Honda may not be the biggest name in the Hybrid electric vehicle business, but they dabbled in the idea quite some time ago with the first-generation Insight – the first mass-market hybrid electric vehicle sold in North America. It was more of an engineering exercise (of the “mild-hybrid” type) with the technology available at the time, so sales expectations were modest. Honda eventually updated the technology and brought it to the Accord sedan in 2005. Also a mild-hybrid, the Accord Hybrid at the time emphasized additional performance without the associated fuel efficiency penalty. The market didn’t really warm up to this powertrain, so the Accord went without an electric option up until now. Honda Canada is currently evaluating its options, so the 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) is actually not available for sale just yet. Either way, they wanted us to check out their most-focused hybrid electric offering. I was handed the keys to a very-exclusive 2014 Honda Accord PHEV in “Burnished Silver Metallic”.
From a distance, the unique front grille is the biggest giveaway that you’re not looking at a normal Accord. This new front-end treatment is clearly for the sake of aerodynamic performance, but it does take away from the good-looks the standard Accord is proud to wear. Our front license plate requirement doesn’t help, either. Blue-tinted headlight housings with LED low-beam lamps are standard. The next items you’ll notice are the unique wheels, also designed with aerodynamics in mind. They are actually plastic covers bolted onto aluminum wheels, measuring 17” in diameter, with 205-section 50-series rubber wrapped around. Out back is a unique rear bumper, sculpted to clean up airflow behind the car. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see what looks like a second gas door. Pop it open (either from inside the car or on the key fob) and you’ll find a dedicated charge port in which you can plug in the included adapter to a 120V or 240V AC source.
Moving inside, not a whole lot is changed from the Accord Touring. Aside from the instrument cluster, there isn’t much to suggest you’re in a special car. There is one button on the shifter surround that defines the Accord PHEV’s character – we’ll be getting to that a little later. Leather seats are not an option, as the PHEV utilizes a special eco-friendly fabric. It makes sense from an environmental point of view, but people not familiar with the concept may expect otherwise. On the bright side, all four seating positions are heated. One omission from the PHEV is the lack of a sunroof. Usually a welcome feature, I can see it being deleted in the name of weight savings. The rear seats do not fold down due to the large battery. The outboard edges of the rear seats also feature the air intakes that cool the battery. Trunk space is significantly impacted, but there’s still enough room for a quick trip to the grocery store. It’s definitely worth having a look inside the trunk to see if it’ll work for you. Carried over is Honda’s excellent LaneWatch blind spot display that mounts a camera in the bottom of the right side mirror, and the forward collision warning system, which manages to be effective and unobtrusive at the same time.
No longer just a mild-hybrid, under the hood lives a special 2.0L “Earth Dreams” engine that produces 137hp on its own, paired up with a 6.7kWh lithium-ion battery that help to produce a system total of 196hp – just a bit more than the standard 4-cylinder Accord. Paired up with a continuously variable transmission, the Accord PHEV is capable of providing propulsion to the front wheels through battery alone, gas-electric hybrid, or purely gasoline. What I found interesting was the “HV” button located just aft of the shifter. By default, the Accord PHEV will start in EV mode, which makes heavy use of the battery capacity to get up to speed. Pressing the button once will enable “HV” mode, which stands for Hybrid Vehicle. The gasoline engine will supplement the power delivered to the wheels by the battery and maintain its state of charge. The former EV mode is great for low-speed commuting where the horsepower of the gasoline engine isn’t really required, and the latter is great for high-speed driving or any situation where you may put dynamic loads onto the powertrain. There is also a third mode accessible which does something completely different: HV Charge mode. In this setup, the gasoline engine is utilized to charge up the battery. This does negatively impact your fuel efficiency numbers, but it’s a great way to replenish the battery charge level.
The trump card here is the dedicated charge port, specific to the Accord PHEV. Included with the car is a Leviton adapter that can plug into either 120V or 240V AC source from your home. All you need to do is plug the adapter into an electrical outlet, then plug the industry-standard plug into the Accord. The impressive part about charging the battery this way is how fast it takes – only about three hours – even when plugged into a 120V source. If you can set up a 240V source, you can charge up the Accord PHEV in less than an hour. This gives you roughly 22km of electric-only range, indicated in the instrument cluster. Once you run out of battery capacity, the gasoline engine will kick you out of EV-only mode and take over.
After charging up the Accord PHEV, I made my daily commute into downtown Toronto. The distance one way is about 21km, just under the 22km maximum distance provided by the battery in EV mode alone. I made it to work using zero gasoline and with about 10km of battery power remaining (thanks to some downhill sections and braking points). It is quite the impressive feat. I was not able to make it all the way home on battery power alone, but the gasoline engine only did as little as it needed to do to keep the Accord PHEV moving. I managed to put in just over 700km of mixed driving, and ended up with an overall average of 5.1L/100km. What’s interesting is the possibility of travelling at high speed, but without the help of the gasoline engine. I was able to maintain 90km/h on a flat section of highway. Transport Canada has not yet rated the Accord PHEV, but Honda’s American site quotes 47mpg in the city, and 46mpg on the highway. My weekly average converts directly to 46mpg. To top it all off, the distance-to-empty indicator was showing well over 100km to empty. Range anxiety is simply not an issue with the Accord PHEV.
One thing I assumed was that this eco-focused car would not be very fast, but I would be proven quite wrong. The instant torque provided by the electric side of the powertrain, combined with the gasoline horsepower, moves the Accord PHEV with surprising authority from a stop. The CVT does pin the revs up by the redline (there is no tachometer), but Honda does a good job tuning the transmission for quick response.
As the Accord PHEV is not available for sale, there is no Canadian pricing as of right now. All the included equipment and technology would suggest that the PHEV slots in above the Accord Hybrid Touring, which stickers for just over $35,000. You certainly do pay for the plug-in luxury and overall fuel savings, but some of that money spent just goes to charging the battery overnight, which still ends up being cheaper than gasoline, in a general sense. Hybrid electric vehicles often feature higher purchase prices when compared with to their gasoline counterparts, so it is important to weigh the up-front cost versus the amount saved as the car is driven.
The Accord PHEV is a unique entry in the electric vehicle market. I especially liked the control given to the driver: One can just let the car manage everything, or the driver can manage the transition between different driving modes themselves to extract the most out of a single drop of fuel. The only real competitor to the PHEV at this time is the Ford Fusion Energi which is fairly similar in how power is converted into motion. Honda has taken their time in getting into the plug-in EV market, but I feel they have something truly exceptional going on here.
2014 Honda Accord PHEV Gallery