It’s not only Indians who are obsessed with fuel economy. The global automotive industry is finding solutions since a long time but the approach is different. In India, the easy and affordable answer is buying a small efficient car. While this is a simple solution, it restricts you from a large range of cars in higher segments, just because the running costs are too high. But what if bigger cars could be as efficient?
A step above microcars, or entry-level hatchbacks as we know it, is the premium hatchback. Let’s take the example of the Honda Jazz Sports Hybrid and the dual-clutch transmission displayed by Schaeffler at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. Known as the Fit Hybrid in Japan, the Jazz Hybrid is powered by a 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine and an electric motor mated to Honda’s 7-speed i-DCD transmission. The i-DCD is nothing but a dry double clutch transmission, but the way it works is what’s clicking for Honda.
The double clutch system is provided by global components major, Schaeffler. The gearbox engages the electric motor at standstill and take-off to drive the car. At low speeds the electric motor stays engaged but as you accelerate harder, the DCT engages the petrol engine and regenerates the electric motor. Once you are cruising, the electric motor engages again and under hard acceleration, both the units work together. When you are cruising at high speeds or decelerating, the petrol engine is powering the car and the electric motor is regenerating power.
Honda has updated its hybrid technology after 13 years from the IMA Hybrid system to the Sport Hybrid i-DCD system. The Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system as the name suggests, works only when the petrol motor runs and not independently. As a result of the more effective electric motor in the new Jazz, the car is 35 percent more economical than it’s predecessor. The Jazz is the first car in the Honda line-up to get this new system and with the help of Schaeffler’s double-clutch system, has gone on to become the most fuel efficient hybrid car in Japan with a fuel economy figure of 36.4kpl.
The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) in the outgoing Jazz is a highly popular gearbox option in Japan. CVTs may be convenient but are noisy and have an unpleasant ‘rubber band’ effect. So with the new Jazz, Honda has replaced it with a DCT gearbox. The Jazz is the first car in its segment to feature a DCT transmission and although DCTs are more expensive than CVTs, 35 percent more efficiency more than makes up for it.
The bad news is that the new Jazz is expected to come to India with a 1.2-litre engine and not the 1.5-litre mill this DCT gearbox is mated too. Also, hybrids, aren’t popular in India as they are brought to the country as CBUs and as a result, it is highly improbable that the Jazz Sports Hybrid will make it to our shores. But five years down the line with the next generation cars, we might well be open to expanding our search criteria for a fuel efficient car.