Honda debuts upgraded 2-motor hybrid system

Honda dubs the system the Sport Hybrid i-MMD powertrain.

TOKYO — Honda Motor Co. has tweaked its two-motor hybrid system for large vehicles to deliver better power and fuel economy.

The improvements debuted this month in a new gasoline-electric drivetrain for the Japan-market Odyssey minivan.

By cutting the size and weight of key components such as the battery and power control unit, Honda engineers upgraded the two-motor hybrid system currently used in the Accord Hybrid and Accord Plug-in Hybrid that were introduced in 2013.

Honda dubs the system the Sport Hybrid i-MMD powertrain.

The new iteration may be deployed in other vehicles, including future versions of the Accord Hybrid, but nothing has been decided, hybrid engineer Jiro Kuroki said at a test drive event.

The vehicle went on sale Feb. 5 in Japan. But don’t expect a hybrid Odyssey to land stateside anytime soon.

For starters, the Japan-market Odyssey is similar to its U.S. counterpart in name only. It’s a smaller car on a completely different platform that is sold in 22, mostly Asian and Middle Eastern, countries. Honda has no plans to add a hybrid to the U.S. version because it doesn’t see U.S. demand, Kuroki said.

The new hybrid system’s power control unit, including the electric motors, is 23 percent smaller and 27 percent lighter than the one in the Accord Hybrid, Honda said.

The intelligent power unit, which includes the lithium ion battery, is 11 percent smaller and 6 percent lighter.

For the first time in Honda’s two-motor hybrid system, the company is getting batteries from Panasonic Corp.

The Accord Hybrid sources its batteries from Blue Energy Co., a battery joint venture between Honda and Japan’s GS Yuasa Corp.

Honda also uses Panasonic batteries in its Fit Hybrid.

Honda expects the Odyssey Hybrid to account for half of Odyssey sales in Japan, with volume reaching 12,000 vehicles a year.

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