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Honda CRZ Sport Hybrid

Honda CRZ Sport Hybrid : Image http://bit.ly/1GaW5HD
The concept of a sports coupe with a 6 speed manual transmission and a lithium-ion hybrid drivetrain made by Honda is just too cool to pass up. The Lease on my 2013 Leaf S will end on Nov 11th of this year, and it will be replaced by a Honda CRZ.... here is why..... 

CVT Everything Today

All of our current vehicles, including our scooter, are automatic. This is great for short city trips, and we live in an urban area, but it is also boring in ways that the automate shifting takes something away the driving fun of driving.

A History of Manual Transmissions

My first three vehicles, a 1985 Nissan 200SX, a 1992 Nissan 240SX type X, and my 1995 Toyota Celica 1.8 were all 5 speed manual vehicles. My previous two motorcycles, a 1999 Honda F4 and a 2009 Suzuki GSX-R600 were also manual.

CVT x2 + 1spd 

Today Meg and I operate a 2005 Prius (CVT), a 2013 Honda PCX (CVT) and a 2013 Nissan Leaf (1 speed electric), so no shifting is required for driving. It might seem like moving backwards while going forward to go back to a manual transmission, but there is something special about being part of the power delivery system in a very intimate way that is distinctly missing from all of this automatic vehicle action. 

Autopilot Future

All of this automatic shifting reminds me of the future, when cars will have autopilot as a standard feature. That is not a bad thing, it makes commuting in traffic super easy, but it also takes something special away from driving. Deep down I long to drive a manual again, but not one that returns 26mpg's on average. The Honda CRZ exists as the sole example of a sporty coupe hybrid with a manual transmission. This combined with its reasonable price means that the CRZ is going to be the next addition to our vehicle fleet. I have to eat crow about my earlier words, I promised to make the next vehicle in our fleet electric. After previewing the Nissan Leaf for more than a year, I know that electric vehicles in my price range are not ready yet. In 10 more years we will take another look at the EV's of the future. Things are going to become really interesting in the automotive sector over the next 10 years, especially after 2018. 

40MPG is very 2010

2010 is actually when I started to notice the CRZ's out on the roads. I have been a fan of the CRZ ever since, and started mentioning my interest in them to Meg when we were first dating. I read about the CRZ and watched some youtube videos about them, and the $20k base price seemed like a great deal. At this time Meg had another vehicle, and I had Astro the Prius, so I did not see a need for another vehicle. 36-44MPG, the real world fuelly averages for the CRZ also did not seem all that impressive for its size, our larger 2005 Prius averages 46MPG (over the last 100K miles). Actually, outside of the Prius family from Toyota, its hard to find any vehicle that reliably returns 40+ MPG's in the real world.

Super Fuel Efficient is Possible

The VW XL1 is perhaps the only example I can think of that actually does significantly better than 40MPG. VW is only going to build 250 of them, and the $90+k price for a tiny, superlight and arguably uncomfortable coupe that gets 250MPG. I am not sure the fuel savings or limited production are going to make much of a difference in the world, save for the cultural impacts on technology of showing the public a real vehicle that gets more than 200 miles per gallon. The Plug in Prius and Chevy Volt both seem to realize about 65MPG in the real world according to user fuel statistics for their vehicles on fuelly. At more than $30K, the Plug-in Prius and Volt are outside of the price range that Meg and I are interested in spending on a car. There is one $35K car that I find interesting enough, oddly it is sold by Lexus of America.

The Lexus CT200h 

The idea of a sport hybrid is not unique to the CRZ, the Lexus CT200h is another one of my favorite vehicles. Meg likes the CT200h but would like me to rebadge it with a Toyota emblem, she sees the Lexus badge as a sign of over-priced luxury cars, and were it not for the $35k out the door base price of the CT200h, I would agree. At nearly half the price, the $24K CRZ is much less expensive, sportier, returns similar fuel economy, and is cooler looking. I believe that I will be able to get 40MPG's on average in the CRZ, something the Fuelly statistics speak too (http://www.fuelly.com/car/honda/cr-z). Also of note is that the manual version of the CRZ has more power than the CVT version, while also weighing less. The 2013 and later revisions of the CRZ with the manual are the most powerful :) 

A Manual with Meg

I will have to teach Meg how to drive manual if she is to make use of the CRZ as a pilot, but that is not a bad thing these days because we live together. I tried to teach Meg how to drive a manual Honda Civic when her and I were first dating, but I could not commit enough time to the effort, we lived too far apart and could not manage to coordinate a well guided learning program for manual transmission driving. Today and in the future, we will easily be able to have a driving school together, for we do not have children other than Jasmine the Kitty, and she is able to take care of her self much better than a human child, especially young children, something that often burdens other young couples, a system of problems that Meg and I get to enjoy avoiding in our choice not to become parents of more people. Meg is not exactly impressed with 40MPG's, she wants to get something that gets better than 50MPG's on average. The Toyota Prius C is the only thing I can think of that actually consistently returns better than 50MPG's, and it is not sporty, does not come with a manual tranny option, and has softer vehicle dynamics. The CRZ is more "fun" and less "peak fuel economy", we will likely stick to using Astro for road trips longer than 200miles, given Astro's superlative rear cargo volume. The CRZ will be used for commuting, and on that note, I am not complete set on getting a manual tranny. If not a manual though, it would make more sense to get a Prius C. Actually comparing the two vehicles will be an excellent idea, and the subject of further inquiry in the future, especially given that the Prius C will get an Update, and the CRZ will be discontinued in its current form.

