NAPA, CA – The California Air Resources Board and U.S. EPA mandates being what they are, there’s no turning off the green-car spigot, which seems to be responsible for a new alternative-powertrain model debuting every week.

But regular unleaded still is under $3 a gallon in most of the country.

So what’s an automaker launching a new hybrid to do? Pray that somehow, someway, a decent-size subset of American car buyers want to purchase a vehicle getting 48 mpg (4.9 L/100 km).

For Honda, that vehicle is the refreshed ’17 Accord Hybrid sedan, and its employees’ prayers probably are intensifying as CEO Takahiro Hachigo has decreed two-thirds of the automaker’s global sales by 2030 must be electrified vehicles. And mild-hybrid tech like stop-start doesn’t count.

The Accord Hybrid debuted in 2013 as a ’14, but Honda says they couldn’t meet demand sourcing the sedan from Ohio.

So after taking a break for the ’16 model year, the Accord Hybrid is back, now built in Japan and with more horsepower and added safety and creature-comfort technology for ’17.

Nearly all dimensions remain the same from the ’14 and ’15 Accord Hybrid, but the ’17 model does see a slight increase in overall length, to 194.1 ins. (4,930 mm) from 192.2 ins. (4,881 mm), which helps to boost trunk space.

However, curb weight dips by a maximum of 72 lbs. (33 kg) in the EX-L grade, as Honda engineers have taken mass out of powertrain components.

For instance, the car’s power-control unit is 23% smaller and 27% lighter than before, while the new electric motor is 23% smaller and lighter than the one it replaces.

The latter feat is achieved thanks to more densely wound copper wire. Taking a page out of the Chevrolet and Toyota playbooks, the wire is square vs. a conventional round shape.

The Accord Hybrid’s lithium-ion battery pack also shrinks in size (-33%) and weight (-12.8%), thanks to better cooling efficiency and a smaller and lighter DC-DC converter.

These changes, as well as the addition of Honda’s first exhaust-heat recovery system to the car’s 2.0L Atkinson-cycle 4-cyl., boost overall system output from 196 hp to 212.

As with the old Accord Hybrid, the new model slips frequently into EV mode at speeds just below 60 mph (97 km/h), but either on purpose or not, EV-mode duration depends on battery state-of-charge. Our SOC was better in the morning thanks to heavy traffic.

Also similar to the old Accord Hybrid, the new model functions more like an extended-range EV than a conventional hybrid.

In hybrid mode, the 2.0L engine acts as a generator by feeding the Li-ion pack and sending electricity to a traction motor between the front wheels.

At highway speeds, the engine is on and decouples from the electric powertrain with direct drive of the front axle.

It is during these moments we find the car’s power lacking. The 2.0L maxes out at 129 lb.-ft. (175 Nm) of torque in the relatively high 3,500-4,500-rpm range. Scaling even moderate wine-country hills has the engine audibly straining.

But when the battery is charged, the Accord Hybrid is a torque monster, with its driving motor churning out 232 lb.-ft. (315 Nm) from 0-2,000 rpm.

The car’s width and length make for a comfortable, pliable ride, as does its carryover MacPherson-strut front and multilink rear suspension.

The hybrid gets the same improved damping responsiveness as high-grade ’16 Accords, thanks to the addition of Amplitude Reactive Dampers. The 2-piston dampers provide minimal damping on flat, smooth roads and higher levels of damping in more spirited driving or over rougher surfaces. For the ’17 Accord Hybrid, the dampers see piston and end-cap updates that improve responsiveness and result in “subtle” handling characteristics, Honda says.

Maximum regenerative torque is up 25% for ’17 from ’15, while linearity and responsiveness of the electric power-steering system is said to be enhanced in slow- and quick-steering scenarios.

The EPS’ claimed improved winding-road stability seems true based on our test here.

As usual, Honda doesn’t release a coefficient of drag figure, but notes the ’17 Accord Hybrid is more aerodynamic than its predecessor, thanks to a new front inner-fender air slit and changes that cut hub-bearing friction 30%.