By on November 30, 2009

DI not in our dreams

Last week, in our post on Hyundai’s new DI (Direct Injection) Theta II engine, we questioned Honda’s long-standing engine technology leadership. We also assumed (wrongly) that they would be joining the DI club shortly, given the advantages DI technology affords. Turns out we weren’t the only ones wondering, except that in the case of auto, motor und sport, they weren’t asking it rhetorically, but the person in the know: Honda CEO Takanobu Ito. In an interview with Europe’s leading car magazine (print edition), Ito gave DI a pass with his answer to the question: “Honda was once the leader with its internal combustion engines. Did your competitors overtake you with gasoline Direct Injection?” In classic corporate speak, rather than directly acknowledge DI or his competitors, Ito had this to say:

We have limited resources, and we are concentrating on Hybrids. We want to build the optimal engines for hybrids. And if we’re going to talk about hybrids, we have to talk about the costs for the consumer. Hybrids are very expensive. The fact that our hybrids (Insight) are selling so well in Japan is because of government incentives.

Well, the part about why the Insight is selling well in Japan was refreshingly candid, given its poor sales in the US versus the Prius. Ito goes on to share the dilemma facing Honda (and presumably others) in dealing with tightening efficiency demands and expectations:

One option would be to make cars smaller and lighter. But the consumer will not accept any compromises in comfort. So given the demands to reduce CO emissions and the expectations of continued gas price increases, adopting hybrid technology (further) is simply easier.

Just one problem with that, as we see it: why is Hyundai implementing both DI and hybrid technology?

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32 Comments on “Honda On Direct Injection: Don’t Wait For It; We Have Other Priorities...”


  • avatar
    PeregrineFalcon

    Allow me to translate from Corporate-ese …

    “We here at Honda are confident that the brand-loyal masses will continue to buy our vehicles, rather than considering a Korean vehicle, simply upon the merit of the more upright stance of our letter ‘H’. We see no need to spend more money when it won’t net us any gain. If our marketshare starts slipping noticeably, we might bother with this, but until then, please continue buying our product.”

  • avatar
    TR4

    The 10% economy gain of DI is likely overstated…GM says it’s a 3% bsfc improvement.  This is probably of more interest to those who worry about CAFE numbers than the individual consumer.   See:
    http://news.hspn.com/articles/330/1/2008-GM-36-Liter-VVT-Engine-With-Direct-Injection/Page1.html

  • avatar
    rnc

    I think his comment about limited resources isn’t corporate speak.  alot of people make the mistake of calling Honda part of the J3, but in reality most of Honda’s sales and profits come from NA and at the current exchange rates thier resources probably are very limited without taking the quality axe to thier products in the same manner as Toyota.  Sell on reputation and wait (hope) for better days (that should last them about two generations)

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Forget DI, how about a Honda engine with some torque?

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      I think you are confused as to what torque is.  I think you mean down low torque (1-2k RPM) like in a big displacement engines.  Honda’s smaller engines actually make decent torque but it is at a different RPM altogether from large low revving engines.  Whereas, Honda’s little 4 bangers normally make their best torque higher in the rpm range which means you have to rev them up.  If you tried to do this in a normal large torquey engines (Corvette engines aside) they can’t rev that high and will likely blow a rod very quickly if you rev above 6k+ RPM regularly.
      So to revise your question…How about a Honda engine that makes some low end torque like a large displacement engine?  My answer would be to drive a Honda with their 3.5+ v6 engines.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        The new Civic had 128 ft/lbs at 4300rpm where Cavalier has 150 and those aer how old? No torque compared to others in it’s class now either.

        The S2000 made all it’s hp up top and had very little torque, 162 ft/lbs. A Neon based SRT4 was just as quick in the 1/4 mile.

        I think Dave was actually talking about torque in general at any rpm range.

  • avatar
    MBella

    The biggest gain with DI is under a no load condition, and in emmisions.  Honda isn’t using it, because it’s expensive and according to the chart in the previous article not neccessary.  Honda’s motor, launched in 2008, in the Accord EX puts out 190HP and 162 lb-ft of torque.  The 2011 Hyundai motor puts out 200HP and 186lb-ft. Who  knows where the next Honda motor will be?

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      You’re referring to the earlier incarnation of DI, which included stratified charge of a super-lean mixture under low-load and no-load conditions. That has largely been abandoned (see my earlier post) due to problems and the outcomes not meeting expectations .

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      So then, the gain would be mostly in emmisions only.  The Honda motor already puts out more power than GMs DI version, and about the same amount of torque.

    • 0 avatar
      mpresley

      Paul Niedermeyer:  You’re referring to the earlier incarnation of DI, which included stratified charge of a super-lean mixture under low-load and no-load conditions. That has largely been abandoned…

      Is not the VW/Audi TFSI a stratified DI?  If so, how can the technology be considered abandoned?  Any clarification is helpful.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    DI requires more expensive components like higher pressure fuel pump, special fuwl lines and injectors and the result of this is more injector noise and greater possibility of failure. The rewards are more power and torque, lower emissions and slight fuel economy gains. Hondas engines are already noted for better than average power ratings, there mileage is competitive and there emissions levels are class competitive for the unseen future so I can understand that they are going to pass on DI for the moment due to the downturn of the economy. The Asian brands aren’t as infallible as everyone assumes.

  • avatar
    jaje

    I think Honda has missed out on its typical evolution of its engines.  Too much focused on Hybrids and Fuel Cells it has forgotten it was one of the best engine makers b/c it constantly improved its bread and butter engines over their lifetime.  It seems that Honda has rested on its laurels and really held back on improving their standard engines.
     
