By John Addison (updated 2/22/11; original 2/9//11)
Honda Fit Outsells Prius
In January, the Honda Fit outsold the Prius in Japan. Prius had been the number one selling car in Japan for 20 months. Half of the Fits sold were the new Fit Hybrid, which delivers 71 miles per gallon (MPG) using the Japanese JC08 test cycle. In 2012, both the Fit Hybrid and new Fit EV are expected to start selling in the U.S.
The Honda Fit has been a popular small hatchback, with over 3.5 million sold globally. With five doors, seating for five, and flexible cargo space it is big enough for most, yet small enough to fit in those precious city parking spaces. Drivers like the sport fill and handling. Starting at around $15,000, the Honda Fit delivers 31 mpg, the mileage of many hybrids.
Honda Fit Hybrid 71 MPG
The Fit Hybrid removes pain at the pump with the 71 mpg in the Japanese test cycle which emphasises slow city driving at 16 mpg; by comparison the Prius is 77 mpg. Power is delivered from the IMA electric motor and from an efficient 1.3-liter i-VTEC engine. The battery for the hybrid system is located under the rear cargo and enables the Fit to share the same flexible seating configurations as the rest of the lineup without sacrificing interior comfort that is unique to Fit.
The Fit offers more room than outward appearances suggest. It has a B-segment exterior, but a larger C-segment interior. In the back is 20.6 cubic feet of cargo, but drop the back seat and you have 50.7 cubic feet. If that still is not enough for your ladder, home project, or surfboard, then you can flatten the front seat for added feet. In Japan, the passenger seat can even rotate for easy in-and-out or socializing with others.
Bigger and Better – Honda Fit Shuttle versus Toyota Prius
Toyota has no intention of letting Honda hold the number one spot in Japan, the U.S., or anywhere else. Toyota has expanded the popular Prius into a family of four models:
* 2011 Prius – world’s best selling hybrid
* 2012 Prius v –midsized wagon with 40 mpg goes on sale Summer 2011
* 2012 Prius c Concept – city car hybrid goes on sale by Summer 2012
* 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid – best mileage of any Prius goes on sale by Summer 2012
If you’ve been looking for great mileage from an SUV, crossover, or wagon, take a look at the new Prius v. It will share the current generation Prius’ platform and Hybrid Synergy Drive technology. Featuring a compact exterior yet spacious interior, the Prius v will feature over 50-percent more interior cargo space than the current Prius, while being almost as aerodynamic. The Prius v will compete with new crossover hybrids like the Ford C-MAX Hybrid. The Prius v will use NiMH batteries, just as the 2011 Prius. Next year, Ford will start delivering lithium batteries in all hybrids and electric cars.
Honda has countered by unveiling a longer Honda Fit Shuttle available with the current efficient ICE drive system and the new hybrid drive system. This compact wagon can be examined on Honda’s new Fit Shuttle Japanese website. The wagon is expected to be unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show next month. Unfortunately, Honda is unlikely to offer this larger Fit in the U.S., at least for now.
Honda Fit EV
Honda unveiled the all-new Fit EV Concept electric vehicle at the LA Auto Show in November. In 2011 the Fit EV will be in fleet trials at at Google, Stanford University, and possibly others. In 2012, the car will no longer be a concept as customers go to dealers and buy the Fit EV. The Fit EV will compete with the larger Nissan LEAF, the Ford Focus Electric, and the Toyota FT-EV.
The Fit EV is designed to meet the daily driving needs of the average metropolitan commuter and utilizes the same 5-passenger layout found in the popular Fit hatchback. When the Fit EV production model is introduced, it will be powered by a lithium-ion battery and coaxial electric motor.
The high-density motor, derived from the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle, delivers excellent efficiency and power while remaining quiet at high speeds. The Fit EV will have a top speed of 90 mph.
The Fit EV will achieve an estimated 100-mile driving range per charge using the US EPA LA4* city cycle (70 miles when applying EPA’s adjustment factor). Driving range can be maximized by use of an innovative 3-mode electric drive system, adapted from the 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid. The system allows the driver to select between Econ, Normal, and Sport to instantly and seamlessly change the driving experience to maximize efficiency or improve acceleration. While in Econ mode, practical driving range can increase by as much as 17 percent compared to driving in Normal mode, and up to 25 percent compared to driving in Sport mode. Acceleration improves significantly when in Sport mode, generating performance similar to a vehicle equipped with a 2.0-liter gasoline engine.
Hybrid and Electric Car Battle with Toyota and Ford
In their battle for hybrid and electric car leadership, both Honda and Toyota are learning a lesson from Ford – price matters and therefore manufacturing cost matters. Ford is offering 10 to 14 new models on a global C-car platform with many chassis and components being common across a range of cars, SUVs, and crossovers. Ford will lower manufacturing costs, use high-volume common parts, and improve efficiency. Ford will increasingly enable customers to select a vehicle, such as the Focus, with powertrain options ranging from efficient engine to hybrid to plug-in hybrid to pure battery electric.
