The Japanese company with a reputation for innovation is playing catch-up in some areas, such as the introduction of downsized turbocharged engines, while pushing the boundaries in others.
Honda claims its new 10-speed planetary automatic transmission is the first of its kind developed for front-engined, front-wheel-drive vehicles. Compared with the brand’s existing six-speed auto, Honda says the 10-speed unit cuts gearshift times by 30 per cent, reduces engine cruising speeds by 26 per cent, improves overtaking acceleration time by 14 per cent, and cuts fuel consumption by at least 6 per cent.
The transmission is initially being developed for the Honda’s largest vehicles powered by the brand’s 3.5-litre V6, though future development could see it paired with smaller engines and vehicles.
Honda’s hydrogen-powered FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicle) also makes its public debut at this week’s Tokyo motor show ahead of its launch in Japan early next year and introduction to the US and select European markets from the second half of 2016.
Having decreased the size of its fuel cell stack by a third compared with the old FCX Clarity, Honda says its fuel cell system is now comparable in size to its 3.5-litre V6. As such, it becomes the first production sedan in the world capable of packaging its entire fuel cell powertrain in the space normally occupied by a conventional engine and transmission.
The FCV also claims two big wins over its key rival, the Toyota Mirai, boasting a longer cruising range (700km-plus versus 650km) and coming with five seats rather than four.
Beyond the large sedan, Honda is pursuing a joint venture with General Motors to develop a next-generation fuel cell system that is planned to come to market by 2020.
Honda also lifted the lid on its next-generation plug-in hybrid technology this week. The new petrol-electric powertrain will have a pure-electric range of 64km, three times that of Honda’s current system, and will be able to continue operating at the vehicle’s top speed without requiring help from the petrol engine.
The car maker also set tongues wagging with a four-motor EV concept based on the CR-Z sports car. Derived from the company’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb exhibition class winner, the concept features an electric motor and steering control at each wheel.
New 1.0-litre three-cylinder and 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines are also on their way into future models.
The larger of the two – with outputs of 150kW and 260Nm – will power the new Civic sedan and hatch that are set to arrive in Australia in the middle and at the end of 2016 respectively.
The smaller engine – with outputs of 95kW and 200Nm – is further from our shores, unlikely to appear until the all-new Jazz launches here closer to the end of the decade.
Honda has also announced more details about its advancements in autonomous driving technology, headlined by the planned rollout of two systems: Traffic Jam Assist, and automated highway driving.
The former will appear first in the brand’s production vehicles. An evolution of adaptive cruise control, Traffic Jam Assist incorporates forward vehicle detection and lane marker detection using forward-facing cameras and radars to take complete control of accelerating, braking and steering. Honda claims its system will be better than any other at keeping the vehicle in the middle of its lane.
Automated highway driving will take the concept even further, adding the ability to change lanes without any input from the driver, using line tracing technology to map out the safest and smoothest path. This technology is currently scheduled to reach Honda’s production cars around 2020.