Honda has its own hybrid minivan but only for the Japanese market. It uses a revised version of the plug-in hybrid powertrain that was available briefly in the Accord. This latest variation uses a 2.0 liter four cylinder engine with dual electric motors. Honda has replaced the transmission with a direct drive system that mimics a CVT in operation. Honda says the its latest motor design is 23% smaller and lighter than what it used in previous versions of this hybrid system. The new package retains the high torque and horsepower of the prior system figures, according to Hybrid Cars.
Fuel economy numbers for the plug-in Odyssey are hard to quantify, since Honda offers no vehicles with this powertrain in the US. But for the home market, Honda says the the car is good for about 61 mpg. The Japanese testing protocol is famous for being wildly optimistic, however. Cut that number in half and you still get about 30 mpg, which is a lot better than the regular V-6 powered Odyssey sold here.
It is interesting that this announcement from Honda comes just a month after Chrysler took the wraps off its own plug-in hybrid minivan it calls the Pacifica. Japanese giants Honda and Toyota have both been skittish about bringing plug-in hybrids to America. Toyota gave us a plug-in Prius for a while, then quietly withdrew it from the market. It says there may be another plug-in Prius someday, when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars.
Honda dipped a toe in the water with the Accord plug-in, but that quickly disappeared, too. The plug-in Accord was well received and highly praised by those who were lucky enough to find one. For reasons known only to higher ups at Honda, the cars were scarce. People who went to Honda dealers looking to buy one were often told there were none available.
The conventional wisdom is that Americans don’t want plug-in hybrids. Tales abound of clueless Chevy dealers who try to switch customers wanting to buy a Volt into a conventional car instead. Chrysler is deathly afraid to tell its customers the new Pacifica has a plug. Toyota says its market research shows minivan owners have no interest in plug-in hybrids. Honda must have read the same research. Mercedes will bring some plug-in hybrids to market soon, but is clearly reluctant to do so.
Of course, every business needs to make a profit. But it is crystal clear that the major manufacturers view hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars as necessary evils that must be endured, rather than the face of transportation to come. They are digging in their heels, resisting the change to cars with batteries with every fiber of their existence. Will the Honda plug-in Odyssey ever make it to American shores. Don’t hold your breath.
What is the reason for all this fear and loathing for anything electric? Tesla has proven that people will pay a premium for a compelling electric car. The car companies need to step up and stop hiding behind the skirts of focus group researchers. They need to start marketing electric cars, not offering them grudgingly as if they are day old bread that only a homeless person would want.
If they refuse to get on board the electric car band wagon, all their marketing research will be useless, because they will be out of business, replaced by new companies willing to look to the future rather than cast longing eyes on the past. In other words, the major car companies need to stop being electric car wimps.