1999 Honda Insight
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Honda, Acura Hybrid Technology On The Road To Zero Emissions

Today’s Accord Hybrid and Acura RLX have something in common. Torque News takes a closer look at Honda performance technology, horsepower and torque on the road to zero emissions.

How does the Acura RLX produce an astounding 370 horsepower while averaging 30 mpg? A little bit of automotive history Honda Style.

Not to long ago achieving an average 30 mpg from an engine producing 370 horsepower was deemed impossible. While there are several different ways to obtain high horsepower and torque output, generally, a large displacement, high compression, ram air induction V8 would be used to transfer wide-band torque to the rear wheels of the Detroit iron of choice.

With a seemingly endless source of cheap abundant gasoline cars of America’s 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s averaged 12-14 mpg -- while they producing copious amounts of carbon and led laden pollutants.

Smaller cars offering greater fuel efficiency were available to the American driver of the post world war two boom years. While growing up in Southern California my father owned a 1950s MGA roadster, a Fiat 600, and a Volkswagen micro-bus; all under-powered and frowned on by most car owners of the day.

I’ll never forget the day my grandfather drove down to the beach in his Nash Metropolitan. A Chrysler man for decades, J.P. had opted for the 40 mpg of the tiny Nash on his return from an extended stay in Hawaii. He loved it. That’s correct. A domestically manufactured 4 cylinder car of the day sipped gasoline. I expected him to exit the car in clown shoes.

While they didn’t possess the glitzy chromed status of the Chrysler 300 or the Ford Galaxy Starliner, small cars offering two to three times greater fuel economy than the V8s of the day were available.

Simplistic in detail and ease of operation, the small cars of mid last century lacked mass. Thus, the public with the help of Detroit Press Ad-Men, shunned the small and micro car labeling it unsafe to drive.

The burgeoning small car movement of the 60s was effectively quashed at the hands of activist Ralph Nader, with the blacklisting of Chevrolet’s Corvair. The 1960s air cooled rear engine 6 cylinder, with the assistance of Dr. F. Porsche had injected G.M. philosophy and corporate muscle into the small car movement of the 1960s.

Offering seating for 4 adults, air conditioning, power steering and brakes, the Corvair Monza was a s quick as many of the V8s of the day. I bought one with a smashed driver’s side door in the early 70s, repaired the cold induction pancake 6 cylinder, and proceeded to beat 911 S Porsche Coupes off the light.

Honda is rightfully credit for bringing the small, subcompact car to mainstream America

While Ford, Lincoln Mercury had measurable success breaking into the market with the introduction of the Pinto and English based Capri, G.M. would introduce the Nova 2 and Vega, with Chrysler pulling up the rear with the much loved slant 6 cylinder Barracuda. All makers would eventually introduce a 4 or 6 cylinder economy car capable of achieving 24+ mpg on regular gas. That was 40 years ago.

What changed the mpg equation was exhaust emissions and safety

The big change in the auto industry would come in the early 1970s with the introduction of CARB legislation.

Honda would answer the call with the introduction of the Honda Civic and a year later the Accord.

Presenting an affordable, dependable, and fun to drive subcompact that met or exceeded federally mandated emission levels, without the use of a catalytic converter, insured Honda its place in American automotive history. These earlier Hondas weighed under 2,000 lbs, were utilitarian, and a bit under powered by today’s performance standards. However, the cars were very forgiving as to maintenance schedule, fun to drive, and fuel pinchers.

30 miles per gallon was not uncommon for a Honda Civic of the day. But what truly brought Honda into the age of unheard fuel efficiency was the advent of the 1998 Insight gasoline / electric Hybrid. The mini 3 door hatchback was the first mass produced hybrid available to North America. Honda had raised the fuel efficiency bar to 60+mpg, a record that still stands in North America.

Although Toyota would take the lead in hybrid sales with the advent of the Prius, Honda’s 2014 Civic would approach the utility and fuel efficiency of the Prius. 44/44/44. Today’s Accord produces a usable 196 horsepower, 226 ft-lb torque, and does so while averaging 50 mpg in the city. However, where the Accord truly shines is on the freeway. As with the 2015 Acura RLX, Honda utilizes an E-CVT, multiple electric motors, torque vectoring, and Earth Dreams engine technology to drive personal transportation to the next level.

Back to the future: Today Honda has combined 1.5 to 2.0 liter variable timed, cylinder managed direct injected I.C. gasoline engines to work in tandem with 2 and 3 electric motor torque vectoring drive systems. Heady stuff, indeed. By combining this technology with the advancements in E-CVT developments, all wheel steer and smart all wheel, and 4 wheel drive systems, Honda’s Accord division is approaching Supercar status with the pending release of the 2016 NSX.

Developing a high performance car while producing zero exhaust emissions is Honda’s goal. The Honda Accord and Acura RLX take us to the next level in Earth friendly long range personal transportation.

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