Honda has come up with a new concept for Hybrid cars and it’s got quite an interesting twist; there’s no transmission!
It’s a bit complicated, but in short, the car has a battery, a generator, an electric motor, a clutch, and a gasoline engine. Are you still with me? Don’t worry, here’s a break down of how each part functions:
- The Battery – Is charged by the generator and by a regenerative braking system.
- The Generator – Can charge the battery and supplement the energy provided to the electric motor. It also starts the gasoline engine.
- The Motor – Turns the wheels with power from the battery and generator. It’s also sometimes assisted in turning the wheels by the gasoline engine. It serves as a generator to recharge the battery when braking.
- The Clutch – Connects the engine to the drive wheels when necessary.
- The engine – Is started by the electric generator. Winds up to a certain speed before being connected to the drive wheels by the clutch. Then the engine and motor speed up and slow down together as they power the drive wheels simultaneously.
This system is efficient in that it removes the need for a transmission, thus lowering the friction involved in the process of driving the car. Unfortunately it still doesn’t beat the miles-per-gallon figure of the Toyota Prius. This can easily be attributed to the fact that the Accord is a larger, safer, and likely sportier, family sedan, rather than a compact hatchback. With less moving parts than a conventional hybrid, we should also expect this car to be more reliable and possibly cheaper once production of these systems ramps up.
The biggest downside to this car is that at highway speeds, the electric motor is turning at nearly 12,600 rpm and the gasoline motor is also turning at a constant speed. Hopefully Honda has included enough sound insulation that this won’t create a mind numbing hum as you cruise along.
What I take away from this is that people are still finding exciting new ways to reinvent the wheel. I’m very eager to see how this technology fairs long term and if it will compete well with traditional hybrids and the upcoming array of electric vehicle offerings.
Car and Driver has a good explanation and a lovely diagram of how the system works. Check it out here.