World’s first hybrid sports car in SA

Japanese car manufacturer Honda will be
launching the world’s first hybrid sports
coupé, the CR-Z in South Africa
(Image: www.honda.co.za)

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• Joeline Dabrowski
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Japanese car manufacturer Honda will be launching the world’s first hybrid sports coupé, the CR-Z, in South Africa later in 2010, the second hybrid vehicle to be launched in the country.

A hybrid model uses two or more sources to power it, usually fuel and a rechargeable battery. The combination helps the engine operate more efficiently, which minimises fuel use and makes the vehicle more environment-friendly.

The CR-Z’s low emissions and fuel efficiency translate to a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of only five litres/100km and a carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rating of 117g/km.

This is well below the 120g/km emissions tax threshold, which was first announced earlier in the year in the 2010/11 national budget (PDF, 363 KB). The regulation will come into effect in South Africa on 1 September 2010.

It stipulates that passenger vehicles will be taxed according to their certified CO2 emissions at R75 per g/km for each g/km above 120g/km.

The emissions tax is expected to encourage more South Africans to purchase energy-efficient and environment-friendly vehicles.

The arrival of the hybrid sports coupé is attracting particular attention because it’s expected to differ from the hybrid-vehicle stereotype, which is often associated with sluggish performance.

Honda spokesperson Joeline Dabrowski said: “The acceleration of the CR-Z feels almost turbo-like, but it’s accompanied by a sustained linearity and appetite for revs that contribute substantially to the car’s sporty character.”

Central to this hybrid sports coupé is a parallel hybrid drive-train with integrated motor assist (IMA). It combines a 1.5-litre VTEC petrol engine with a compact, high-torque electric motor.

The motor is located between the engine and the clutch, and contributes up to 78 Newton metres (Nm) of additional torque at low to medium engine speeds. The output of the parallel system is comparable with that of a conventional 1.8-litre petrol engine, offering 92kW of maximum power and 174Nm of torque. The IMA system provides direct torque, which ensures immediate response and supreme in-gear tractability.

The vehicle combines the environmental advantages of a clean and efficient hybrid drive-train and the sporty appeal of a six-speed manual gearbox, said Dabrowski. “The six-speed manual gearbox is a first for a hybrid car and significantly enhances driving experience and involvement.”

The car is operated using a three-mode drive system: normal, sport and economy. Each mode has a set of operating features that establish aspects such as throttle response, steering feel and IMA boost.

Set to turn heads

The CR-Z has a distinctly sleek and smooth exterior. It is a split-level two-door hatchback with a lower glassed area and a carved waistline.

On the inside it offers two robust front seats and a smaller integrated backseat bench that can be folded down to enhance cargo space. The dashboard is uniquely shaped to provide an effortless overview of the various controls and three-dimensional (3D) instruments for the driver.

The 3D instruments light up in one of three colours, which reflect the three driving modes. The CR-Z also has a multi-information display that shows a selection of trip-related data.

In keeping with its green appeal, it has an eco-assist bar that provides a graphic display of how economically the car is being driven ‒ and at the end of each trip an eco-score is given. The driver is then able to compare this with the score of the previous trip.

“The new CR-Z has all the hallmarks of a thoroughbred performance machine,” said Dabrowski.