In 2004, Honda released its third hybrid, a gas-electric version of the Accord EX V6 sedan. The car represented a new spin on hybrid powertrains, with the carmaker opting to use supplemental power from the vehicle’s battery to enhance performance rather than maximize fuel efficiency.
Where the obvious move would have been to attach its hybrid system to the four-cylinder Accord model—potentially boosting fuel economy from a pedestrian 24 mpg combined rating into the range of other best-in-class mid-size offerings—Honda instead chose to pair the system with a V6 and configure that pairing to provide an additional 15 horsepower to the Accord EX V6′s already meaty 240 hp. Fuel efficiency for the vehicle languished at a paltry 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway rating—with the combined number coming in just 1 MPG higher than the base model Accord.
Consumers were not impressed. Honda sold less than 6,000 Accord hybrids in 2006 and less than a year later, the car was canceled. “Hybrid manufacturers have largely been unable to expand the public’s perception of hybrids beyond high fuel economy,” said Kelley Blue Book’s Jack Nerad at the time.
Now comes word from Automotive News that Honda is once again preparing a hybrid version of the Accord. Will the carmaker aim to bring big efficiency gains to the vehicle’s 24/31 fuel economy rating, or has it decided that the market is finally ready for a hybrid that boosts power at the expense of substantive fuel economy gains?
With gas prices low, and Toyota recently deciding to go in a similar direction with its new Highlander hybrid SUV, it’s possible that performance-oriented hybrids could be making a comeback. But with Honda’s green vehicle lineup struggling and the carmaker’s own president complaining that company had become “complacent” about new technology in recent years, it’s difficult to see how an extra 15 horsepower and 1-2 MPGs could bring Honda back to prominence as a maker of fuel-efficient vehicles.
For now, all that’s known is that a new gas-electric Accord is on its way, so we’ll have to save our judgments for when more details are available. Hopefully, Honda will be a little more bold with its hybrid this time around.