    I see little effect of focusing on Hybrid engines when in the overall scheme of things – making their cars get 2-3 mpg better overall will more than offset the lack of having a hybrid altogether.  Prius / Insight are simply unneeded if we’d just take our standard cars and start implementing cheaper and smaller improvements on every car they make.  Such as: stop / start mode at traffic lights (same as what GM did with their mild hybrids) and have a/c running electrically; direct injection mode to get overall better mileage city and highway; electrically actuated valves – eliminate the need for cams, rockers, tappets, timing belts, complex valve timing schemes, etc.; technologies such as HCCI or just plain use diesel engines – the clean diesels are here and so is the low sulfur fuel; and funny as it sounds steam engine generators on internal combustible engines – 80% of the total energy expended in burning gasoline in the most modern ICE engines is still heat!

    • 0 avatar

      You are concerned about the actual fuel economy, whereas the DI and such is about government regulation. Start-stop engine won’t help your CAFE numbers, you know.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      It seems that Honda has rested on its laurels and really held back on improving their standard engines.
      I said something similar (Re: the Hyundai engine article) and someone wanted to send a ninja after me :-)
      Otherwise, a lot of your suggestions seems to require a complete redesign of the ICE as we know it. Eliminating valves and cams have been a dream of some since the 1980s. We will probably get there, incrementally, but a wholesale implementation seems a ways a way.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Are you claiming that the CAFE cycle doesn’t include a period of standstill?  Unexpected but to lazy to look it up

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    I’ve been reading too many articles about Chrysler and GM, I thought this was about direct injection of capitol.  What a relief to find you were talking about fuel.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Gas DI/FSI is a nightmare here in Brazil due to bad fuel issues. Talk to any garage owner about RS6 issues…
    Even HPDI diesels have problems too, whereas the common-rail and old-school low pressure diesels survive with [almost] anything that’s fed to them.
    I have seen some Q7 adapted with Racor filter separators used for speedboats, but the guys with DI gas engine can’t do anything with the corrosive effect of alcohol and water and who knows what else is in the gasoline.
     

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Hyundai has a RWD luxury car, Honda doesn’t.

    Hyundai has a turbo sports car (also RWD), Honda doesn’t.

    Now direct injection.

    Direct injection may not have much to offer naturally aspired engines, but it is huge for turbo engines, which, along with hybrid drivetrains, are key to higher fuel efficiency.

  • avatar

    say it ain’t so, Ito

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Honda correctly predicts that the ICE era is concluding (although it would not be PC for them to actually state that) and that they’d better get ready for electric power.

  • avatar
    MrDot

    So Honda gets to be the first one to fall to Hyundai.  The smaller and weaker ones go first.

  • avatar
    Hank

    As if DI would help the Crosstour anyway…d’oh!  Saw one today and it’s even worse in 3-D.
     

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    i think these technologies are dealed out piece meal when sales flag or they introduce a Series 2
    it will come but right now Honda is like the Japanese BMW… the morons will buy it because it’s a Honda…

  • avatar
    CamaroKid

    “We have limited resources, and we are concentrating on Hybrids. We want to build the optimal engines for hybrids.”

    Am I the only one to notice that statement makes no sense.

    If you are focused on Hybrids and the most efficient car possible, would that not include the most efficient supporting ICE possible?

    I guess the real answer to the question:
    Did your competitors overtake you with gasoline Direct Injection?

    Was…
    Yes, they sure did.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    There’s an IP royalty to pay on any Gasoline Direct Injection technology, either to Orbital Engine Company (of Australia) or other players.  I’m not particularly familiar with on all the IP licensing entities for this tech. It must be more than a few tens of dollars however.
     
    For example, I believe Orbital have a pretty tough license regime which equates to a % of each vehicle sold. Honda might not enjoy that in the current climate.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    I don’t find this to be too big of a shock. Honda hung on to carburetors a lot longer than some of their competition – most of the Detroit branded vehicles (with the exception of the old hairy-chested beast known as the Jeep Grand Wagoneer) had all switched to some form of fuel injection by the mid to late ’80’s, but several Hondas had carbs into 1990/91.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Maybe the “other priorities” he’s talking about involve hiring designers who can make an attractive grill rather than a “shield”. Once they manage to accomplish that, maybe buyers who walked away holding their noses will consider their cars again. Then regardless of how weak the torque is at low RPM (or high RPM) compared to the competition, they might get an incremental gain in sales without spending anything on the mechanical bits at all.

  • avatar
    genetuck

    “There’s an IP royalty to pay on any Gasoline Direct Injection technology, either to Orbital Engine Company (of Australia) or other players. ”
    I don’t think there is a royalty on the high-pressure system used in all production DI models now.  Those inject fuel only.  The lower pressure  Orbital system injects fuel with compressed air, which expands and breaks up the fuel into smaller droplets (8-microns).   I think the royalty charged by Orbital is based on the size of the engine.  A wild guess for an auto size engine is $50.  I think Orbital charges about $8 to $10 for the scooters and small motorcycles that use its system, and more for the outboard engines (Mercury, Tohatsu, Nissan).  Saab was all set to put out a car with the Orbital system several years ago, but GM bought out Saab and canceled the plans.

  • avatar
    lenoardtt

    Honda already has their own GDI engines in the Japan market Stream. So they have the technology and they can bring it out anytime they want – but if they think that they can do without GDI, then we’ll just wait and see, since they can pretty much do lean burn with iVTEC already.

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