Honda PCX Hybrid Test & Review, “Economical Doesn’t Mean Boring”

  • The Honda PCX Hybrid combines a petrol internal combustion engine and electric motor.

  • It is the first working consumer hybrid motorcycle.

  • The motor assists the engine during acceleration.

--Innity--

While electric motorcycles are being fast-tracked for the impending datelines in various countries, Malaysia is still slow in implementing what could be remotely classified as “initiatives.” But fear not, there is another solution such as the Honda PCX Hybrid, which is sold alongside its petrol-powered brethren.

What is a “hybrid”?

The word “hybrid” describes something which is a combination. Hence, in a hybrid vehicle, the powertrain combines the traditional internal combustion engine with an electric motor which is powered by a battery or batteries.

How does it work?

The acceleration phase is where an internal combustion engine uses the most fuel, as compared to when we cruise at a steady speed on the highway. Therefore, the electric motor assists the 150cc petrol engine during the acceleration phase.

  • An alternating current generator (ACG) kicks in when you twist the throttle. Since electric motors deliver highest torque at lower RPMs, it’s ideal in assisting the engine.
  • The ACG provides 36% extra torque and 15% more power compared to the petrol engine.
  • Its power output are 1.9 hp (1.4 kW) at 3,000 RPM and 4.3 Nm of torque at 3,000 RPM.
  • The ACG is powered by a 48V lithium-ion battery. It sits under the seat, so it takes up some of the storage space.

  • Slowing down and braking charges the battery.
  • A power drive unit (PDU) is essentially the ECU which determines when the ACG is needed.
  • There are three “power modes.” “D” is for normal riding and optimum fuel savings. “S” sacrifices fuel economy for power. A third undescribed power mode disables Idle Stop and keeps the engine running at idle.
  • An indicator in the LCD screen shows if the motor is providing boost or charging.

Riding the 2019 Honda PCX Hybrid

The PCX Hybrid has the unmistakable PCX profile, that’s for sure, which in turn looks like a baby NSS300. It’s long and low-slung, so climbing on gives the immediate “welcome home to PCX” feel.

But I was surprised to find more than one car driver remarking about how good the bike looks. I kid you not. One Honda City Hybrid driver was drawn in by the bike’s good looks, only to discover that it’s a hybrid. We talk for nearly 30 minutes, with me doing the presentation like a salesperson.

I’ve also had more than one car driver winding down their windows and pointing to the HYBRID badge, “The bike is really a hybrid?”

The bike starts up just like any other twist-and-go scooter, meaning that you don’t have to go through 10 other steps to get it going.

At idle, the hybrid drive indicator shows one bar in the charging zone. The engine is quiet and has very little vibration.

Twist the throttle and WHOOAA! The bike actually took off instantly unlike any 125-150cc scooter! The hybrid indicator swung all the way into the ASSIST zone and doesn’t let up until you hit about 60 km/h. And that was in the “soft D” mode.

The ASSIST bar goes away completely when you cruise at any speed, but twist the throttle again and the bar returns, giving the bike a slight kick.

During testing, we came across a rider on a Yamaha Y15ZR who seemed keen to nail the green light. I switched the mode to “S”, held on to the grips and waited for the lights. We both gunned it as soon as it went green and the PCX Hybrid actually jumped half a bike length in front of the Y15ZR.

It caught him by surprise, and he started to slip back everytime he went for his clutch to shift gears. However, he went ahead in the end due to his petrol engine’s top-end power. Yet, I could still follow at one bike length behind, causing him to keep craning his head to look behind.

See what we’ve said time and again? DO NOT mess with electric bikes or a hybrid in this case.

But that’s crazy riding for the bike. The electric assist is for cutting down fuel consumption, instead of committing it to traffic light GP racing.

And safe fuel it definitely did, to much disbelief among us. Ridden calmly in “D” mode, we saw 1.9 litres/100km. That’s not a typo. Upping the pace with moderately strong take offs saw consumption increased to 2.2 litres/100km. Finally, riding in “S” mode like a screaming baboon hell-bent on scaring Y15ZR riders (full-throttle acceleration, hard braking, followed by more full-throttle acceleration) yielded 2.6 litres/100km. That’s beyond amazing.

At 1.9 litres/100km, you could theoretically cover 500km from the 11-litre tank. In the real riding condition, however, it means that you only need to top off the tank once if you ride it from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. Or not at all, if you could really maintain a steady pace and disciplined right wrist.

But it isn’t all about riding sedately. The PCX Hybrid is also a nice handling scooter. Most scooters tend to “wag” the front wheel in high-speed corners, but the PCX Hybrid didn’t do so at all. Bumps and potholes are any scooter’s nemesis, but this bike dealt with them much better. Besides that, the bottom of the fairing may look low but it never once scraped the road despite us trying our best.

Conclusion

The 2019 Honda PCX Hybrid should allay anyone’s fear of electric bikes, simply because it isn’t exactly one. You get high fuel economy combined with superb acceleration, while not needing to charge it.

Some may find it unsuited to Kuala Lumpur traffic, given the highways but that’s a small issue if you ride intelligently. The biggest benefit of the fuel economy would be for those who live in cities such as Penang, Melaka, or Johor Bahru where the roads are short and narrow. I think I’d only need to refuel once every three weeks or so if I were riding it in Penang. Even so, we refueled only once during our 11 days of testing it in Kuala Lumpur.

Besides that, I got us thinking and wishing that other bikes of different models will go hybrid, too.

Latsly, in case you don’t already know, we really liked the Honda PCX Hybrid.

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