Children vs Nicer Cars

On the note about children, how in the crap does adding another human being to earths surface improve anything for anyone that is alive now or in the future? We already have 7 billion people living at the same time, and it feels really crowded and expensive already. Saving more than $800,000 that we would have spent if we had children, we will have plenty of extra money for sport hybrid cars and other fun that many young couples have to abstain from. The coupe is not exactly a family friendly car, so only DINK's like us can make sober use of such a thing as a vehicle :) DINK's are dual income no kid's families, typically yuppies when the income of one of the two DINK's is 2x the income of the other, and where the lesser income is sufficient to cover 55% of the overall home overhead expenses. 

End of the Leaf Lease

Two years and about $7500 lighter, the Lease on the Leaf will have been a really solid review of 2011 era- affordable EV technology. I have already logged in about 5000 miles on the Leaf and I will summarize my view of it by saying this. 

Leaf 4 The City

The Leaf is an ideal short distance commuter vehicle. The Base model comes very well equipped, with heated seats front and rear, blue-tooth for the phone, and a smart key system to access the vehicle. The instant torque output of the electric drive is almost like a roller coaster, and makes stop and go traffic and absolute joy from a user input perspective. The handling is nice and flat and well composed and the inside is well insulated against exterior noises. It makes a futuristic electric drive sound that is unique when you give it pedal. 

Good @ Short Highway Trips

On the highway the Leaf S cruises easily at 60 or 70 MPG, but as you approach the top speed of 93, you can feel the power levels drop off entirely. Perfectly powerful enough for legal cruising speeds, its the battery drain rate a free speeds that will really slow one down. To be fair the Leaf was not designed to be a highway commuter vehicle, it was designed to be used in and around and between cities in urban areas. 

Single Charge Range May Vary

Exploring the single charge range was something I did in detail in an earlier post, but lets just say you can get anywhere from 45 to 126 miles per charge, depending on your driving route, your driving style, and your average speed. The Leaf's peak efficiency is achieved on level ground at 16 mph. Using the climate control saps your range by 10mi easily, and this is true of even defrosting the windows. I have never been more judicious with the use of a vehicles HVAC system before.

Lost Time Charge Somewhere Special

The real problem with the Leaf S is not really a problem, it is more over just a time waster for me because I live in an area where I cannot charge the Leaf where it spends most of its time parked. I live in a multi-story building with underground parking, and with two exceptions, no electrical outlets to plug into. I am able to charge my Leaf at work with an extension cord on one day per week when doing so is practical, but even camped on the extension cord for 9 hours, it only picks up 5 miles per hour of charge, or 45mile of range. Even using the Level 2 charger, the Leaf S only absorbs 16 miles per hour. In many instances this might be perfectly useful, but in practice, for my use case, it ends up wasting time, time that I cannot buy back, and time that can be used for other things, like writing blog postings :P The real problem with the base model Leaf is the lack of electrical outlets where I park it most of the time. I wrote about this issue in another earlier posting.

Where are the Outlets

The lack of electrical outlets where people park their cars most of the time is a major factor limiting the wide spread adoption of 100mi range EV's today. The wrapped in tax rebate made the Leaf lease such a great deal, I ended up choosing to Lease it, to ultimately reduce the number of short trips placed on Astro the Prius. I work only 4mi away from where I live, and driving that route in Astro was insufficient to even warm up his engine completely. The return trip home is even lighter, due to the topography, so the use of Astro the Prius on my commuting route was abusive to him. The Leaf on the other hand excels on short trips. For my current commuting needs, no other vehicle makes more sense than the Nissan Leaf S. Meg and I plan on moving in the future, possibly far away from where we work today, and we will likely end up driving more. The Leaf is simply not appropriate for our likely future use cases, especially not 5 or 10 or 15 years out. If I purchased the Leaf, I would be committing to keeping a super ultra short commute, and this would limit our options in the future. Moving forward in the near future, we are adding another hybrid to our fleet, a sport hybrid with a manual transmission, made by Honda in Japan. 

Lessons Learned

Launched in 2010, the CRZ has been well refined by now. Usually Automakers have a a lot of glitches to work out in the first year after launch, but later model years of a given model tend to have these issues worked out in their production. Sometimes however, the goal of the ongoing refinement of a model boils down to improving the margin of profit on each unit for the automaker. Such was the case with the second generation Toyota Prius. 

After the first two years 2004-5, Toyota pushed their engineers to optimize for less glue, less plastic, less waste, lower costs, and better yields. Read around online and you will find horror stories of people with 2007-2009 model year Prius's who suffered from wallet terrorism when their late revision Prii had water damage in some critical wiring harnesses. 

I learned about this from a random member of the Public, who was driving a 2014 gold colored Toyota Prius. I asked him about his Prius and he unloaded like it was an interview with Barbara Walters about the sage of water electrical harness horror that followed when the front cowell between the front window and hood, leaked water near the seam in the middle where two half of the cowell are joined with adhesive, the water dripping down onto the main electrical control harness that connects to the VCM module. 

The VCM in the Prius is a fairly complex embedded micro-computer, similar to the PLC's that control industrial automation equipment, the VCM is the electronic brains in a car, and water damage to the wiring harness on the Prius's VCM apparently wreaks havoc on the overall electrical system, tanking the vehicle. I found thousands of examples of these horror stories online, especially in instances where the Prius was exposed to a flood high enough to fish tank the electrical system while it was on.

2015 Honda CRZ Stats 

$24,000 est 

39MPG average from real world data 

1.5 liter 4cyl Alloy Engine with IMA 

130HP @ 6000RPM 
140ft.lb. Torque from 1000-2000RPM 

6 speed manual 

15kw 144v Lithium Ion Battery 

2700lbs 






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