Honda is bringing something new to the Accord lineup, and it’s big news. The company announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show that, on January 15, the 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) will hit showrooms in New York and California. The new Accord comes with the highest fuel economy rating of any plug-in hybrid on the market, earning an estimated 115 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe). The PHEV version of the Accord will be priced at $40,570, including destination.

The Accord Plug-in will have a few exterior styling tweaks to aid with aerodynamics. It also has the safety and comfort features of the current Accord’s Touring trim level. Where it differs from its Accord litter mates, though, is under the hood.

Like other plug-ins, the Accord PHEV (which stands for “plug-in hybrid electric vehicle”) has an electric motor, a gasoline engine, and a rechargeable battery. When a driver starts the car up in the morning (assuming the battery has been charged), the car will operate in all-electric mode until the battery charge is depleted, at which point it will switch to gasoline-electric hybrid drive, using a mixture of engine and battery power to maximize the car’s efficiency. At high speeds, or if the driver demands quick acceleration, the car will run on the gasoline engine alone.

Three-Hour Charge

The car’s 6.7-kilowatt-hour battery charges in three hours using a conventional 120-volt wall plug and will give drivers thirteen miles of all-electric range before calling on the car’s gasoline engine for assistance.

Thirteen miles may not seem like much when compared to the Chevrolet Volt’s thirty-eight miles of all-electric range or even the C-Max Energi’s twenty-one miles of electric and gasoline life. The Accord’s three-hour charging time, though, makes it more convenient for quick recharges – especially if you are set up to charge with a 240-volt plug, which decreases charge time to one hour. The C-Max requires seven hours to reach a full charge with a 120-volt plug, while the Volt can take more than ten hours to fully charge using a 120-volt outlet.

Has the Range Bar Been Permanently Raised?

It remains to be seen whether 115 MPGe will become the new brass ring for plug-in hybrid vehicles. Perhaps future PHEVs will reach for an even loftier goal. The actual mileage experienced by drivers of plug-ins varies widely depending on their driving and charging habits, but considering that the most popular plug-in on the market today, the Volt, doesn’t even crack 100 MPGe, it’s safe to say that the bar has been raised. A bonus that should attract Californians is that the car will qualify for single-occupant use of commuter lanes.

Accord Hybrid Coming Soon

If wall plugs and all-electric travel are a little too twenty-second century for you, or if you’re not in one of the major markets that will see the plug-in this January, take solace in the fact that the Accord Plug-In will be joined by a more conventional Accord Hybrid in summer 2013. The hybrid will also earn impressive mileage, with 49 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway. Pricing on that one has not yet been announced.