2014 Honda Accord Hybrid, your 50-mpg family sedan: Motoramic Drives
You’d assume by now, more than a decade into the hybrid era, that Honda would have done something significant in the space after launching the Insight in 1999, the first hybrid sold in the United States. But as the years passed, Honda has suffered diminishing returns; the hybrid Civic was once successful, but Honda's hybrid lines have been overtaken by Ford, Hyundai and even Kia. Honda did some cool stuff with fuel cells and natural-gas powered cars, but it appeared to lose interest in hybrids, the preferred alternative-energy method in the American market.
Well, finally, with the 2014 Accord Hybrid, Honda has decided to come to the party, late. But they’re showing up like someone on New Year’s Eve carrying a crate of high-end champagne: They waited until they had something good.
Last year, Honda dipped its toe into the brook with the Accord plug-in hybrid, which seemed like an afterthought to the 2013 Accord reboot. It received scant praise and sold poorly. That’s not going to happen with its new offering. The 2014 Accord Hybrid has a drive train technology, part of Honda’s creepily named EarthDreams line, that’s beyond anything in the hybrid world. It’s an extremely clever evolution of the technology.
Here’s the first thing you should know: The Accord Hybrid has no transmission, at least not like we traditionally think of one. It has no torque converter or clutch. Instead, it contains a pair of electric motors, one of which serves to propel the vehicle, and the other of which is attached to the gas engine, meaning it serves mainly as a power source. That engine is a 2.0-liter in-line four cylinder yielding 141 hp and 226 lb-ft of torque. Under highway cruising conditions, it works in concert with the electric drive train, placing in the car in a rough equivalent of top gear.
Honda calls this the “Harmonization Control G-Design Shift,” which probably sounds better in the original Japanese. Regardless, it’s very cool stuff for gearheads, a totally different conception of what a drive train can do. Like most hybrids, the Accord has a standard engine mode, a hybrid mode, an EV mode (which it can only hold for about a minute). But it’s separated from the pack, like Dr. Who, by its ability to regenerate. The Hybrid charges its 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery while the engine is running via the generating motor, but via the other generator while decelerating or braking — making maximum use of its momentum.