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Honda Accord Hybrid – 50mpg City – A Halloween Treat

The new 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid joins the mid-size sedan hybrid wars with a two-motor hybrid that achieves 50mpg in the city (50 city/45 highway/47 combined).  As one of the top selling cars in the USA, the Accord Hybrid has the potential to unseat the present leader Toyota Camry Hybrid (followed by the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid in sales so far in 2013). Accord’s bragging rights are for city fuel economy – highest in the mid-size class at 50mpg.  Fusion gets 47mpg in the city (and highway).  The best-selling is down on mpg compared with Fusion and Accord – Camry gets 43mpg in the city and 39 on the highway.

2014 Accord Hybrid F34

Hybrid Differentiated from Sedan, but Does Not Have the Bling of the Accord PHEV  You can tell the Accord Hybrid from the gasoline-powered Accords.  The Hybrid has a blue accented grille, LED headlights, a hybrid badge on the front fenders and on the decklid, and unique aero-style wheels.  At the rear are blue accented LED taillamps, a decklid spoiler and air diffuser on the lower rear fascia.

The Accord Hybrid introduction (officially on sale TODAY – Halloween 2013) follows the Accord PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid) that was introduced earlier in 2013.  (Honda engineers say the PHEV was launched first because it was more difficult to do and provides the underpinnings for the basic hybrid model).  The PHEV, being the Accord line-up’s high price entry has much more bling than the basic sedan and the Hybrid.  From an appearance standpoint, the PHEV is the most head-turning Accord available.

2014 Accord Hybrid R34

Unique Honda Technology  Honda is a king of acronyms so this entry to its Earth Dreams Technology engine family has I-MMD – Intelligent-Multi-Mode Drive. The Accord Hybrid is driven by a unique hybrid system that teams an all new 141-horsepower/122-lb ft of torque  2.0L DOHC 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine with a two motor electric CVT (continuously variable transmission) and a 1.3kwh  high capacity lithium ion battery.  The drive motor and the generator has 166-horsepower and 226 lb-ft of torque.  Adding both power sources together yields a total output of 196-horsepower.  The battery pack is located in the trunk and reduces cargo volume by 3 cubic feet.

Driving the Accord Hybrid – Over 50mpg is Possible  Whenever you drive a car with a CVT, you wonder how far that manufacturer has come in developing a transmission that provides the feel of a conventional smooth shifting automatic.  Some cars equipped with early CVTs were awful.  Since the transmission does not shift, the engine revs increase providing noise but no sensation of a shift.  Some people describe this as feeling like a rubber band.  Over the years, CVT development has improved and the two-motor CVT in the Accord Hybrid is one of the better examples.  It is seamless.

When driving the car as a normal driver would, the Hybrid is pretty much the same as the 4-cylinder gasoline Accord.  Pleasant, easy to drive, quiet and comfortable are the operative words.  When hyper-miling to get maximum fuel economy we got 54mpg, but it was painful.  To get this fuel economy you have to feather the accelerator, anticipate hills, and drive and accelerate slowly (probably too slowly to be safe).  So the Accord Hybrid can meet its City mpg number, but probably not in everyday driving.  In fact, one team of journalists was able to get over 80mpg on a drive loop.  Of course, they turned off the air conditioning on a steamy San Antonio, Texas day.  Not advised.

Honda’s new Accord Hybrid joins the mid-size sedan hybrid wars with a two-motor hybrid that achieves 50mpg in the city (50 city/45 highway/47 combined).  As one of the top selling cars in the USA, the Accord Hybrid has the potential to unseat the present leader Toyota Camry Hybrid (followed by the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid in sales so far in 2013). Accord’s bragging rights are for city fuel economy – highest in the mid-size class at 50mpg.  Fusion gets 47mpg in the city (and highway).  The best-selling is down on mpg compared with Fusion and Accord – Camry gets 43mpg in the city and 39 on the highway.

Value – Is the Payback Time Worth the Price Premium?  In the beginning of the hybrid age, buyers selected a hybrid because of its advanced technology.  It was more of a technology buy than an environmental purchase.  These were affluent buyers for whom maximum fuel efficiency was not paramount.  They were also risk takers because hybrids were a new, unproven technology.  As time went on, hybrid buyers became a combination of technology and green environmentalists, but they were still affluent and high fuel efficiency was more of a bragging right than an environmental testament  In AutoPacific research early on, hybrid buyers were doing the math and determining the payback time for the premium price they paid for the technology.  So, in payback terms lets analyze the Accord hybrid.

The base Accord Hybrid at $29,155 is a $3,475 premium over its equivalent EX trim level gasoline Accord.  If the Hybrid is driving in its most advantageous mode – creeping down the freeway during gridlock – and getting its 50mpg city mileage – it is getting 23mpg better fuel economy than the Accord EX with a CVT transmission.  Assuming a person drives 12,000 miles a year at gridlock speeds and gets 50mpg, about 200 gallons of gasoline would be saved worth about $800 at $4.00/gallon prices.  If a person is achieving highway fuel economy numbers, the Hybrid is 10mpg better than the gas Accord.  That results in only 70 gallons savings over 12,000 miles or about $280 per year.  So, if you are a gridlock creeper and achieve 50mpg, the payback time is a reasonable 4.3 years.  If you only get a 10mpg improvement from your Accord Hybrid, then the payback goes to 12 years.  Clearly, how you use the car makes a tremendous difference in the economics of the decision.

It’s really a question of the statement you are making with the Accord Hybrid.  Affluent, green and high tech?

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