Honda is sampling a new hybrid system for small vehicles in a Honda Fit. The system is known as Sport Hybrid i-DCD that combines with a 1.5-liter inline-four cylinder petrol engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and an electric motor/generator attached to the transmission. The 1.5-litre engine uses the efficient Atkinson cycle and lacks any belts as the water pump and air conditioning are both driven electrically.
The large pulley at the end of the crankshaft acts as a dampener for the engine. When the car is driving on electrical power or braking, the engine can be disconnected from the transmission. Honda is expecting Sport Hybrid i-DCD to use 30 per cent less fuel while offering 15 per cent better acceleration as compared to its current small-car hybrid systems. Honda believes that dual-clutch transmissions makes the driving experience much more thrilling and fun into the otherwise efficiency-minded driving experience.
The Honda Fit prototype is capable of driving at 70 km/hr on electric power alone, for a total of 2.5 to 5 kilometers of all-electric driving range. That increased performance is possible because the new system uses a higher capacity lithium-ion battery, instead of the old nickel metal-hydride batteries in the current Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system. The Sport Hybrid i-DCD prototype demonstrated brisk and reasonably smooth acceleration, thanks to the dual-clutch transmission that changes gear seamlessly and smoothly.
The transmission also downshifts with no delay by two gears or more if you put your foot down at cruising speeds. The car feels more responsive and is more interesting to drive than current Honda small hybrids and it’s easy to drive gently on electrical power alone. The Sport Hybrid i-DCD is just an engineering prototype and Honda has yet to determine actual vehicle applications.
This system will run future generation small cars and it will replace IMA hybrid system, we expect to see this new hybrid setup in future versions of the Honda Insight and Civic Hybrid and it’s probably at least two or three years away. Indian customers are not fond of hybrid cars reason being the price tag, so these powertrains are not expected to hit Indian showrooms if they are not priced reasonably.
Honda is also sampling a Fit with a non-hybrid, direct-injected 1.5-liter inline-four cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission. It’s one of Honda’s first commercial direct-injection engines which falls under the Earth Dreams banner, Honda’s name for its fuel-efficient new powertrains. The engine is fuel-efficient and uses special low-tension piston rings, auto stop-start, and has intake ports designed to make the air tumble into the cylinder.
The CVT system has a wider range of ratios, less friction, and lower weight than an equivalent current CVT. Honda says a vehicle with this powertrain would be 10 per cent more efficient and offer 15 per cent better acceleration than a similarly equipped existing vehicle. This is expected to be the standard engine and transmission choice in the next-generation Honda Fit / Jazz, expected to debut by 2014. Let’s hope the next-generation Honda Jazz also features this engine and transmission for Indian customers.