid Plug-In, the plug-free Accord Hybrid pares down the battery size and carves out the exterior charging plumbing, but keeps the rest of the advanced technology that maximizes the amount of time it operates in silent electric-only mode. It uses a two-motor system, as well as a generator for low-speed driving, so the car uses gas to generate electricity that’s doled out to the front wheels at city speeds, plus any electricity that the regenerative braking has managed to recapture.
“This vehicle always wants to be an electric car,” said Hayato Mori, product planning manager for Honda Canada, at a technical briefing soon after the car was introduced to Canada for 2014. At city speeds, there’s also no ‘functional transmission’ either, Mori explained, since the electric motor doles out the requested power to the front wheels, the engine turning at varying rates simply to ensure there’s enough electric power to meet the driver’s demands.
It has a lightweight 1.3 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery to store its power, similar in design though much smaller than the 6.7 kWh unit in the Honda Accord Hybrid Plug-In, which was never offered for sale in Canada, or anywhere outside California and New York state. The only direct mechanical connection between the Accord Hybrid’s front tires and the engine happens at about 80 km/h, said Mori, when the e-CVT connects the two at the point where gasoline driving is most efficient.