Electric cars offer the promise of fossil fuel-free transportation, but today’s EVs are at a disadvantage due to the lack of infrastructure to charge them. While we wait for more charging stations, plug-in hybrids represent the best alternative, since they have a back-up engine that kicks in when the battery level runs low. Early next year, Honda is set to enter the plug-in hybrid segment with the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid sedan – and we recently had the chance to take it out for a spin. Continue reading to see what it was like behind the wheel of Honda’s newest hybrid.

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While the all-new ninth-generation Accord is hitting showrooms this month, we will have to wait a few months until the plug-in hybrid version starts rolling into showrooms. Even though it’s not yet available, Honda recently invited us out to Santa Barbara, CA to drive the Accord PHEV.

Unlike Honda’s last Accord hybrid that featured a V6 engine mated to an electric motor, the Accord PHEV is powered by Honda’s first two-motor hybrid system that uses a new 2.0L 4-cylinder engine producing 137 horsepower, teamed with a 124kW electric motor. Electric driving is supported by a 6.7kWh lithium-ion battery, and total system output is 196 horsepower.

One unique feature of the Accord PHEV’s system is that it has the ability to switch nearly seamlessly between three driving modes: all-electric mode, gasoline-electric hybrid mode and direct engine drive. During our drive around Santa Barbara the Accord PHEV would easily switch between modes, so much so that it was barely noticeable.

Honda hasn’t released the official fuel economy specs for the 2014 Accord PHEV, but it is expected to exceed 100 MPG-e. The Accord PHEV can also drive up to 15 miles in full electric mode. Unlike other electric vehicles that take hours to recharge, the Accord PHEV can be fully recharged in less than one hour using a 240-volt outlet. That means that you can easily recharge your Accord during a quick stop at the mall.

The Accord PHEV’s biggest competition is going to be the 2013 Ford Fusion Energi and other plug-in hybrid models like the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius. The Chevy Volt has a longer electric driving range than the Accord, but the Accord looks more like a real car and is actually the most stylish model in the Accord lineup with its more aggressive face. The Accord also has a faster charging time than the Prius plug-in and the Volt.

While we don’t yet know the final pricing for the 2014 Accord PHEV, we expect it to have a starting price in the high $30k range before any of the available tax rebates. If that’s a little bit out of your price range, next summer Honda is going to release an Accord two-motor hybrid.

Although our time with the 2014 Accord PHEV was short, it was a strong performer. Most of us expect to give up a level of performance with a hybrid model, but the Accord PHEV had ample power on hand to keep you moving. In many instances it outperformed the four-cylinder Accord and the fact that it can travel up to 15 miles without using any fossil fuel will put a smile on anyone’s face.

+ Honda