After suffering from low sales of an earlier hybrid Accord that had forced Honda Motor Co. to quit the segment, the company now plans to return to larger hybrid vehicles with a new electric-gasoline drivetrain. Honda's current hybrid system, in smaller cars such as the Civic and Insight, uses one motor. A hybrid system under development will be using two.
At the Tokyo Motor Show, Tsuneo Tanai, COO of automobile operations at Honda, had spoken to Automotive News. Tanai confirmed that this is one major initiative that the company is working on. A higher output is expected from the dual motors, with a larger battery that enables the car to be driven in all-electric mode.
Tanai didn't say which large models would get the new hybrid system or the timeframe for that however, it was reported by Japan 's Nikkei business daily last month that Honda seeks to add a hybrid minivan in 2011.
Tanai also said that Honda is studying mating the system to a lithium ion battery. Currently, Honda's hybrids run on nickel-metal hydride power packs. He explained that when the next-generation lithium batteries arrive, they will be more compact.
The size would allow them to be swapped with the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in smaller hybrids. Tanai said though that this requires needs some time to make the whole energy management system suitable for lithium batteries as opposed to nickel batteries. The move to two motors would be a shift toward a more robust full-hybrid system resembling that of the Toyota Prius.
Honda's present system has a limited ability to run on battery power alone. It's far more common to find that the electric motor is engaged to assist the gasoline engine. Honda expected much success for its Accord Hybrid, which featured a V-6 gasoline engine, but due to disappointing sales, the model was pulled at the end of the 2007.
Honda has focused its hybrid push on small cars, arguing that small hybrids are most often used for city driving, where regenerative braking constantly recharges the batteries. For larger vehicles, Tanai asserted that diesel engines are preferred for their fuel efficiency.