Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A More Refined Green Machine

Warren Brown reviews the 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid
I asked about the Accord Hybrid's Integrated Motor Assist system. My passengers and guest drivers said nothing. I told them that the car was a hybrid, reiterating the message on its glistening external "Accord Hybrid" badge. My wife, Mary Anne, responded: "I just think it's a very nice car."

And that is exactly the way Honda wants it. Yes, the Accord Hybrid has a clever gasoline engine/electric motor assistance drive system -- thus, the Integrated Motor Assist appellation. It also comes with Honda's extra-fuel-saving Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) feature, which automatically deactivates three of the car's six cylinders when the automobile is cruising at a steady, moderate speed.

In addition, the Accord Hybrid comes with what Honda calls Grade Logic Control. To put it simply, this feature eliminates the annoying, transmission-wearing, constant downshifting (more commonly called "gear hunting") associated with driving uphill in cars with traditional automatic transmissions. By automatically adjusting and holding gear ratios when moving downhill, the computerized Grade Logic Control also reduces brake wear.
Honda's Accord experiment is going to be very crucial in determining whether we see hybrid variants of many models instead of a select few. What Accord and Lexus hybrid are doing is to pack in more punch than anybody has seen or expected out of a hybrid. The early hybrids were seriously underpowered and this generation is going to remove all of those doubts from the customers minds, while at the same time improving fuel economy and other vehicle characteristics.
Warren Brown also tries to explain how there are a number of different types of hybrids. As one Toyota engineer put it
All Hybrids are not created equal, but they can be marketed as if they are equal!
This is certainly the approach that GM is taking with it Hybrid trucks. One of these days, when I have some time, I should post a detailed explanation about different types of hybrids, but I assume that such an explanation is already available elsewhere.

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