Electric Vehicles

Does CR-V Hybrid mean an electrified Odyssey, Pilot on the way?

The Honda CR-V Hybrid plays into the company's larger plan to sell more electrified vehicles.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Earlier this year, the 2020 Honda CR-V made its debut with a new powertrain variant. Dubbed the CR-V Hybrid, the model will likely be able to go around 500 miles between fill ups, when optioned in its lightest variant in optimal driving conditions.

With the addition of the CR-V Hybrid and Honda's recent commitment to electrify two-thirds of its global automobile unit sales by 2030, it's reasonable to assume that the clock is ticking on electrified versions of two of the company's most popular U.S. models, the Odyssey and Pilot.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid red back rear tailgate trunk Honda has introduced the CR-V Hybrid for the 2020 model year.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

With electrification, there are a few ways for manufacturers to go. There's a more traditional hybrid, with a battery attached to one to four motors that uses mostly gasoline in combination with an electric power boost. There is also a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) powertrain, which allows customers to plug in their car's battery to an outlet and receive electric power to be used instead of gasoline while allowing the customer to retain their gasoline fuel tank for use for when the electric power runs out, or to supplement power availability at high speed.

Many futurists see PHEVs as being a good next step for buyers looking to have the best of the EV and gasoline-powered world.

"AutoPacific's data suggest that Odyssey customers would really respond to a plug-in hybrid powertrain," said Kim. "Our 2019 New Vehicle Satisfaction data show that 41 percent of 2019 Odyssey owners are willing to consider a plug-in hybrid powertrain next time, compared to just 24 percent of all new vehicle buyers this year. Honda has long had a reputation for powertrain efficiency and innovation, so a high-tech fuel efficient PHEV powertrain for Odyssey could make for an excellent brand fit."

2019 Honda Pilot Place your bets on Honda offering electrified powertrain options for the Pilot and Odyssey in the not too distant future. Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Honda builds the Odyssey, Pilot, Passport, and Ridgeline beside each other at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama. The current Pilot generation was launched first, in 2016. It underwent a facelift for the 2019 model year. The Ridgeline was re-introduced in 2017 and the current Odyssey generation debuted in 2018. Passport was added back to the Honda lineup in 2019.

Consumers are likely about three years away from seeing a redesigned Pilot and even further from a redesigned Odyssey, but could be closer to seeing new powertrain choices introduced as the company pushes hard to that 2030 goal. This would be a similar formula to what Honda has done with the CR-V, which had its current model introduced in 2017 and got a refresh this year.

"We are expecting a mid-cycle refresh for [Odyssey in] the 2021 model year," said Ed Kim, Vice President, Insights, AutoPaciifc. "We think the PHEV powertrain is likely to come out with the mid-cycle change, so a fall 2020 introduction wouldn't be impossible."

The Pilot and Ridgeline have a flat load floor that sits relatively high off the ground. This type of setup allows for slightly easier electrification design, because the battery pack can be situated along the bottom of the vehicle. However, the Odyssey only has 4.5-inches of ground clearance which, on the surface, seems like an impediment.

"A minivan actually makes really good sense for implementing a plug-in powertrain," said Kim. "Due to the lower sliding door tracks, the floor is a bit higher, and that leaves room under the floor for batteries. This is exactly what Chrysler did with the Pacifica Hybrid, mounting its batteries where its Stow-n-Go second row seats would normally go under the floor. It's easy to imagine Honda doing something similar with Odyssey; like the Pacifica, Honda should be able to incorporate a battery pack under the floor in a way that doesn't impede on interior space. And, in a minivan, interior space is of course extremely important."

Chrysler already sells a PHEV version of the Pacifica, the Pacifica Hybrid, so it makes sense that Honda would be exploring electrified versions of its minivan.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

There are significant fuel-saving and quickness advantages to driving hybrid or PHEV vehicle. Honda says that the 2020 CR-V Hybrid, "brings quicker off-the-line performance and is anticipated to achieve a 50 percent higher city fuel economy rating than the non-hybrid CR-V." These advantages are likely to carry over into any future Honda vehicle development.

It's important to note that Honda designs its vehicles unlike most manufacturers, from the inside out. This means that customers are likely to see benefits from hybrid or PHEV powertrain adoption rather than the sacrifices, like the higher-riding rear seats and diminished cargo space, some automakers force consumers to make should they want to choose an alternative powertrain. However, hybrid and PHEV models tend to come at a higher price than traditional gasoline-powered models.

Currently, Honda sells the electrified Accord Hybrid, Insight, and Clarity in the U.S.

When contacted about this story, a spokesperson for Honda said, "We don't comment on future products."

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Honda is working with Verizon on self-driving cars technology.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. Inc.

The Mcity campus was designed to be a proving ground for new technologies. Honda and Verizon are utilizing it as such as they partner to explore how Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband and 5G Mobile Edge Compute (MEC) can be used to ensure quick and reliable communication between road infrastructure, vehicles, and pedestrians.

