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Honda announces new, more efficient engines, hybrid system

At the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, Honda announced a new series of engines and other drivetrain technology, giving this effort the moniker Earth Dreams Technology.

Earth Dreams Technology

In classic Japanese style, Honda calls its new drivetrain effort Earth Dreams Technology.

Once upon a time, Honda engineers came up with VTEC, a valve control system that made its engines the most advanced in the industry. But that was years ago, and other companies, notably BMW, have pushed the envelope with new valve control, direct-injection, and turbocharging technologies. With each model update it releases, I've been waiting for a similar advance from Honda.

The wait appears to be, mostly, over, as Honda announced a new set of engines, transmissions, hybrid system, and electric drive at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. Giving these new drive components the overall moniker of Earth Dreams Technology emphasizes the goal of greater efficiency and Honda's effort to reduce its vehicle's CO2 emissions 30 percent by 2020.

The new gasoline engines range in size from 660cc to 3.5 liters. That tiny 660cc engine is not likely to show up in the U.S. Other engines in the lineup include a 1.5-liter, 2-liter, and 2.4-liter four-cylinder, and the bigger 3.5-liter V-6. Beyond the current VTEC system, the new engines use variable timing control (VTC), direct injection, and Atkinson cycle timing.

The engine lineup also includes a new 1.6-liter diesel, although Honda is not likely to bring it to the U.S.

Earth Dreams Technology

Along with the engines, Earth Dreams Technology includes a new hybrid system that uses two motors, which should make it much more advanced and capable than Honda's current system. Although Honda did not release many specifics about the system, the company says it will use a lithium ion battery pack and a 120-kilowatt motor, which should be able to propel its cars solely under electric power, giving them capabilities similar to hybrids from Toyota.

The announcement included mention of a pure electric-drive system that would give cars using it a range of 123 miles and recharge time from a 240 volt outlet of 3 hours. These specifications are similar to what has already been announced for the Fit EV, which comes out next year.

In another measure to improve gasoline engine efficiency, Honda has a new continuously variable transmission (CVT) that it says will be implemented in compact and midsize vehicles. Along with the CVT, Honda mentions an electronic oil pump, which will let it put idle-stop systems in its cars.

Hybrid all-wheel-drive system
One of the most intriguing technologies listed under the Earth Dreams initiative is a hybrid drive system with electric all-wheel drive. Honda currently has its Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), used in the Acura TL and MDX, which applies torque vectoring to the rear wheels to improve cornering.

This new system sounds like it is designed for a high-performance vehicle. Honda says it would comprise its direct-injection 3.5-liter V-6, a 20-kilowatt motor on each rear wheel, a lithium ion battery pack, and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. A third electric motor, rated at 30 kilowatts, gives additional drive assistance.

Honda gives the usual line about how this system will get the fuel economy of a four-cylinder while providing the power of a V-8. The electric motors at the rear wheels are used for torque vectoring, making the outside wheels go faster in a turn to help rotate the vehicle around a corner. This combination of technology sounds impressive, but Honda says it is designed for larger vehicles, and not for a new version of the NSX, where it would probably do the most good.