Amid all the hoopla surrounding the premiere of the new Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 at last week’s Tokyo Motor Show was some news from Honda, which is arguably even bigger than the two pint-sized sports cars. That announcement was Honda’s next-generation “Earth Dreams Technology” with which Honda aims to achieve top-of-industry fuel efficiency within three years while reducing the CO2 output of its vehicles by 30 percent by 2020.
Honda plans to achieve best-in-industry fuel economy with Earth Dreams by introducing six different technologies into its lineup. Arguably the run-of-the-mill gasoline engine is going to be the backbone of Honda’s Earth Dreams. With its gasoline engines, Honda aims to “realize top level driving performance and fuel efficiency” by upgrading its VTEC system to minimize friction and improve thermal efficiency, adding direct-injection and VTC (Variable Timing Control) to many engines, and even implementing the Atkinson cycle — something that’s more commonly on hybrid drivetrains.
Honda is also planning on significantly updating its diesel engine lineup – the place where it’s traditionally been weakest in markets like Europe, which favor oil-burners over gas engines. Honda’s future diesels will be reduced in size (down to 1.6-liters from 2.2-liters), and reduced in weight by upping rigidity and adding an aluminum open deck design for the cylinder block. Honda’s Earth Dreams diesel will also incorporate a compact turbocharger and a revised thermal management system. Honda said that all of these technologies will combine to help reduce its diesel engine CO2 output by over 15 percent.
Honda’s next step in Earth Dreams is one enthusiasts will probably bemoan; the widespread use of CVTs in its lineup, replacing the dated five-speed automatic. Honda said it will have three new CVT’s for mini, compact and midsize vehicles. Its new CVTs will use a reinforced belt, incorporate stop-start technology, and include “G-Design Shift” which will reportedly allow the transmission to, “respond quickly to driver demands, and realize an exhilarating, sporty drive with superior acceleration.”
Honda will also incorporate a new full-hybrid system with Earth Dreams, replacing its IMA mild-hybrid system. Honda’s new hybrid system will be capable of being included in both traditional hybrid and plug-in hybrid applications. Honda’s new hybrid system will incorporate lithium ion batteries, and allow drivers to operate as an EV at low speeds, a traditional hybrid, and a mode combining the power of the engine and motor for high-speed cruising.
The final bullet point of Honda’s Earth Dreams is a highly-efficient electric vehicle powertrain. Honda said that its new EV powertrain will be among the most efficient in the world, consuming 29 kWh/100 miles, or 116 MPGe with an estimated range of 123 miles. Honda also said that its Earth Dream’s EV’s lithium ion batteries will be capable of being fully charged in three hours using a 240-volt source.
With Earth Dreams, Honda is looking to regain the place it once held as one of the most fuel-efficient brands, and one of the leading innovators in the industry. Will this Earth Dreams campaign help it achieve those goals? Only time — perhaps three years, even — will tell.