For a company that was founded upon the principle of pushing technological possibilities, the Honda Motor Company took its dandy ol’ time between the late 1990s and now to finally start working on new projects again.
But when it rains, it pours. Following its Earth Dreams direct-injection four-cylinder and V-6 engines, and continuously variable automatic transmission that debuted in the 2013 Honda Accord midsizer, the automaker is now coming out with an update to its Micro Commuter Prototype concept and is giving more details on its upcoming hybrid systems.
Starting with the Micro Commuter Prototype, the car is intended for senior-citizen mobility, public use as perhaps a meter maid car, fleet vehicle, or even as a small family runabout. With an easily changeable body style, the Micro Commuter 98 inches long–about 20 inches shorter than the Scion iQ–and is designed for short-range urban use. It’s powered by a 20-horsepower electric motor, which doesn’t seem like too much until you realize it weighs less than 900 pounds. It has a top speed of 50 mph, a range of 37 miles or so, and a charging time of less than three hours.
Honda says most of its interior controls will be operated by a user-supplied tablet computer, and it will be able to seat one adult and two children while conforming to all safety laws prescribed for the L7 category of vehicle in Europe–what is considered a large motorcycle.
Honda will begin experimenting with it in Japan in 2013. While it doesn’t look like a viable vehicle for the U.S., many beach communities on both coasts and places that strive to cut down on pollution would benefit from an urban electric vehicle like this one. Also, Honda says that when it’s not being used as a car, it can double as a home power unit, which would be beneficial in emergency instances.
Earth Dreams Sport Hybrid
To complement the Earth Dreams drivetrain technology suite, Honda has also released information on its three new hybrid systems. The first up is its Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive, which is designed for use in compact cars. Using a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission paired to a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, the one-motor system is designed to use both the gas engine and electric motor under heavy use like acceleration or high-speed highway cruising. Around town, the clutches in the transmission will disengage the engine, allowing the car to run completely on electric power. And when decelerating, the transmission will disengage the engine, allowing the car to use its electric motor to recharge its battery pack. We expect this system to be implemented in the next-generation Honda Fit Hybrid, which we’re uncertain of whether it will be sold in the U.S.
The upgrade from that will be a two-motor system that Honda calls Sport Hybrid that will be seeing use in the upcoming Honda Accord Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid. Using a continuously variable automatic transmission, Honda says it will have three modes: EV drive for acceleration and stopping, engine drive for medium and highway speeds, and hybrid drive for heavy acceleration. Honda says to expect it to roll around in the U.S. around January 2013, more than half a decade after Honda last sold an Accord Hybrid in the U.S.
Finally, Honda is showing off a three-motor hybrid called Sport Hybrid SH-AWD, or super handling all-wheel drive. The nomenclature is a throwback to the Honda Prelude SH last seen in the early 2000s and the Acura RL. Coincidentally enough, this system will be finding its way into its replacement, the 2014 Acura RLX that’s set to debut this month at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Using a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with a built-in electric motor, the hybrid system will be able to power the front wheels in conjunction with a 3.5-liter V-6. However, the rear wheels will be powered exclusively by independent electric motors, which will be able to channel power to either side to best get the car moving. In some instances, the inside wheel that doesn’t need as much power will be able to recharge the battery system in aggressive cornering.
Honda says it will be able to produce V-8 levels of power while delivering four-cylinder fuel economy. We look forward to seeing it at the end of the month and testing it out shortly thereafter.