Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Honda Wakes Up to "Earth Dreams"

For most of the last thirty years or so, Honda has been one of the leaders at bringing new engine technology to mainstream autos. That's why it has been surprising in recent years that Honda has fallen behind in the trend toward direct injection. Honda has also been behind the curve in 6-speed transmissions, and its hybrids have been less than stellar as well.

Well, say no more. Honda hosted a press event at the Tokyo Auto Show to show off some new engines and transmissions. Honda calls the new engines its Earth Dreams lineup. Now I know why I didn't get a press pass, because as soon as I heard the "Earth Dreams" name, I couldn't wait to ask what they were going to call their new boat engines. In all, Honda unveiled five new engines, from 600cc to 3.5 liters. The new engines feature direct gasoline injection, stop-start technology, and for the 3.5 liter, cylinder deactivation. Honda also showed off a 7 speed dual clutch automatic and a new line of CVT transmissions.

Honda says that Earth Dreams will bring class-leading fuel economy to all major market segments within three years. My guess is that the new 2.4 liter engine will be first up because the Honda Accord is due for a major redo for 3013. Inside Line hints at a plug-in hybrid Accord for 2013. If Honda can undercut the $32k price of the plug-in Toyota Prius, it could really be onto something. The car magazines are slobbering over Honda's SH-AWD system (for Super Handling All Wheel Drive) that appears to be destined for a successor to Honda's much-loved NSX sports car. SH-AWD combines a direct-injected 3.5 liter gasoline engine driving the front wheels with two 20kw electric motors in the back running off of a lithium battery. This should give you the scoot of a Tesla Roadster at a lower cost and with four-cylinder fuel economy.
Although the buff-books are looking at the NSX as the target of SH-AWD, Honda says the system is geared to "large sized vehicles". To me that means vehicles like the Honda Odyssey and Honda Pilot. Perhaps this will mean the first 30-30 minivan, something I blogged about 3 years ago.
Time for a marginally-related video. Thinking of the NSX makes me think of Pulp Fiction. Here's the NSX's Hollywood minute:

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