The Honda Accord Makes A Strong Case For Hybrids

By automotive-mag.com 7 Min Read

A lot of us are doing our part to reduce our environmental impact, but going all-electric isn’t a simple solve-all for many. Battery EVs are expensive to buy up front and their depreciation curves are steep; public charging is a nightmare; EVs simply require life adjustments that buyers don’t want to make. Put another way, the jump between internal-combustion and battery-electric is more like a leap.

Going hybrid presents an alluring compromise and the new Honda Accord is an excellent hybrid. It uses technology that’s relatively simple, proven to be reliable, affordable, and effective in reducing emissions and boosting fuel economy. In a lot of ways, it’s a no-brainer.

Introduced for 2023, the 11th-generation Accord puts Honda’s twin-motor hybrid system front and center. It’s one of only two powertrains offered on the mid-size sedan. The other is a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder, standard equipment on the LX and EX. The Hybrid is standard on the Sport and above. 

Honda two-motor hybrid system

The two-motor hybrid system is wonderfully clever and simple. In the Accord, there’s a 2.0-liter four-cylinder mated to a generator motor, and a separate motor driving the front wheels. The engine is used to charge the 1.06-kWh battery via the generator, and the battery provides power to the traction motor. Most of the time, the car is powered by the traction motor, but there’s a clutch between that and the generator. When coupled, the engine actually helps drive the front wheels. 

There’s no conventional transmission. The engine itself is a super-efficient naturally aspirated unit, which runs the Atkinson rather than typical Otto cycle, wherein the intake valve is held open slightly longer during the compression stroke, aiding volumetric efficiency. Honda touts a thermal efficiency of 40 percent, meaning 40 percent of the energy used to power the engine is turned into useful work. If you think that sounds low, know that most conventional internal-combustion engines only achieve around 20 to 30 percent thermal efficiency.

2023 honda accord touring interior

All told, the Accord sends 204 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. If all this sounds complex, it really isn’t. A typical automatic transmission has far more moving parts than this system and isn’t nearly as efficient. And what’s really nice is that this Accord asks absolutely nothing of its driver.

Drive it like normal, and the system blends the two power sources seamlessly. There’s an “E” button below the shifter that lets you prioritize all-electric driving or charging the battery, but you never need to touch it. The Accord also has paddles on the back of the steering wheel that allow the driver to adjust the level of regenerative braking when lifting the accelerator pedal. Ignore those, too, as hitting the brake pedal blends regenerative and friction braking. Just put the Accord in Drive, and let it do its thing.

While this Accord is down on power compared to the old 2.0-liter turbo model, it feels more than quick enough in real-world driving thanks to the electric motor’s instant torque output. The engine cycles on and off when needed. It’s a little noisy from time to time, for example when held at a higher RPM to charge the battery and run the climate control on a cold morning, but at higher speeds, you hardly notice it working at all. And you won’t be able to tell the difference between when it’s powering the wheels or just the generator.

2023 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring Engine

The EPA says the Accord EX-L model should get 48 MPG combined, while Sport and Touring models get 44 MPG combined. My test was hardly scientific, but on a mix of city stop-and-go traffic and lower-speed highways (50-60 mph), I easily managed more than 50 mpg in the apparently less-efficient Touring model. And in fairly cold weather, to boot. 

On longer highway trips at higher speeds, you’re not going to see the biggest numbers, as the engine will be running more often. That’s been borne out by Car and Driver testing, which is done on metro Detroit’s fast highways. But for the around-town or country-road stuff, the Accord is hard to beat.

Compared with a pure electric vehicle, no, the Honda Accord isn’t as efficient. Electric motor efficiency on its own is above 90 percent, and obviously with a pure EV, there’s no local emissions. But per the EPA, the new Accord hybrid emits 201 grams of CO2 per mile to the old 2.0T’s 345 grams per mile. They new hybrid’s figure is not better than zero, but it is better than 345, too. Every little bit helps.

2023 honda accord hybrid touring

A 2024 Accord Hybrid starts at $33,900, and our top-of-the-line Touring is $39,895. A base Tesla Model 3 costs $40,380 at the time of writing, and yes, it’s a more efficient, less polluting vehicle. But, it’s safe to assume that the Accord will hold its value far better, and ask a lot less of its owner.

That makes the Accord Hybrid a very good option for many, and the more people that switch from conventional internal-combustion cars into hybrids like this, the more we reduce our environmental footprint, collectively. This, beyond simply being a very nice mode of transportation, is an easy, painless, cost-effective way to make a positive step.

It’s a no-brainer.

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