Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid – Prototype Drive

While in Japan for the 2011 Tokyo motor show, we visited Honda’s Twin Ring Motegi racing facility to see some of the company’s future products. Among them was a plug-in hybrid system, a prototype of which was installed in a current-generation Accord. Although the car we drove was just a development mule, we can confidently say that a hybrid like this one will be a part of the lineup when the next-generation Accord debuts for the 2013 model year.

Honda’s plug-in system is totally different from the single-motor IMA drivetrain found in the Insight, CR-Z, and Civic hybrids. The main powertrain components are a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four and two electric motors—one to charge the battery pack and one to spin the wheels. The gas engine puts out 134 hp and 111 lb-ft of torque; the drive motor is good for 161 hp; and the generator is rated at 100 kW.

We first saw this system previewed at the 2010 L.A. auto show, and the specifications are largely unchanged. EV mode works up to 62 mph for 10 to 15 miles. The gasoline motor can spin the drive wheels directly, bypassing the electric motor and returning highway fuel economy closer to that of conventional cars, which typically fare better than hybrids at high speeds. How this works is the curious part. Our exchange at a powertrain display stand with a Honda engineer who was barely conversant in English:

“So, how does the transmission work?”

“No, no transmission.”

“Yeah, okay, so the motors make a CVT like in the Prius? How does that work here?”

“No, the motor is direct drive.”

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