Many manufacturers are talking up hybrid technology – but Honda’s solution is a little different and more significant than most.
The brand has revealed that most or all of its cars will be powered by either hybrid or pure electric technology by 2022.
The announcement came alongside Honda unveiling its fourth-generation Jazz (pictured), which will be the first new Honda since the CR-Z of 2010 to be powered exclusively by a hybrid powertrain, with no pure petrol or diesel alternatives available.
Honda says the rest of its “mainstream models” will follow suit, as part of its aim of phasing out non-hybrid engine options from its range within the next three years. Insiders say the next new model to go all-hybrid could be the Civic, potentially as early as next year, when the current model is due a mid-life facelift.
Honda’s system, which is already deployed in the latest CR-V, uses an electric motor to drive the front wheels. Power to it is supplied by a moderately sized battery, which is then charged up by a petrol engine that acts as a generator.
ANOTHER ELECTRIC MODEL TO JOIN HONDA E
It isn’t just hybrids that Honda has coming through. Its exciting new electric city car, the E, will soon be joined in the range by another pure EV model.
Honda won’t say what form this model will take, but it has previously hinted with the Sports EV concept car, which was revealed at the 2017 Tokyo motor show, that a sports model could share the E’s platform.
Enthusiasts would certainly welcome such a move, and Kohei Hitomi, the engineer in charge of the E project, has said that he would like to see a small electric sports car added to Honda’s line-up, in the vein of the classic S800 roadster.
However, with current market forces so strongly favouring SUVs, it is also possible that an electric crossover will be the next choice.
This sort of system is more akin to a self-charging hybrid, rather than the mild hybrid systems being rolled out by many other manufacturers, which use a small battery and electric motor to provide a boost to a conventional petrol or diesel engine and to bring in the start/stop system earlier.
In such systems, the electric motor alone cannot power the car, so the electric component can only have a limited effect on emissions and fuel consumption.
However, in Honda’s system – previously known as i-MMD, but now named e:HEV – only the electric motor drives the front wheels, with the petrol engine cutting out completely under light throttle loads and during coasting. As well as generating electricity, the petrol engine can also power the rear wheels directly when full power is needed or grip is low, resulting in part-time four-wheel drive.
Honda says that one of the advantages of this set-up is that it offers very low emissions. While the company hasn’t yet released figures for the Jazz, the CR-V Hybrid has much lower CO2 emissions than its less powerful diesel predecessor – not to mention those of many of its comparable diesel rivals.
In addition, Honda says, because the electric motor is supplying power to the wheels 100% of the time, its hybrid system offers the instant torque and seamless acceleration you get with an electric drivetrain. Past experience of the CR-V Hybrid has shown this to be true, with the caveat that hard acceleration results in a droning note as the petrol engine works hard to supply as much power as possible to the electric motor.
Another advantage Honda is keen to emphasise is that the system doesn’t need to be plugged in to work at its best, as would be the case with a plug-in hybrid powertrain.
That said, the company has not ruled out adapting the system to offer plug-in capability in the future, if it deems there to be demand.
Honda says the e:HEV system will form the basis of all its future hybrids, and that the system is easy to scale, allowing the scope to offer several different power outputs in each model range.
That Honda is scaling the drivetrain in its entirety raises the prospect that all of Honda’s future mainstream models will come with four-wheel drive, including the Jazz and the upcoming Civic, although Honda has stopped short of confirming this.
There’s also the question of whether Honda considers performance variants to fit into its description of “mainstream models”. If it does, the news could also mean that the next Civic Type R gets a performance-oriented version of Honda’s hybrid drivetrain. Honda has again refused to confirm or deny that this will be the case, and says it is still considering its options.
Either way, we can be certain of one fact: if you want your next company car to wear a Honda badge, you’ll definitely have to get used to the idea of it being a hybrid.
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