Honda To Build Two High-Tech Hybrid Systems, More Fuel-Efficient Standard Engines

Honda 2.4-liter four-cylinder
Honda’s powertrain lineup is starting to look stale tech-wise compared to the competition. Despite the fuel-economy increases, the recently redesigned Honda Civic and CR-V essentially have carryover technology underneath their hoods. Under Honda’s just-announced three-year powertrain plan, that landscape is about to change … quickly.

In real-world testing, the Civic has outperformed 40 mpg cars from Ford and Hyundai. Honda’s updates will help reposition it as the most fuel-efficient automaker, overtaking Hyundai, according to the carmaker’s plans.

In addition to a full complement of modern four-cylinders, the automaker announced three new continuously variable automatic transmissions. Honda also outlined two dual-mode hybrid systems that will complement its existing single-mode system in the Civic Hybrid and Insight.

All of Honda’s four-cylinder engines will now feature double overhead camshafts in three years’ time, replacing the old SOHC designs found on the Civic and Fit. All four-cylinders also will have direct injection over the current multipoint fuel-injection systems. Both changes should increase fuel efficiency.

Four-cylinder powertrains will ditch their five-speed automatics for a new CVT design. Three CVT designs will be used on all mini, compact and midsize vehicles equipped with four-cylinders. The transmission will add 10% better fuel efficiency compared to the former five-speed automatic transmission. However, the editors at have found many CVT applications, especially on four-cylinder models, lacking in terms of driving feel and performance versus traditional automatics. 

The 1.5-liter and 1.3-liter four-cylinder, currently found in the Civic Hybrid, Fit and Insight, also will feature additional extensive friction reduction measures. The 1.5-liter will make 127 horsepower, which is 10 more hp than what’s available currently in the Fit, Keiji Ohtsu, a chief engineer with Honda R&D, told Automotive News.

The Civic's 1.8-liter and a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder will feature a high-capacity gas recirculation system to help reduce friction. The 2.0-liter will make its debut on the 2012 Honda CR-V in Japan, according to Honda. The 1.8-liter will produce 148 hp and eventually come equipped on the Civic, Ohtsu said.

Honda’s bread and butter is its 2.4-liter four-cylinder that’s available on the Accord and CR-V. The motor will be 5% more fuel efficient with the addition of DOHC and direct injection, says Honda. It will produce 181 hp, Ohtsu said.

Honda’s 3.5-liter V-6 will now feature direct injection and a new valve train design, achieving 10% better fuel economy and producing 310 hp, Ohtsu said.

The 3.5-liter V-6 will also be the basis for one of two new full hybrid systems. The V-6 will be mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and Honda’s SH-AWD system. The all-wheel-drive system will feature two small electric motors in the rear wheels and a high-powered electric motor near the engine. Together, the four motors will achieve V-8-like power, but return four-cylinder-like gas mileage, says Honda. We expect the hybrid system will likely show up on the Acura TL. Honda says other large vehicles – perhaps the Pilot — will get the system, too.

Honda AC-X concept
The other full hybrid system will feature two electric motors and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder powertrain with lithium-ion batteries, according to Automotive News. The hybrid system will also be plug-in capable (first shown off on the Honda AC-X shown above). A midsize plug-in hybrid, likely the Honda Accord, will come out in 2012, with a hybrid-only model coming in 2013. The hybrid system will feature three modes, including an EV-only driving mode. 

Honda’s senior chief engineer Yusuke Hasegawa told Automotive News the model is expected to achieve better gas mileage than the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid, which returns 43/39 mpg city/highway. We’ll probably get our first glimpse of the new hybrid hardware here when Honda shows off its redesigned Honda Accord.

An electric-only vehicle, the 2013 Honda Fit EV, was just announced and will show up in the U.S. next summer.

This is a major announcement from an automaker that’s been flying under the radar in terms of major powertrain changes. Changes under the hood won't ignite consumer interest today, but higher mileage ratings down the road will be a vital competitive advantage.


Ken L.

