Running on an empty gasoline tank
Jim Powell, Mon, 03 Feb 2014 03:40:48 PST
The world is taking notice of what manufacturers are doing with electric motors and batteries in automobiles today. The notion of a hybrid gas/electric drivetrain or a full-electric vehicle is still not as acceptable as automotive companies would like but Toyota has proven the efficiency and reliability of their hybrids. Honda has been building electric, hybrid, and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles for the general public for decades now and finally has brought their best technology to the revered Accord Sedan. Consumers can now buy the Honda Accord with a four-cylinder, a six-cylinder, a hybrid dual electric motor/four-cylinder gas, and even a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) powertrain.
The first time I drove the redesigned Accord two years ago, I knew immediately this was Honda's statement that said, "We have not forgotten how to build a great sedan!" Almost all the controls were logically where the driver would need them and every switch switched with the proper notching. Although, the audio tuning touch screen operation is the most frustrating two-step function and the presets are yet another step. Unlike the new Civic, there is a volume control and a small audio power button when silence is needed. Otherwise, Honda has not crossed over into the complicated luxury electronics found in most European vehicles. The multi-function control dial is intuitive enough for those of us who are over 50.
Over 600 miles in our 2014 Honda Accord PHEV demonstrated the real world drivability of this gorgeous sedan. We used this car to run daily errands, take 5 adult people to lunch, cruise Southern California for a night on the town, and commute over 250 miles to a conference. The trips in city traffic used up the fully charged batteries in just 12 miles before the gas engine kicked in to keep the Accord powered and rolling. The highway trip in our Accord down to Los Angeles from the high desert used battery power for 40+ miles, achieving an amazing 119 MPGe round trip. The mileage results are very much under the control of the driver's right foot and the patience of the people who are driving behind these hybrids.
The EPA numbers for this combining hybrid electric-motor torque and 2.0 liter gas engine is rated, with a maximum EV Mode driving range of 13 miles, at 115 MPGe. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder/two-motor plug-in hybrid powertrain has a gasoline fuel-economy rating of 47/46/46 MPG in city/highway/combined- consecutively.
With a full overnight charge on a standard 15 amp plug and the battery charger/converter provided with the Accord, these numbers held true. These new Accord Hybrid batteries like a 220 volt quick charge even better. The Accord Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) uses a 6.7 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery and charging cord that allows recharging in less than three hours using a 120-volt outlet and less than one hour using a Level-2 (240-volt) charger.
There are a few stations that offer quick-charge plugs but the PHEV Accord is not dependent on the grid like all-electric vehicles which can increase people's range-anxiety. Peace of mind is one of the greatest advantages over cars that are "grid-dependent" and this might just be the reason people will pay a starting price of $40k for a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle. By the way, a safety sensor will not allow drivers to jump into their PHEV in the morning and pull out of the garage without unplugging their Accord first.
Willett Kempton, Director of the University of Delaware's Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration, is shown here with a 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle. The Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid will be part of a demonstration project for experimental vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology aimed at providing a potentially valuable energy storage resource to the nation's electrical grid while providing for more cost-effective ownership of plug-in electric vehicles. The research project is a partnership with the University of Delaware and NRG Energy.
The Accord is a pleasure to ride in with a quiet cabin and lots of softer materials than previous generations. The visibility and window usage is wonderful after sitting in modern sedans with high doors and small windows (called a beltline). Even the rear window lets the driver see behind the car before viewing the rear-view camera screen or the nifty side-view camera that activates with the right-hand turn signal. Our seats were comfortable in all five passenger positions and legroom is generous all around.
External dimensions remain the same across the Accord Sedan lineup, no matter which engine buyers prefer. The wheelbase is 109.3 and the overall length is 193.5 inches which is about the same length as previous years but the platform is wider (72.8 inches) and the roofline is lower (57.7 inches). The dimensions of the interior have grown into more shoulder room and passenger legroom which makes the Accord feel like a larger car.
Carrying a family of five is not a problem considering the power these hybrid systems crank out and the rear door openings for easy ingress and egress. However, the trunk is truncated by 30-40% with a battery box in the PHEV and in the Accord Hybrid. The lack of cargo storage and the higher price of the PHEV and Hybrid, are just about the only sacrifices one has to make to get the extra mileage.
Another thing to consider in buying a hybrid vehicle is the resale value in the years down the road. Fortunately for Honda, they have received four Best Resale Value Awards from trusted Kelley Blue Book, including this all-new 2014 Plug-in Hybrid Accord. Since this is a new Plug-In (two-motor) Hybrid with an MSRP $39,780, battery warranty is critical and Honda covers the 2014 Accord PHEV from defects in material and workmanship for eight-years/100,000-miles or ten-year/150,000 miles, depending on the state of purchase.
Honda is using the ninth-generation Accord to showcase their ecological campaign called Earth Dreams Technology. This includes an all-new direct-injected (DI) 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder engine, a 3.5-liter V-6 with Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), or these Accord Plug-In Hybrid and Accord Hybrid drivetrains. The Accord Plug-In Hybrid and the Accord Hybrid have a new system called Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD). Under most conditions the gas engine powers a generator for the electric motor to drive the wheels. In addition, the i-MMD can operate on gasoline engine power under hard acceleration.
This led to one complaint regarding a loud engine and Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) noise whenever I stepped on the accelerator past the "green" zone on the ECO mode dash lights. For less engine whine, transaxle spin, and delay in acceleration, I simply disengaged the ECO mode and the Accord took off with authority. This is a small price to pay for a large sedan with luxury features that saves fuel and emissions (in clean energy states). The 2014 Honda Accord PHEV will only be available in California and in New York for the dealership launch this year.
The 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In will be available in three exterior colors (White Orchid Pearl, Crystal Black Pearl, and Burnished Silver Metallic).
ENGINEERING: ACCORD PLUG-IN
Gasoline Engine Type: In-Line 4-Cylinder
Engine Block/Cylinder Head: Aluminum-Alloy
Displacement (cc): 1993
Bore and Stroke (mm): 81 x 96.7
Compression Ratio: 13.0 : 1
Valve Train: 16-Valve DOHC i-VTEC
Drive-by-Wire Throttle System: Eco Assist System
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC): Hill Start Assist
CARB Emissions Rating1: SULEV20/TZEV
Direct Ignition System with Immobilizer: ELECTRIC POWER STORAGEACCORD PLUG-IN
Volume/Size (kWh): 6.7
Output (kW): 15 6.6 kW Onboard 32-Amp Charger
Approximate Charging Time3 (hrs, 240V / 120V4): 1 / 3
ELECTRIC MOTORACCORD PLUG-IN: AC Synchronous Permanent-Magnet Electric Motor
Gasoline Engine Horsepower (SAE net @ rpm): 141 @ 6200 rpm
Battery Power (kW/hp): 41/55
TRANSMISSION: ACCORD PLUG-INElectronic Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT)