Saturday, August 7, 2010

Honda's CR-Z and Second Generation Hybrids

Earlier this year Honda launched the CR-Z hybrid car, and in July it won an award for the best green sports car of 2010. The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are the veterans of the hybrid vehicle market, but the CR-Z is a sleek new coupe specifically geared towards younger drivers.

The affordable CR-Z offers a fuel economy of between 35 and 40 mpg. The new Honda has a 10kW electric motor, a nickel-metal hydride battery and a six-speed manual transmission. What makes this car distinct is the way it handles. Macpherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear make the suspension firm and sporty.

The CR-Z employs Honda's Integrated Motor Assist which uses both gas and electric power all the time. The engine's management system decides when to use the electric motor as a power boost and when to use it as a generator, charging the battery on the overrun and under braking. The car comes with three settings, Econ, Normal and Sport. In Econ mode Honda claims fuel consumption of five litres/100km. The CR-Z's also employs a stop-start system.

The instrumentation includes LED bar-graphs for fuel and battery and a "green-ness" icon. The onboard computer also calculates your "eco-score" at the end of each trip and compares it to your previous trips.

Honda understands that hybrids cannot get by on their green credentials alone. The CR-Z is a well designed, great looking vehicle inside and out. It has a host of features including hill hold, rear parking sensors, shift indicator, stability control and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-pressure distribution and emergency brake assist. There are also six crash bags, pre-tensioned seatbelts and active head restraints.

The CR-Z targets a very specific market sector and it is leading a second wave of more specialized hybrids that are now coming to market. Hybrids are coming of age and this second generation reflects a new level of maturity.

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