News about Acura’s next-generation NSX came out a few days ago. In the report was some information about a new SH-AWD hybrid drivetrain working in concert with a 3.5-liter V-6. Today we are hearing a bit more about that thanks to Honda’s new “Earth Dreams Technology” initiative. It is similar to Mazda’s companywide SkyActiv technology program, but Honda is putting a goal along with it. By 2013, Honda wants to have industry-topping fuel efficiency in every category. That is just a little over two years away; ambitious to be sure. To show how it aims to get there, Honda gave a roadmap of its plans.
Everyone is focusing on fuel economy, and that is a good thing for pocketbooks and energy independence alike. The thing we like to see is a balanced approach; many companies are still pushing the performance envelope while offering more efficiency in mainstream models. Evidence that performance cars are still alive and well abounds.
Like Mazda, a lot of Honda’s initiative focuses on the internal combustion engine. There is still electric and hybrid technology though – perhaps more than ever before for Honda. Improvements to gas engines include a reworking of Honda’s VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control System) to improve thermal efficiency and minimize friction. The rest of the changes focus on reductions in engine weight, the use Variable Timing Control (VTC), and Atkinson cycle operation on its 1.8 to 2.0-liter four-cylinders. Mated to these engines is a new Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) offered in all segments. Honda’s CVT uses a hydraulic control system and electronic oil pump that help boost efficiency by 5 to 10% over other CVTs and 5-speed automatic transmissions.
A new, smaller displacement diesel engine and a “two-motor” hybrid with all-electric modes are further pieces of the puzzle. The thing we’re most excited about though is the new high-effiency, high-output SH-AWD system for Acura. We first heard about this when news about the next-generation Acura NSX came out. The system is a hybrid version of Acura’s torque-vectoring Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system. Hybrid SH-AWD aims to offer acceleration equivalent to a V-8 (which means Acura probably won’t be getting one after all….). Shockingly, Honda also claims fuel efficiency is “superior or equal” to an in-line four-cylinder. SH-AWD uses two 20 kilowatt electric motors at each rear wheel, with a 3.5-liter engine and 30 kilowatt electric motor up front. Torque vectoring technology ties it all together, enabling direct power to be sent to each wheel.
A lithium ion battery pack stores the power, and shifting is handled by a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Electric SH-AWD system sounds extremely promising and something we’re really looking forward to seeing. Acura needs a shot in the arm of technology and innovation, and hybrid SH-AWD could play an important part in that.