With vehicles on road constantly increasing, the most pressing challenges faced by car manufacturers around the globe is to offer vehicles that can deliver excellent fuel economy and power while maintaining cleaner emission norms and a comfortable drive. For the most part, the preference has been on improving petrol engines. However, owing to its advantages with better fuel economy and lower running costs, diesel engines have been in steady demand by many customers.
With the immense popularity of diesel engines, it was perplexing why Honda, a world leader in petrol engines, had not developed a Honda diesel engine for the Indian market. Honda had shied away from making diesel units for long, and had always chosen to play by its strength of producing world class VTEC engines. Honda finally decided to offer a diesel engine with their Earth Dreams Technology and built an engine that was lighter, more efficient, powerful and refined. The result was Honda’s revolutionary 1.6 litre i-DTEC diesel engine that made its way into India as the 1.5 litre i-DTEC diesel engine back in 2013.
With the i-DTEC diesel engine, Honda surprised the world with its impeccable capabilities of innovation and development. With more power, efficiency and refinement, the i-DTEC engine was and continues to be one of the most futuristic and unconventional diesel units to ever enter the Indian market. And in this article, we will have a look at what makes the i-DTEC engine a masterpiece of engineering.
The Vision behind i-DTEC
Honda is the world’s largest manufacturer of petrol engines around the globe. For years, the brand has associated itself with making the best and the most advanced petrol engines. From its revolutionary VTEC petrol engines to the present day i-VTECs, Honda is a name that is synonymous with engine reliability and efficiency. But for a brand that leads engine innovation, staying away from diesel wasn’t feasible for long. With sky-rocketing prices of petrol worldwide, Honda set itself the task of developing an innovative and futuristic diesel engine.
The vision was crystallized as Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology. Unveiled in 2011, Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology was a set of technical enhancements that were envisioned to enhance vehicle performance through increasing its horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency. Through this technology, Honda planned to build a brand new series of engines including a light-weight diesel engine, a two-motor hybrid system, and an electric powertrain for EV.
The list of goals seemed quite ambitious, but with Honda’s commitment for excellence, the company achieved its first milestone in 2013 when Honda launched its first 1.6 litre i-DTEC Earth Dreams diesel engine, which later made its way to India as the 1.5 litre i-DTEC engine on the Honda Amaze diesel in 2013. Since then Honda’s i-DTEC engines have proven to be a futuristic and remarkable piece of engineering that can not only deliver power packed performance but also an impressive mileage.
i-DTEC: The Pinnacle of Innovation
As one of India’s most fuel efficient engines, Honda’s i-DTEC engines have completely redefined the way the world used to look at the diesel burners. With Honda’s innovation and Earth Dream Technology, the company has achieved what others could never, a diesel engine that is not only powerful but also efficient. And to really understand the true nature of innovation that Honda has put in, it is important to know how a basic diesel engine functions and how it is different from its petrol counterpart.
The basic difference between a petrol and diesel engine is that in a diesel engine, the fuel is sprayed into the combustion chambers through fuel injector nozzles just when the air in each chamber has been placed under such great pressure that it’s hot enough to ignite the fuel spontaneously. Unlike petrol units, diesel engines compress air at a much greater level, which is then spontaneously ignited via fuel injectors. The level of fuel injected depends on how much power the driver needs. Now that we know how diesel engines are fundamentally distinct from their petrol counterpart let us look at what gives Honda’s i-DTEC engines their innovative stance.
The Lightest Diesel Units in their class
The higher compression ratio in diesel engines mandates that the engine is constructed of heavier materials. This translates to heavier and bulkier engines than petrol engines. With Honda’s i-DTEC technology, Honda built the lightest diesel engines in their class. According to Honda, this is achieved by redesigning all the individual components to minimize their weight and size while also reducing the thickness of the cylinder walls to 8mm.
The Honda i-DTEC engines employ an open deck aluminium block that is designed using computer simulation to ensure precise construction of the lightweight compact engines. Additionally, the i-DTEC diesel engine has also been equipped with a new high strength nitride crankshaft that delivers higher strength, while lowering weight. The engine also utilizes lighter pistons as well as connecting rods to keep the weight as low as possible.
Lower Mechanical Friction and Power Loss
Another thing which makes Honda’s i-DTEC makes a class apart is its reduced mechanical friction and power loss. Honda claims that it has worked hard at reducing the mechanical friction of the i-DTEC engines by using a shorter and thinner piston skirt, which has around 40 per cent less mechanical friction at 1500rpm than conventional diesel engines. This gives the i-DTEC units their fuel efficiency and smoothness. Owing to this combined weight reduction, Honda claims a better acceleration in addition to higher fuel-efficiency. The overall reduction in mechanical friction is to such an extent that Honda claims the diesel unit to be on par with petrol engines of similar displacement on this parameter.
Efficient airflow and fuel injection systems
By using a Bosch solenoid injection system, the i-DTEC diesel engines are capable of operating at a pressure of 1600 bar. This implies that the fuel is injected at a faster rate, along with finer atomization of the fuel spray. As a result, the fuel mixes more efficiently with the air, leading to a cleaner and more efficient mixture. The engine for India also uses three injections per stroke, one pre and one post. All of this adds to an engine that makes 100 PS of power and mileage up to 25.8 kmpl, which is one of the highest in its segment.
Low Viscosity Engine Oil and Cooling Systems
Unlike other diesel engines, the cooling system in the i-DTEC units has also been modified to offer better cooling despite a smaller size. Owing to a specially designed circulation route, water requirement has been reduced significantly and hence the water pump too has been made smaller. This directly translates into higher fuel-efficiency. Additionally, to complement the engine’s impeccable engineering, Honda has also developed new ultra low viscosity engine oil. This specially developed oil is claimed to enhance fuel-efficiency and improve engine reliability.
Thus, with a culmination of innovation, design and performance, Honda has given the country the most powerful and fuel efficient diesel unit ever.
i-DTEC Diesel Engines on Indian Roads
The i-DTEC diesel innovation brought by Honda has not only revolutionized diesel engines around the globe but has also helped Honda become one of the most popular automobile manufacturers in India. The journey of the i-DTEC engine in Honda’s diesel models started off in April 2013 when Honda introduced it in the Honda Amaze as a 1.5-litre i-DTEC, which could deliver 98.5 PS of power and a class-leading claimed fuel economy of 25.8 km/l. Unlike other diesel units that were already available in India, Honda’s i-DTEC units amazed everyone with their compactness, lightness and reduced mechanical friction displaying Honda’s capabilities in full glory. But what actually attracted consumers toward the power-packed i-DTEC units was their impressive mileage of over 25 kmpl.
Both the i-DTEC engine as well as the Honda Amaze was well received by consumers across the nation. Following the massive popularity of the 1.5-litre i-DTEC engine, Honda decided to equip the i-DTEC diesel engine on the diesel models of the Honda City and the Honda WR-V.
Currently, Honda’s entire Indian inventory except the CR-V is equipped with Honda’s most advanced i-DTEC engines. As one of India’s top 5 car manufacturers, Honda has surely left a mark not only in the Indian automobile industry but also in the hearts of hardcore Honda lovers. And the credit for delivering such all-round performance surely goes to the heart of Honda, the i-DTEC diesel engines.