Kawabata Next, the two-motor hybrid system. I was a bit surprised that this one felt very different from past hybrids, as if I wasn't driving a hybrid at all but some new type of system. I'd like to hear about what creates that new driving feel, but first tell me the reason or process that led you to the Atkinson engine, two-motor, electric CVT packaging.
Hasegawa The two-motor series hybrid is a standard system for a hybrid. If you're trying to improve fuel economy by going for an EV-like feel close to a full electric, at this size class you end up with a two-motor system. But I think what gives it that new driving feel is its EV-like personality where the motor provides a lot of torque, which, in a car this big and heavy, gives traction to the wheels.
A conventional series hybrid has a large battery connected to a motor (generator). However, our goal was to eliminate the need for a large battery and generate the necessary power in real time. At faster driving speeds, this also makes it possible to drive the wheels directly with the engine through the clutch, which means we can make the entire system smaller and make the battery—which is the most expensive component—smaller too. This is the most unique aspect of this system.
Kawabata Is there a big difference between the 1.5 L and 2.0 L Atkinson engines?
Otsu The concept or basic thinking is the same. We developed the 2.0 L engine first, setting targets to be the best in its class. Then we put what we learned in the 1.5 L engine.
Kawabata So the 2.0L engine will "win" against the competitors as well [smiling]. Now, you chose to match the one-motor system with a 1.5 L engine and the two-motor system with a 2.0 L engine. Can you tell us the difference between these two systems in a way the average person can understand?
Hasegawa A key motive for the one-motor system was cost. We chose a cost-conscious one-motor system because we wanted to make something that would be popular as well as have the best fuel economy. The two-motor system, on the other hand, was the system we chose that theoretically has the best powertrain efficiency. To test the limits of fuel economy in a large Accord-class car, we chose a two-motor system because it has the best powertrain efficiency. This system will be introduced in the U.S. in January of this year and is also scheduled to be introduced in Japan as well.
Kawabata The three-motor hybrid system was interesting because of all its gadgetry. Even though it was a big car with a V6 engine, it turned so quickly when cornering that the car seemed to get smaller. Sportiness was also an obvious quality. Fuel economy isn't always the biggest selling point for luxury cars. Usually the number of cylinders in the engine, like a V8, is considered to project a higher status. So what was Honda's intention in choosing a V6 with hybrid system and promoting it with an emphasis on best fuel economy?
Hasegawa Fuel economy isn't always the biggest selling point for luxury cars. Usually the number of cylinders in the engine, like a V8, is considered to project a higher status. So what was Honda's intention in choosing a V6+hybrid system and promoting it with an emphasis on best fuel economy?
Ishibashi Striving for fuel economy precisely because it’s the luxury class. That is unique about Honda. Our goal is a luxury car that only Honda—which has made dramatic improvements to fuel economy in small cars—can make.
Also, there probably isn't a single person in the world who doesn't want better fuel economy—provided it doesn't lower driving performance.
Basically, there's nothing better than a luxury car that's also good on gas. There are lots of people who would be happy to have good fuel economy on top of good driving performance—especially among Honda customers.
Kawabata In other words, the meaning behind "best fuel economy" is "best fuel economy on top of high driving performance." The combination of V6 and hybrid system reminds me of the next NSX. I guess we have to talk about high-end sports cars at some point, so please tell me what you think about the next NSX—however much you can say.
Otsu This three-motor hybrid system will be the base technology for the next NSX powertrain. At the moment I can't be specific, but we're developing a dedicated engine separate from our production engines to really enhance performance to a level that is appropriate for one of Honda's flagship models.
In any case, when unveiled it will be the ultimate achievement of both environmental performance and sportiness and it definitely won't let your expectations down.
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