Honda's SAE Congress exhibit shows off wide range of technology

  • 06-Apr-2010 11:28 EDT
Honda's 2011 CR-Z sport hybrid coupe attempts to marry spirited handling and driving performance with enhanced fuel economy.

Honda will show off several recent examples of its wide-ranging technology at the upcoming SAE 2010 World Congress in Detroit. Highlighted at the corporate exhibit will be the 2011 CR-Z sport hybrid coupe, a single-wheel Segway-like device, what the company claims is the first dual-clutch transmission for motorcycles, as well as a new line of DIY tools that are powered by butane gas.

“The CR-Z is the latest iteration of Honda’s hybrid lineup,” according to David Iida, a corporate spokesperson. “It’s a unique vehicle that combines the sporty driving feel that many customers crave and the enhanced fuel economy that they would like to have. Up to now, people often felt that they had to compromise on the driving experience to get the fuel efficiency of a hybrid.”

The CR-Z marries the two, allowing owners to enjoy “a kind of responsible indulgence,” he said. The low-slung, wedge-shaped car, which was designed to resemble Honda’s classic Civic CR-X, is intended to appeal in part to younger “Generation Y-type” customers.

The new two-passenger coupe is powered by a 1.5-L i-VTEC engine and the company’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid-electric system, which together deliver a combined peak output of 122 hp (91 kW) at 6000 rpm and 128 lb·ft (174 N·m) at 1000-1500 rpm. When fitted with an available continuously variable transmission (CVT), the CR-Z gets 36 mpg city and 38 mpg highway EPA fuel economy, and 31 and 38, respectively, with the standard six-speed manual transmission.

The car features a three-mode drive system that allows motorists to select among sport, normal, and economy operation, Iida noted. The instrument panel includes an Eco-Assist indicator that prompts the driver to adopt ecologically sound behavior on the road.

Also highlighted at the corporate display will be an unusual personal mobility vehicle called the U3-X, which is a compact, omnidirectional electric unicycle that operates like the Segway people mover. The single-seat prototype fits comfortably between the rider's legs to provide free movement in all directions—forward, backward, side-to-side, and diagonally, Iida said.

The U3-X maintains its stability using balance control technology that was developed as part of robotics research at Honda’s Fundamental Technology Research Center in Wako, Saitama, Japan. When the rider shifts weight, an incline sensor detects the resulting tilt of the device, which in turn determines the rider's desired direction and speed. The system then uses precision control to return the unicycle to an upright position, thus achieving smooth and agile movement.

Powered by a lithium-ion battery that provides an hour of juice, the one-wheel-drive vehicle places the rider on roughly the same eye level as surrounding people. The 10-kg (22-lb) unit also folds up for easy portability.

Honda researchers are studying how people employ the novel device to help determine where such technology can find use in the future. Iida indicated, for example, that the “mobile stool” could find application in museums or office settings, or perhaps as the basis of a next-generation wheelchair. Honda personnel will demonstrate the U3-X on the show floor.

The company will also exhibit what it said is the world’s first dual-clutch transmission for motorcycles. “The new dual-clutch transmission delivers the precise acceleration control that is needed for aggressive sport riding thanks to its electronic control technology which helps ensure smooth, seamless gear changes,” said Millar Farewell of Honda’s Motorcycle Division.

Although dual-clutch transmissions tend to be bulky, the system employs twin concentric main shafts (one shaft runs inside the other hollow shaft), an inline clutch design, and densely packed hydraulics to achieve a compact design, he explained. The dual-clutch transmission is being introduced on Honda’s 2010 VFR1200F cycle and will show up later on other large-displacement models.

Last on Honda’s SAE Congress menu will be the first examples of a new line of user-friendly household tools that are powered by butane gas, the ENEPO home generator and the PIANTA garden tiller. Iida said that the new products, which are aimed at the Japanese market, allow DIYers to easily remove the butane gas canisters when they are not in use—for winter storage, for instance.

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