By Lou Ann Hammond, Fri, 3 Dec 2004 08:00:00 PDT
"Don't you love it when you hear the hybrid go eer-aah?" asked Sara Pines, Honda PR person. I looked over at her and we both laughed. I knew exactly what she was saying, but it was such a girl moment.
We had just driven the 2005 gas-powered Honda Accord, already available at dealers, and were following the same route to see any quick differences we could spot while in the hybrid.
This is the biggest engine in the hybrid lot boasting a 3 liter V-6 mated with an electric motor. The 2005 Honda Accord hybrid has a couple of firsts. Honda's the first hybrid to create a conventional hybrid instead of a futuristic looking vehicle. It's the first hybrid more powerful, 255 horsepower, than its gas internal combustion engine, 240 horsepower, equivalent. It's the first hybrid to use 3 cylinder with integrated motor assist, shutting down half the engine's cylinders when not needed to save even more gas.
The quiet start is what is noticed as soon as the electric motor starts. There is a little less torque on acceleration then the gas inspired Accord, but there is more torque then one needs when the electric motor and gas engine are working in perfect harmony on hills.
Honda has incorporated integrated motor assist (IMA) which uses the gas engine on a continuous basis and kicks in the electric motor as more power is needed. Ford and Toyota do just the opposite, using the electric motor as long as possible then bringing in the gas engine when needed for more boost. This allows for Honda to get better gas mileage on the highway, while Toyota and Ford are better in the city. Neither get the EPA mpg that is stated.
Besides the above driving pluses, you wouldn't know it was a hybrid save for the gadgets on the instrument panel that let you know how much battery life you have and what your actual driving mileage equals. My real world testing on the hybrid in city and highway gave me an average of 25mpg, compared with the stated average being 33mpg. National Renewable Energy Laboratory is doing Advanced Vehicle testing on all hybrids because of the discrepancy between the stated figures and the actual real world testing figures.
The 2005 Honda Accord gas-only sedan gets an average 29.5 mpg. What some folks forget is that hybrids are created for city use, not highway commuting. Since we were on the highway we should have gotten 27, but we were still lower than that. This is not the Manufacturers fault. EPA does the testing. [See How the EPA calculates MPG? http://www.carlist.com/autonews/2004/autonews_30.html]. We do know that the highway mileage for the gas powered Accord is more accurate at 30 mpg and city is 21mpg.
With each new hybrid the public is understanding their limitations and their attributes. 2005 is the first year that we will know if people will buy hybrids because they save gas or because they are some futuristic looking vehicle that can only be purchased if you know someone in high places. The one thing the folks producing hydrogen fuel cells have harped on the most is bringing the same familiarity to the car, with no compromises. Honda is doing that with hybrids, so is Ford and Toyota.
The price for a Honda Accord hybrid will run $3,400 extra. This year you can get $1,000 back on your taxes, if you buy new. The extra cost comes in more horsepower, less dependence on foreign oil and an environmental satisfaction that you are part of the solution. If 20,000 Accord hybrids are sold it will save us 1,060,000 gallons of gas each year. If all Accords were hybrids we would save 20,670,000.
The first foray into getting off the internal combustion engine was the electric car. There are groups now that are angry at the Manufacturers for not continuing to produce the electric car. Manufacturers are only going to produce what is going to sell in a mass market. The Manufacturers are testing the waters right now to see if they will sell. If not, they too will go the way of the electric car.