Honda previews new hybrid family

Could this be the second-generation IMA?

You could say so, although Honda hasn't officially said that the new Sport Hybrid is a successor to the first IMA (Integrated Motor Assist).

What we have here are three new petrol-electric hybrid drivetrains for use in different applications depending on concept and cost. All of them use lithium-ion batteries to store energy.

I bet the one-motor option is for the next Jazz...

It probably is, as well as for the sporty CR-Z. In place of today's CVT transmission is a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic coupled to a 1.5-litre petrol engine.

Honda claims this new one-motor set-up is 30% more fuel efficient than before. If you can achieve 20kpl in the current Jazz Hybrid, expect the figure to rise to 26kpl in the fourth-generation model due in 2014.

Why is the two-motor variation hooked up to a CVT?

Since this application is suited more for mid-size family cars, MPVs and SUVs, Honda apparently deems the CVT as a better solution due to its "stepless" gear operation, resulting in extra-smooth and comfortable driving.

This two-motor matrix allows for pure electric driving at low speeds, as well as providing extra zing when the driver needs it.

Honda openly says the first model to get it will be the Accord early next year. It is also compatible for hybrids with plug-in ability.

That last one is destined for the NSX, right?

Most likely, dude, although Honda didn't say so. Since we are talking about top-end saloons, SUVs and sports cars here, the three-motor configuration is the most state-of-the-art.

What distinguishes it from the other two cheaper systems is the ability to apportion torque between the left and right rear wheels via two electric motors for optimum grip and handling in corners. It will form part of what Honda terms Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive which it has indirectly confirmed for the new NSX due in less than two years.

And since we're talking about high performance here, the transmission is just like the one-motor type: dual-clutch automatic transmission. The other model to get this sophisticated tech is the Legend saloon flagship (also known as the RL under the Acura luxury nameplate).

And what's with that iQ wannabe?

Oh, that's the Micro Commuter which Honda announced the same time as Sport Hybrid. Although still a prototype, it is designed to appeal to parents doing the school run, as such, with one seat for the driver and two smaller perches for children.

The 2.5m-long Micro Commuter comes with a 20hp electric motor backed by lithium-ion batteries, has an 80kph top speed, a 60km driving range and can be recharged via the socket in less than three hours.

Although the Toyota iQ has yet to go fully electric (in production form), Smart has already done so with its ForTwo sold primarily in Europe.

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Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor