2014 Honda Accord PHEV Driven

There's something a little unsettling about driving the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid in all-electric mode. Press the push-button start, and the dash lights up and tells you the car is ready to go. But if you're waiting for the reassuring grumble of an engine turning over, you're going to be waiting a long time. This Accord is riding the wave of the future, and where it's going, you don't need (as many) gas pumps.

The 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid hit dealer showrooms in January 2013. With an EPA rating of 115 mpg-e combined, it is one of the most efficient cars money can buy. The Accord PHEV owes that rating to its 6.7 kWh battery, which Honda says can give drivers up to 15 miles of all-electric range when fully charged.

Is fifteen miles of range enough?
By adopting a sedate driving style and sticking to city streets, where the Accord PHEV can make the most of its regenerative braking capability, it's fairly easy to drive ten or more miles without engaging the 137-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine (combined with the electric motor, net system output is 141 hp). Still, we eked out a full 15 miles of battery-powered travel just once during our weekend with the Accord.

Driving at high speeds and using climate control will significantly decrease electric driving range. And forget about full-throttle acceleration. The Accord Plug-in can travel in electric mode at speeds of up to 80 mph, but anything other than light acceleration will make the gasoline engine kick in to lend a hand.

For our purposes, the Accord PHEV proved perfect. Our short commute on city streets with a 240-volt charging port at the end of it makes us the ideal customer for a plug-in hybrid. The car charges in just an hour with a 240-volt outlet and three hours with a 120-volt outlet, so by lunchtime the Accord is topped up and ready to go. (The speed of battery charging is the real differentiator in plug-in hybrids and EVs, we've found.) Plug it in again after lunch for the drive home, and we've gone 24 hours and almost as many miles without a drop of gasoline.

Plug-in means flexibility
Left to its own devices, the Accord Plug-in automatically depletes its battery charge before switching to its gasoline engine. Yet drivers can also elect to save battery charge for later, say if they're driving fifty miles on the highway before ending up on city streets, which is a worthwhile feature.

We like plug-in hybrids because the gasoline engine offers flexibility for drivers who sometimes need more range than a fully electric car could offer, just as in our weekend trip to darkest Indiana. Yet the Accord Plug-in is by no means a family road trip car, as we discovered. Why? Two words: trunk space. Because of the big battery pack, there's hardly room for a couple of overnight bags back there, so forget about packing a volleyball net or a few bags of groceries. If you're traveling in the Accord PHEV, you'll be traveling light.

The 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in is good at what it does. It returns truly impressive gas mileage, drives well in the city and on the highway, and makes up for its short battery life with a very quick recharging time. Passengers found the ride smooth and were impressed by the car's standard technology, like a blind-spot camera that turns on when the right turn signal is engaged. The Accord PHEV suffers from slightly dorky "Look, I'm an EV!" styling -- those aerodynamic wheels may help fuel economy but they're not going to help you get a date -- but its crimes of fashion aren't egregious.

Better than the competition?
Good it may be, but how does the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in stack up to the competition? It's a fairly even fight. The Ford Fusion Energi gets up to 21 miles of electric range, and it's available with leather seating, while the Accord is only available with Honda's tacky, eco-friendly cloth seats. Both cars start right around $40,000. Both are eligible for federal tax credits -- $3,750 for the Fusion Energi and $3,334 for the Accord Plug-in. They'll both serve you well, if a plug-in hybrid is what you're looking for. What's not clear is just how many people are looking for them.

The Honda Accord Plug-in has sold just 200 copies in six months in the two states where it's available, California and New York. Honda says it's only planning to sell 1,100 of the vehicles in a two-year period, so don't expect to see them on every corner.

Annie White is an associate editor at Jean Knows Cars. Click here to find more of her writing.

2014 Honda Accord Plug-in

Base Price: $40,570 (including destination)
Engine: DOHC 2.0-liter I-4
Electric Motor: AC Synchronous Permanent-magnet, 124 kW
Horsepower: 141 @ 6200 RPM (system net)
Electric Range: 15 miles
Transmission: CVT
Drive: front-wheel
Cargo Capacity: 8.6 cu ft
Curb Weight: 3799
EPA Rating: 47/46 city/highway (gasoline engine only)
PHEV Guy
I have the 2014 PHEV Accord and have had it for just over a year now.  It's a great driving car (not much different than the 4DR Accord).  The batteries cut the size of the trunk in 1/2, and for that you only get about 8 miles of electric driving in climates where the temperature is under 40 degrees, and when up above 50, the full charge gives you about 13 miles of electric driving.  In pure hybrid mode, I find the car gets under 40 MPG.  The car doesn't work as advertised on the technological front, specifically it has advertised features such as a climate control feature that is, in theory, supposed to heat or cool the car via the HONDA PHEV website by wirelessly transmitting the initiate climate control command from a web enabled computer or smart phone using a Honda App.  This feature works about 50% of the time, which is frustrating, particularly since this vehicle cannot be used in conjunction with a commercially available auto start at this time.  While Honda doesn't seem to put much effort into supporting this vehicle, hopefully they will figure out a way to at least double the pure electric mileage without taking up more of the trunk space and iron out the other bugs I've described above in future iterations of this vehicle.  I get the sense in talking to people in Honda Customer Service that this vehicle isn't a serious pursuit for them, so it wouldn't surprise me if they drop the PHEV and revisit it again in a few years when battery technology improves and their resolve to create a better PHEV emerges.
naturalhormone@yahoo.com
The Chevy Volt PHEV can be purchased now for $35K (GM recently lowered the price $5K) with $7.5K rebate for an out the door price of $28K. It will travel 40 miles per charge with its 16.5kWhr battery before switching to gasoline hybrid mode. The ride on the Volt is very comfortable and it has the highest consumer satisfaction rating of any car sold in the United States. Why does Automobile not list the Volt as competition for the Accord PHEV? The out the door price on the Honda Accord after the rebate is still about $38K which is much more expensive than the Volt and that is why the Volt even outsells the mighty exploding Tesla.
David Lievense
Curious that the comparable models doesn't include the Chevy Volt which is the best selling plugin car and was the first to bring this extended range EV option to market.  Maybe it's because the Volt is $5K cheaper, gives over twice the range and more trunk space and they didn't want to make the Accord look bad?
slimak
Does it look better in real-life than it does in the photos?  The interior isn't bad...but that exterior isn't exactly what I'd call elegant.  
brady33
As I read this article, I kept thinking about how much practicality is removed from this car when you consider all the tradeoffs of the EV feature and the premium price.  I have to remind myself that Honda isn't doing this to sell the "Ultimate Accord."  They're doing this as a demonstration of progress and advancement in technology on what is - normally - a very practical car.  In that light, I get it and can say they've done a good job overall, even if it does look "dorky."  It would be very interesting to see what real-world MPG is like doing stuff that the high-volume Accords do, even if only 1,100 copies will be sold.
carysr
I have one with 7,000 miles on it. I can get up to 22 miles on electric with sufficient downhill. Straight - no problem getting 15 miles with adaptive cruise control on. Trunk space is not as big a problem as it seems. There's another almost 4 cubic feet of it if you take out the styrofoam spacer for the charger cord and air compressor in the spare tire compartment (it doesn't come with a spare). You can easily fit a carry-on suitcase and other stuff in there, plus a full sized suitcase, another carry-on and miscellaneous things in the trunk. As for the charge time, I use a 240 volt Level 2 charging station at home. It takes exactly one-half hour to charge. At public stations, it takes no more than 35 minutes. On 110 it takes almost 3 hours for a full charge. The only thing I hate about the car is something most cars these days suffer from: the inability to meaningfully use the NAV system while driving. I loved my Acuras' NAV systems for trusting us not to crash while finding a location and driving. However, the newest Acuras use the exact same system, and other cars are similar, so that's not really a negative for most people.
sbdude
"But if you're waiting for the reassuring grumble of an engine turning over, you're going to be waiting a long time."You mean like a Prius?   At this point, and no offense meant here, I think we're all used to the idea of a hybrid and a green light on the dash.
dbock1
Why is there no picture of the small trunk?
Luc4
@PHEV Guy I get actually typically around 18 miles but clearly temperature has big effect (at freezing temperatures certainly it will drop to around 13 miles for me). That said I do accelerate slow in EV mode which has huge impact. I switch out of EV for faster acceleration and speeds. Regardless this car works better in CA warm temperatures.I never got ever below 40 mpg but I could see that happen in hybrid mode for very short trips in cold temperatures. On average in pure hybrid mode I get at least 50 mpg (for 50 mile commute with EV my range is 65-90 mpg and higher if there's more stop & go conditions).
Yes website communication to car isn't very reliable (and therefore neither is app).

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