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Honda considering hybrid Odyssey

Flat batteries: Honda says it is important that a hybrid drivetrain does not eat into the Odyssey’s interior space.

Petrol-electric people-mover on the cards, but packaging a problem, says Honda

11 Feb 2014

HONDA has confirmed it is starting work on a petrol-electric hybrid version of its Odyssey people-mover after a diesel version was rubbed out early in the development program.

Honda Research and Development’s chief engineer looking after the Odyssey program, Takahashi Shinchi, confirmed at the launch of the fifth-generation people-mover that the car-maker had already started taking about a hybridisation program that is expected to mate a battery-fuelled electric motor to the Odyssey’s petrol engine.

However, while the Japanese car-maker is only at the very early stages of developing a petrol-electric system for the Odyssey’s new 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, Mr Shinchi said there were already some big constraints on what the car-maker could do.

“We’ve just started talking about it (a hybrid program for the Odyssey),” he said at the launch of the fifth generation of the people-mover in Australia yesterday.

“Anything we do should not have an impact on interior versatility. We have to be very careful where we put the batteries so that they do not affect the interior. Because this is a people-mover we cannot compromise on space.” Despite diesel drivetrains being offered on rivals, Honda has launched the new Odyssey in Australia without one, despite them being more economical than petrol equivalents thanks to their low-rev pulling power.

Honda does have diesel engines in its product mix – vehicles such as the CR-V small soft-roader and Civic city hatchback both offer oil-burning alternatives – but the fuel was never considered for the Odyssey program, Mr Shinchi said.

Meanwhile, packaging has already been an issue for the Odyssey, with the space saver spare wheel hidden away in a space between the front seats so that the rearmost row of seats can fold away into the boot.

Mr Shinchi said it was still too early in the hybridisation program to say if the spare wheel’s location was the most likely place to fit a bank of batteries in any future hybrid version.

However, he said it would be important to maintain the Odyssey’s low centre of gravity, meaning a bank of batteries would need to be mounted low on the vehicle.

Similar to other hybrid models in the Japanese car-maker’s stable, Mr Shinchi said a hybrid version of the Odyssey would sit above the petrol version in the model hierarchy.

Mr Shinchi said much tougher emissions laws due in Japan by 2025 would see a rush of hybrid drivetrain development that would eventually benefit international markets such as Australia.

He said a compressed natural gas-fuelled hybrid vehicle was “still a possibility” for the car-maker.

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