In an interview with WardsAuto recently, Honda R&D chief Keiji Ohtsu shed some light on the automaker’s future direction for its powertrains. Since its “turbocharged” plan was announced at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, Honda has put five new engines and three CVT transmissions in the market, and it is far from done.
This year, Honda will launch two more engines, and Ohtsu revealed a few more plans leading up to year 2020. “We are focusing on weight reduction (in the future), changing V6 to inline-four engines, and inline fours to three cylinders,” Ohtsu told the publication.
Given the three new turbocharged engines it revealed in 2013, the R&D chief confirmed that the goal was to meet “regional needs in North America, Europe and China.” However, he did say that the 1.0 litre turbo four, which hasn’t found its way into a production model yet (due for Euro-spec Civic in 2017), is still under development. The 1.5 litre turbo can be found powering the 10th-gen Civic and Jade RS, for example, while the 2.0 turbo powers the Civic Type R.
He mentioned later that these markets were continually adopting more stringent emissions regulations, resulting in car makers switching their focus to engine downsizing. “China offers the added incentive of a tax break for smaller-displacement engines, further encouraging downsizing,” he explained.
But while the Chinese market is set to gain Honda’s turbocharged power, it looks like the rest of South East Asia (SEA) may not be so lucky. “Depending on the market and region, but particularly in Asia and other emerging markets, we will continue offering our naturally-aspirated lineup, which tends to be less costly. In South East Asia, we will supply our current lineup of naturally-aspirated engines,” Ohtsu stated.
With Honda moving towards turbocharging in many markets, it was anticipated that the Japanese manufacturer will be looking to gradually replace its 2.4 litre naturally-aspirated four-pot with its new 1.5 litre turbocharged mill. It seems likely that our market will continue to feature N/A engines for the foreseeable future.
Ohtsu did mention that he was also expecting Honda’s hybrid-powered vehicles to storm the global market, but claimed that in its attempt to achieve ultimate fuel efficiency levels, a turbocharged hybrid isn’t likely to take shape any time soon. “We expect the ratio of hybrids to grow, although for the time being Honda won’t use turbocharged engines in our hybrids,” he explained.
With turbo-hybrid powertrains out of the way, looking ahead, the Honda R&D chief said that it plans to continue developing pure turbocharged engines for greater performance and efficiency. “We’re just approaching the midway point in our plan. We eventually want to achieve a heat efficiency of 50% through lean turbocharging. We will focus on HLSI, or homogeneous lean-charge spark-ignition technology,” he said.
“Of the two leading combustion technology candidates – the other being HCCI, or homogeneous-charge-compression ignition – we have opted for spark ignition because we feel that HCCI is limited in terms of rpm, torque and operational band or range. HLSI is better suited to Honda’s engine concept. We’ve researched both, of course.”
To further elaborate, HCCI engines require no spark plug type of igniter to create a ignite the fuel mixture. A reaction is created purely by raising the density and temperature in the combustion chamber via sheer compression until the fuel mixture ignites spontaneously.
“If we achieve 50% heat efficiency, it would put our conventional engines on an equal footing with our hybrids. Using the JC08 test mode, the Honda Fit, for instance, would improve to 2.7 litres per 100 km from 3.9 litres per 100 km at present. This is an estimate, of course.”