The 5G technology leverages cloud technology to deliver lower latency, a large amount of bandwidth, and improved communication. This communication includes the way that vehicles interact with ther cars, traffic lights, pedestrians and emergency vehicles to improve threat detection and avoid accidents when seconds matter most. That's where the "V2" in acronyms like "V2V" (vehicle-to-vehicle) and "V2X" (vehicle- to-everything).

Honda and Verizon Test How 5G Enhances Safety for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles www.youtube.com

Honda has been working since 2017 to develop a technology that will help to create a collision-free society. The technology, called Safe Swarm, uses V2X communication to enable vehicles to communicate with other road users and share key information such as location, speed, and vehicle sensor data.

There are some obstacles, not the least of which is the need to outfit each vehicle with onboard artificial intelligence capabilities. The use of 5G helps move the AI capabilities from the vehicle to the MEC, reducing the need for AI onboard each vehicle.

"The ability to move computing power to the edge of our 5G network is an essential building block for autonomous and connected vehicles, helping cars to communicate with each other in near real-time and with sensors and cameras installed in streets and traffic lights," said Sanyogita Shamsunder, vice president of Technology Development and 5G Labs at Verizon. "When you consider that roughly 42,000 people were killed in car accidents last year and 94% of accidents are caused by human error, our new technologies including 5G and MEC can help drivers 'see' things before the human eye can register and react helping to prevent collisions and save lives."

Three safety scenarios have been explored as part of the testing:

  • Pedestrian Scenario - A pedestrian is crossing a street at an intersection. An approaching driver cannot see the pedestrian due to a building obstructing the view. Smart cameras mounted in the intersection relay information to MEC using the 5G network. Verizon's MEC and V2X software platforms detect the pedestrian and vehicle and determine the precise location of road users assisted by Verizon's Hyper Precise Location services. A visual warning message is then sent alerting the driver of the potential danger.
  • Emergency Vehicle Warning Scenari - A driver cannot see an approaching emergency vehicle and cannot hear its siren due to the high volume of in-vehicle audio. Verizon's MEC and V2X software receive a safety message from the emergency vehicle and send a warning message to nearby vehicles. The driver receives a visual warning.
  • Red Light Runner Scenario - A vehicle fails to stop at a red light. Using data from the smart cameras, MEC and V2X software detect the vehicle and send a red-light-runner visual warning message to other vehicles approaching the intersection.

You can watch the video of Honda and Verizon's Mcity tests at http://honda.us/5GResearch.

Honda isn't the only company exploring what 5G communication can offer. Pirelli has installed the tech in its tires and BMW recently updated its My BMW app to make it compatible with the new technology. Audi is working on similar technology out on the road in Virginia and Georgia.

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New driver assist technology is coming to the Lexus lineup later this year.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

New Lexus Teammate driver assistance technology will debut on the 2022 Lexus LS 500h later this year. Its availability is constrained to all-wheel drive models.

The technology was developed based on the Mobility Teammate Concept. This automated driving concept is unique to Toyota sough to enhance communication between drivers and cars, "enabling them to reach out to each other for mutual assistance". The concept sees cars and humans interacting and partnering rather than having automation take over for drivers. This approach allows drivers to enjoy the experience of driving but allowing the vehicle to take over some functions of driver's duties at times. In this way, the tech works as both guardian and chauffeur.

2022 Lexus The company's flagship sedan will get the technology first.Photo courtesy of Lexus

2022 Lexus LS 500h

On the 2022 Lexus 500h, Lexus Teammate will offer two functions: Advanced Drive and Advanced Park.

Advanced Drive is design to "accurately detect driving conditions to plan and execute acceleration, braking, and steering commands to maintain the vehicle within the lane, follow other vehicles, change lanes, navigate certain interchanges and traffic jams and overtake slower vehicles." It's a Level 2 functionality that "allows for driving on limited-access highways with partial hands-free, eyes-on-the-road operation".

This description makes it sound a lot like the suite of lane keeping, lane centering, and adaptive cruise control technology that Hyundai offers rather than true Level 3 technology that General Motors's Super Cruise delivers.

Lexus will show operation of the technology on a screen with information displayed like this.Photo courtesy of Lexus

Advanced Park operates similar to how the Genesis GV80's hands-free parking assist technology works. The Lexus tech automatically controls steering, acceleration, braking, and gear changes with parallel parking or backing into a parking space. It uses a combination of 360-degree sensing technologies and a bird's eye view display to perform the task while allowing the driver to monitor progress.

"We are very proud of Lexus Teammate, which is the culmination of five years of close collaboration between our technical centers in Japan and the US. We conducted simultaneous development and rigorous testing in both markets with the goal of achieving industry-leading advanced driver assistance functionality," says Derek Caveney, executive engineer at Toyota Motor North America's Integrated Vehicle Systems team.

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