For a once renowned engine company, about freakin' time, Honda. I can't wait to see what the real world results will be in a few years. Here's to being relevant in the high tech engine race once again.


yeah, i agree with ken, but it sounds like honda is coming out swinging. this is definitely good news.

i just wish they would fire all of their design teams, scrap their current design language (if you can call it one..the only thing that unifies it as a theme seems to be the overuse of ugly), and start producing nice looking cars again.

as for the cvt...i'm not sure it's a bad move. i was thinking about this the other day. it seems that most (if not all) of the applications of 6 sp autos with small, low powered 4-cylinder engines results in sluggish transmission performance. the transmissions race to 6th gear (for fuel economy) and the little engines don't have the torque to compensate. when it comes time to get additional power, the transmissions have to downshift all the way to 3rd or 4th to find it...and they're hesitant to do so. i think in small fours (2L or smaller), a cvt is probably the smarter choice...i guess we'll have to wait and see.

Anonymous Coward

I'm not impressed with the non-hybrid engine offerings. The competition (Hyundai/Kia) is offering 140 HP in their compact and subcompact models and 200 HP in their midsize models. If Honda can offer significantly more torque, it might be okay.


I thought Hondas I4s were DOHC and V6s were SOHC. Can someone verify?

I understand this is basically a repeat of Honda press release info (complete with propaganda) but I will point out Honda cannot predict if it will be the FE leader with engines coming out over the next 3 years. The reason is obvious, Honda doesnt know what the competition will have on the market. Ford and Gm are rolling out new I4s starting next year in products like Escape and 2013 Malibu. Honda (nor anyone else) knows the EPA ratings on these new vehicles, nor do we know what others have in store.

You dont have a "competitive advantage" by offering tech that your competitors already offer. This is called playing catch up. The engine ouputs Honda is offering for its new engines are behind DI engines in competing products on sale right now. The 2.4L DI I4 that GM is about to replace starting next year already makes 182hp and of course hyundai has 200hp (Supposedly) from its DI I4 now.


Earth Dreams-indeed
Honda's new CVT shown only has 6.5:1 ratio spread, while the ZF 9 speed automatic has 9.84:1 ratio spread. Audi's Multitronic passed 6.5:1 years ago. Subaru's Lineartronic CVT has 6.3:1

Honda's 1.8 liter engine in the Civic, R18, is a single overhead camshaft design. There are no camshaft phaser(s). The new design will be dual overhead camshaft, but will only have variable intake valve timing [like the 2000 Toyota Corolla received. The 2009 Toyota Corolla received variable exhaust valve timing. Still waiting on Valvematic, Toyota...]
The exhaust camshaft will have a fixed sprocket, and the direct injection pump will be driven by the end of the camshaft.
2011 Hyundai Elantra 148hp 1.8
2015 Honda Civic 146hp 1.8
2015 Hyundai Elantra? 200hp turbo 1.5 liter 3 cylinder?

Honda is trying to hit a moving target.
Someone is likely to have early HCCI engines on the market by then.


It's about time!
Their hybrid technology pales in comparison to Toyota/Ford.
Their Prius wannabe, the Insight, does not even remotely measure up.


I despise CVTs, too bad Honda can't get things together. They used to be such a great company.



GM and Ford may, by the time these come out, have engines that are more efficient pound for pound, but because of the way the game is played (or manipulated if you wish), they can't compete with automakers like Honda who do not offer a full line of vehicles.

Ford and GM have to average in heavy duty pickups, cargo vans, etc., where the largest vehicle Honda has to average in is a mid-size pickup based SUV. In all fairness, someone like Tesla then should win this competition hands down, but they won't be included because it would be "unfair" to the larger auto manufacturers.

Unfortunately I don't have a good solution other than to say that titles like "Most Fuel Efficient Auto Manufacturer****" are stupid and people shouldn't assign them any value. People should compare the actual car they may buy and decide based on that, but I know that's asking too much of people, particularly the fanboys out there.


The four motor system sounds expensive. Colin, are you sure they're going to offer it on the TL? The flagship RL is the next Acura getting a redesign and I'm guessing they'll use the new hybrid system to differentiate it from the TL and justify a $50K sticker.



"All of Honda’s four-cylinder engines will now feature double overhead camshafts in three years’ time, replacing the old SOHC designs found on the Civic and Fit."

My 1990 Civic was DOHC. I was so proud to have the most technologically advanced small engine.

Every used car manufacturing company is focusing more and more on small engines with high efficiency.


Looks like the 2013 CRZ "sporty" hybrid will get a drivetrain refresh too! Hopefully an Earth Dreams engine with Atkinson cycle valve behavior when load is low and OTTO when you want power. It might actually get decent MPG now

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