As a part of its new Earth Dreams powertrain rollout, Honda has announced a new 1.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid mated to a dual-clutch transmission that it believes will deliver segment-leading fuel economy while retaining the brand’s core fun-to-drive quality.
Called Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive (i-DCD), it combines a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. While no timeline has been given, this powertrain will eventually replace Honda’s current IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system. Used in cars like the CR-Z and Civic Hybrid, Honda recently updated the package to include a lithium-ion battery pack with improved performance and efficiency, though it still failed to compete with segment-leading hybrids.
While a series hybrid system, like IMA, it functions more like a series-parallel design (like that found in the Toyota Prius), enabling propulsion using gas, electricity or a combination of both. Along with regenerative braking, it also features a start-stop system, which shuts down the engine when the vehicle is at idle.
During a future product and technology preview at the Honda R&D center in Utsunomiya, Japan, engineers confirmed a 1.5 to 3 km electric only range at roughly 50 km/h, with a maximum EV speed of 70 km/h.
Honda is claiming the new i-DCD system will return as much as a 30 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over the current system – which can already deliver up to 44 mpg combined in a car like the Civic Hybrid. In addition to natural efficiencies of the system, Honda says the powertrain achieves these numbers by disengaging the gasoline engine from the system under braking, as well as under low speeds and when cruising.
At the same time, acceleration performance with this new powertrain will be improved by 15 percent.
By combing a hybrid powertrain with a dual-clutch transmission Honda is hoping to deliver both maximum fuel economy and an engaging driving experience.
Expect the new i-DCD system to arrive in cars like the next-generation Civic Hybrid, Insight and CR-Z, while it’s use could be extended further, perhaps even to the Fit, as was showcased at the R&D center.