We’ve had our 2014 Honda Accord PHEV long term tester for a couple weeks now and it’s quickly become the most popular car in the DoubleClutch garage. Seriously – everyone tries to squeeze some seat time into this beauty. The truth is, if the PHEV fits your lifestyle, you may just want to join the growing list of customers anxiously awaiting for Honda to make it available here in Canada. See, the PHEV is a very forward thinking design that serves one purpose, to be as environmentally friendly as possible without sacrificing on the convenience and comfort that us North American drivers have grown accustomed to.
Inside, the PHEV looks and feels almost identical to the regular hybrid version of the Honda Accord, and aside from the obvious lack of a sunroof and the new age cloth seats, it’s a very comfortable and rational place to be. All the controls are where they should be, everything is marvellously intuitive to operate, and in typical Accord fashion, everyone including the rear seat passengers are kept perfectly comfortable inside the interior which reaches library levels of silence, especially when running on full electricity or cruising on the highway.
The heart and soul of the PHEV though is its 6.7kWh lithium-ion battery, which unlike in the mild hybrid version of the Accord, can be recharged by plugging the car’s supplied charger into a standard 120V outlet. Recharging with the 120V charger requires a good 4 hours of charge time, but a 220V upgraded charger is available through Honda as well as in the aftermarket and can charge the PHEV in about an hour. This powerhouse of a battery is coupled with Honda’s 2.0L “Earth Dreams” 4-cylinder capable of 137 horsepower. With the added weight of the battery and hybrid system, along with the smaller low rolling resistance tires, the PHEV does feel less nimble and responsive than a standard Accord; not that it matters when you’re focus on keeping that dang EV light on as long as possible and maximizing the efficiency of your drive. An interesting note is that when running in hybrid mode and the efforts of both the battery and the gasoline engine are combined, the Accord PHEV develops the equivalent of 196 horsepower, quite a respectable number for such a purpose built car, and more than enough to smugly slip pass slower moving drivers out on the 400-series highways. If left to its own devices, the PHEV will automatically select the most efficient mode based on charge levels and driving conditions to maximize your fuel economy. As the car switches between the different power sources there are noticeable differences in power, throttle response and sound; notably, the 2.0L engine does have a tendency to sound rather snarly and unrefined especially under load.
As I mentioned, if you’re considering the Accord PHEV, or something similar, it’s important to make sure a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is the right fit for your lifestyle, otherwise you run the risk of not utilizing the full capabilities of the car and potentially finding yourself a little disappointed. Here are a couple factors to think about that I quickly learnt about during my week of daily driving the PHEV.
- Indoor parking is important: The charging unit the PHEV comes with is not waterproof, so while the car can be charged outdoors, the unit should be mounted inside. Since my garage is currently full of hibernating cars, I had to hang the charger just inside the garage door and run the cord out to the car. Not the most practical process every night, and could be more of a problem if mischievous kids (or neighbours) decide to mess with your fancy electric car!
- Get Used to Plugging in: To realize the full advantage of the PHEV, you’ve got to plug it in frequently, this means taking the time to plug-in at home, at work and anywhere else you may be able to sneak in a charge.
- Commute Distance: Depending on temperature and driving conditions I have been able to get between 15 and 25 kms running on electricity alone from a full charge. Unfortunately for me my office is about 60kms from home, so I did end up utilizing the gas engine quite a bit which resulted in my average fuel consumption for the week of 5.9L/100kms. Amazing for a full-sized sedan, but potentially not enough to justify the additional upfront costs.
- Trunk Space: A battery big enough to power an entire car for 20 kilometers is big! So naturally the space has to come from somewhere, and in the Accord’s case it’s come from the trunk. While there is enough space for a small grocery run, it may not be ideal as an only car for families with items such as strollers or large amounts of hockey equipment to lug around.
I’ll be the first to admit that the PHEV is not the perfect fit for my lifestyle, mostly due to my lengthy commute. I was able to produce very similar fuel economy numbers out of the regular 2014 Honda Civic Coupe with the 5-speed manual, which I drove a few weeks back. I felt the Civic was not only more fun to drive, but also more practical for my own day-to-day needs.
Despite that, I am certain that matched with the right person the PHEV could yield absolutely phenomenal savings to both your pocket book and to our planet all the while offering the same comfort and practicality that the Accord has become known for. I came away from my experience with the PHEV thoroughly impressed; the satisfaction derived from driving along with the little “EV” light illuminated on the dash and knowing that you’re currently travelling, in absolute comfort, without burning an ounce of fuel is nearly irreplaceable; for that the PHEV has earned its place in this writer’s memories.