Looking to make up some much-needed ground to Toyota and Ford in the world of hybrid vehicles, Honda is introducing a new and more advanced gas-electric architecture called Honda Sport Hybrid. The system may arrive as a direct replacement to the aging Integrated Motor Assist series, and it's actually comprised of three different systems: Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive, Intelligent Multi Mode Drive/Plug-In and Super Handling – All Wheel Drive. Why three different systems? Because their capability, complexity and cost will vary depending on the size of the vehicle and its intended purpose.

We have already tested the Sport Hybrid Intelligent Multi Mode Drive/Plug-In on the 2014 Honda Accord PHEV. This system features a hybrid-specific engine and an electronic CVT with two built-in electric motors, and it sounds like this setup will be offered with and without plug-in capabilities. With this system, drivers will be able to use three different drive modes (EV, Engine and Hybrid) depending on the conditions and the desired dynamic. EV Drive mode maximizes use of electricity to propel the car, Hybrid Drive uses the engine to generate electricity for the motors and Engine Drive is for higher speeds where EV and Hybrid modes wouldn't be as efficient.

Debuting on the forthcoming Acura RLX flagship sedan, the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system uses three electric motors to deliver optimal performance. It also features a direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 paired with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. Those are combined with an integrated motor used to power the front wheels and one motor at each rear wheel. The rear motors work independently of one another for better handling and torque distribution. Honda says this system will deliver V8-like performance with the fuel economy of a four cylinder. If all of that sounds familiar, that's because we drove a prototype of the architecture in a Honda Accord mule back in December of 2011.

Finally, the Sport Hybrid Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive uses the same seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox as the SH-AWD system, but this application will focus on improving the efficiency of small cars rather than worrying about performance. This transmission will be mated to a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle engine, and Honda claims combination will be 30-percent more efficient than current one-motor hybrid systems. We don't know just yet which car this system will debut in, but the diagram released by Honda shows it being use on what looks like a hatchback (like the Fit) or small crossover. This is also a likely candidate for use in cars like the CR-Z, Insight and Civic.

Scroll down to read the official press release from Honda.
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Honda Develops New Lightweight and Compact Hybrid System Named "SPORT HYBRID Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive" - Three Different Honda SPORT HYBRID Systems Accommodate Different Vehicle Characteristics -

TOKYO, Japan, November 13, 2012 - Honda Motor Co., Ltd. developed the SPORT HYBRID Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive system, a lightweight and compact one-motor hybrid system optimized for small-sized vehicles. This new hybrid system will be the latest addition to the Earth Dreams Technology series of new generation powertrain technology that realizes both excellent driving performance and fuel economy at a high level.

Together with the SPORT HYBRID Intelligent Multi Mode Drive, the world's most efficient*1 two-motor hybrid system optimized for mid-sized vehicles, and the SPORT HYBRID SH-AWD® (SPORT HYBRID Super Handling - All Wheel Drive), the three-motor hybrid system optimized for large-sized vehicles enabling independent control of torque distribution to both right and left rear wheels, the newly developed SPORT HYBRID Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive will constitute the lineup of three different Honda SPORT HYBRID systems that accommodate different vehicle characteristics. Honda will continue expanding the application of these hybrid systems based on vehicle characteristics.
*1 Honda's internal research (as of August 2012)

The lineup of SPORT HYBRID systems

One-motor SPORT HYBRID Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive:
In addition to top level fuel economy in its class*2, the fun of driving is realized with acceleration g-force more powerful than that of existing models as well as a rhythmic and linear acceleration feeling. This drive unit combines a newly developed inline 4-cylinder 1.5L Atkinson cycle engine with a 7-speed DCT*3 system with a built-in high-output motor and a lithium-ion battery to improve efficiency by more than 30% compared to a conventional one-motor hybrid system.
*2 Hybrid system for 1.5L engines
*3 Dual Clutch Transmission

・ The combination of the one-motor hybrid system and the engine realizes sporty driving during acceleration and high-speed cruising by using the clutches to engage the engine.
・ Highly efficient electric vehicle (EV) driving is realized during startup and low- to medium-speed cruising by using the clutches to disengage the engine.
・ This system contributes to the improvement of fuel economy by increasing energy regeneration using the clutches to disengage the engine during deceleration.

Two-motor SPORT HYBRID Intelligent Multi Mode Drive / Plug-in:
Through the adoption of high-efficiency / high-output motors, both brisk acceleration with an EV-like driving feel and high fuel economy are realized at the same time. This hybrid system realizes the world's highest efficiency*1 by combining a newly-developed engine dedicated for hybrid vehicles and an electric CVT coupled with two built-in motors and a lock-up clutch, along with a lithium-ion battery, and by optimally switching the driving mode among three different modes depending on the driving situation. This hybrid system, which is also suitable as a plug-in hybrid system, will be installed to the North American version of the Accord, scheduled to be introduced to the market in January 2013.

The system switches the operation among the following three driving modes depending on driving conditions and the battery charge level:
・ "EV Drive" for driving by the electric motor using electricity from the battery and regeneration during deceleration
・ "Engine Drive" for medium- to high-speed cruising with the engine and axle directly connected by a lock-up clutch and engine power is mechanically transferred to the wheels
・ "Hybrid Drive" for urban driving and powerful acceleration using the motor with electricity generated by the engine

Three-motor SPORT HYBRID SH-AWD® (SPORT HYBRID Super Handling - All Wheel Drive):
The combination of a V6 engine and this high-output three-motor system realizes acceleration performance equivalent to that of a V8 engine with fuel economy better than that of an inline 4-cylinder engine. A new V6 3.5L direct-injection engine is installed in the front of the vehicle and combined with a newly-developed 7-speed DCT system with a built-in motor. This unique Honda technology uses two motors installed in the rear to control torque distribution to the right and left rear wheels.

・ Using independent motors for the right and left rear wheels, positive torque is applied to the outside wheel and negative torque is applied to the inside wheel, making independent control of torque distribution to the rear wheels possible without relying on engine output.
・ Depending on the radius of the curve, the energy generated by the inside wheel is recovered electrically and applied to the outside wheel to self-generate torque necessary for the vehicle to make the turn.

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