Honda’s Sport Hybrid system milks more MPG without punishing performance

Honda's 2014 Accord PHEV

Honda built its reputation early on with top-notch engineering and a propensity for going its own way. For the last several years, however, cost cutting coupled with a drive to become a more mainstream auto manufacturer seemed to push Honda away from its ingenious roots. Thankfully, the winds of innovation seem to be blowing strongly again from Honda Headquarters.

Honda has introduced a trio of new Sport Hybrid drivetrain technologies, beginning with small and simple vehicles up to larger all-wheel drive vehicles. Honda is calling these new technologies “Sport Hybrid Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive. If that name seems clunky, remember, Honda is composed of engineering wizards, not wordsmiths.

Honda SPORT HYBRID Systems

At the bottom of the range is the One-Motor Sport Hybrid Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive. Designed for small vehicles, the system improves upon efficiency as well as acceleration.It uses a new inline four-cylinder 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle engine, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with a built-in electric motor and Lithium-ion battery pack. This arrangement improves efficiency by more than 30 percent over the outgoing version. As one might expect, the system is capable of electric only driving mode (EV) during stop-and-go and low-speed driving.

In the middle – and with an even longer name – is the Two-Motor Sport Hybrid Intelligent Multi Mode Drive/Plug-In. The Two-Motor system follows along the same lines as the One-Motor, improving efficiency and acceleration. This system has been designed with mid-sized vehicles in mind and will be first implemented in the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In. The Two-Motor system is capable of three drive modes: “EV Drive,” “Engine Drive,” and “Hybrid Drive.” EV Drive is essentially what it sounds like: electric-only driving with energy coming from the on-board battery pack, which is charged at home or at a charging station. Engine Drive is for medium- or high-speed driving and relies on power generated from the gasoline engine, which is directly locked to the front drive axle by a lock-up clutch. Lastly, Hybrid Drive is for stop-and-go driving when the on-board electric power has been depleted and the gas engine is relied on for electricity generation but does not power the wheels.

Last, we have the Three-Motor Sport Hybrid SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive). With the power output of a V8 and the fuel efficiency of a four-cylinder, the Three Motor system is ideal for larger vehicles like the Honda Ridgeline pickup or the Pilot, Honda’s large SUV. The Three-Motor system is powered by a fairly typical 3.5-liter V6, which has been mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Here’s where it gets tricky. In the rear of the vehicle are two electric motors, one on each rear wheel. This system allows for either motor to most efficiently deliver torque to its respective wheel, whether it is positive or negative torque. For instance, as a vehicle goes around a corner, the inside wheel spins more slowly, and the outside spins more quickly as it travels a greater distance. The electric motor on the inside of a given corner in the road will capture energy of the slowing inside wheel and transfer it to the outside wheel, requiring less energy to be exerted by the gasoline engine up front.

Personally, we can’t wait for these new technologies to be implemented into future Honda vehicles. In the meantime, however, who said powerful and efficient drivetrain technologies couldn’t make for riveting reading?

Product Review

Audi built an electric SUV for buyers who want gasoline-free to mean stress-free

We finally got to spend time behind the wheel of the electric 2019 Audi E-Tron bustling cities and arid desert of the United Arab Emirates to see how it compares with Jaguar and Tesla's competitors.

600-hp, $155K Polestar 1 is the alluring Volvo coupe you’ve been waiting for

Volvo's return to the coupe segment just took an interesting turn: the model will join the Polestar lineup, and it will get a 600-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Polestar 1 will be built in China starting in 2019.

Aston Martin bets classic car owners will choose volts over carburetors

Aston Martin has converted one of its most sought-after classic models to run on electricity instead of gasoline. The roadster uses electric components sourced from the upcoming Rapide E sedan.
Smart Home

Is old-school Airstream finally embracing smart home technology?

Airstream's vintage-looking trailers have a huge audience but its 2019 Classic camping trailers are getting a modern upgrade with the addition of app-controlled smart home technology to bring modern convenience online.

Did that car just wink at you? Daimler previews car-to-pedestrian signals

Eager to show off progress with autonomous cars and perhaps do some consumer softening as well, Daimler and Bosch previewed car-to-pedestrian communications. A sensor-loaded Mercedes S appears to wink to acknowledge a pedestrian's presence.

Uber is about to restart self-driving car tests but on a reduced scale

Uber is reported to be on the verge of restarting its autonomous-car test program. The company halted it in March 2018 following a fatal accident involving one of its vehicles, but its cars could be back on the road within weeks.

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.

Bosch is developing a Rosetta Stone for autonomous and connected cars

Bosch and start-up Veniam want to create a common language that autonomous and connected cars can use. The two firms have developed a connectivity unit that transcends the national boundaries of technology.

Volkswagen may be planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car may head to the Nürburgring in 2019 for a lap-record attempt, according to a new report. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car.

The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake is the sexiest wagon ever

Aston Martin has revealed new photos of the limited-production Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake. The Vanquish Zagato line now includes the Shooting Brake, Coupe, Volante, and Speedster, each with bespoke styling.

Nissan and Italdesign’s GT-R50 concept will become a $1.1 million reality

The Nissan GT-R50 is a customized sports car built to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the GT-R and design firm Italdesign. Underneath the sleek bodywork sits a 710-horsepower engine fortified with race car components.

Ford’s new Shelby GT500 Mustang will have 3D-printed brake parts

Ford's new $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center will focus on emerging technologies, including 3D printing. One of the staff's first jobs is to print parts for the 700-horsepower Shelby GT500 Mustang.

World’s fastest electric race car to display at Petersen Museum

The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak race car smashed the all-time record at the hill climb for which it was named. The all-electric VW record-holder will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until February 1, 2019.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!