C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid are two of 10 to 14 new models that Ford will launch around the world based on its new global C-car platform – Ford’s first truly global One Ford platform. Ford’s new generation of C-segment vehicles will be sold in more than 120 markets and will account for more than 2 million units annually. The C-segment accounts for one in four cars sold worldwide today and, in conjunction with the B-segment, Ford expects it to rise to 50 percent of all cars sold globally by 2013.
Honda is wise to expand its popular Fit into a family that includes a larger wagon, Honda’s best mpg hybrid, and an exciting electric car with the potential to become the EV price leader. In a growing battle for fuel-efficient family offerings with Toyota and Ford there will be one clear winner – the customer.
By John Addison (update 11/18/11; original 11/18/10)
World Debut at LA Auto Show of Honda Fit Electric and Honda Plug-in Hybrid
Honda dealers will soon take reservations for the Honda Fit EV priced starting at $36,625 or $399 per month lease. This new battery-electric car will be appeal to current drivers of hot subcompact hatchbacks such as the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, Chevy Cruze, and Mini-Cooper. The Fit EV will hit the streets with real world daily driving at Stanford University, City of Torrance, and Google’s fleet and car share programs.
This was the first time that a new global vehicle was personally announced by a Honda CEO at a U.S. show. Takanobu Ito, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. President and CEO. Stated, “We must advance from using less petroleum to no petroleum…. In Honda’s view, an electric vehicle must offer great utility and be fun to drive. Fit EV’s urban commuting capability will be a perfect addition to the full-function mobility of the plug-in hybrid and FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle.”
Honda Fit EV is 100% Electric
I talked with Ben Knight, Honda’s Vice President of Engineering, about these new electric vehicles. Mr. Knight was proud that the electric drive system represent four generations of improvements for Honda starting with the Honda Plus EV in 1997 to Insight and Civic Hybrids to generations of advanced fuel cell vehicles with all-electric drives to the new CR-Z Hybrid. At optimal RPM, the new electric motors are up to 98 percent efficient. This is quite a contrast to the typical 15 percent efficiency of a gasoline engine.
The Fit EV is designed to meet the daily driving needs of the average metropolitan commuter and utilizes the same 5-passenger layout found in the popular Fit hatchback. The Fit EV is be powered by a Toshiba SCiB lithium-ion battery and 92kW coaxial electric motor. The high-density motor, derived from the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle, delivers excellent efficiency and power while remaining quiet at high speeds. The Fit EV will have a top speed of 90 mph.
The Fit EV will achieve an estimated 120-mile driving range per charge using the US EPA LA4* city cycle (76 miles when applying EPA’s adjustment factor). Driving range can be maximized by use of an innovative 3-mode electric drive system, adapted from the 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid. The system allows the driver to select between Econ, Normal, and Sport to instantly and seamlessly change the driving experience to maximize efficiency or improve acceleration. While in Econ mode, practical driving range can increase by as much as 17 percent compared to driving in Normal mode, and up to 25 percent compared to driving in Sport mode. The Nissan LEAF Eco mode only improves range by 10 percent. Acceleration improves significantly when in Sport mode, generating performance similar to a vehicle equipped with a 2.0-liter gasoline engine.
In addition to the 3-mode E-Drive system, the Fit EV will include several interactive coaching systems to assist the driver in maximizing battery range. A special meter display advises the driver when to shut off air conditioning and other accessories to conserve battery power.
Remote Control for New Electric Car
To help the driver manage the electric vehicle ownership experience, the Fit EV will have a standard connectivity system that allows the driver to stay connected through a smartphone and personal computer, or the Honda-exclusive interactive remote, while away from the vehicle. The pocket-friendly, interactive remote provides connectivity to the vehicle without the need for an internet connection or mobile phone signal. Through the connectivity system, drivers will be able to remotely view the vehicle’s state of charge, initiate charging and activate the air conditioning, even while connected to the grid, to reduce the drain on the battery at start-up. The mobile application and website also offers the ability to set charging notifications and alerts to optimize utility rates, and provides 24-hour roadside assistance, along with a public charging station locator. The Fit EV will come equipped with a standard Honda Satellite Linked Navigation System™ that includes a public charging-station locator capability.
The Fit EV can be Level 2 charged in 3 hours at 6.6kW/h; twice the charging speed of the 2012 Nissan LEAF or Mitsubishi i. Unlike the LEAF and Mitsubishi i, the U.S. version of the Fit EV does not offer DC Fast Charge. Battery recharging can be accomplished in less than 12 hours when using a conventional 120-volt outlet. The Fit EV has unique LED headlights, a chrome front fascia, aerodynamic bumper, clear LED taillights and EV decals. Inside, the Fit EV Concept is outfitted in an eco-friendly gray bio-fabric on the seating surfaces.
Displayed alongside the Fit EV Concept at the show is a prototype Honda charging stand. To begin charging, the driver swipes a card in front of the screen and then connects the charger to the vehicle. The Honda charging stand provides a glimpse at the future of an electric-charging infrastructure that is easy to use and intuitive for consumers.
Honda Plug-in Hybrid
Honda also unveiled a plug-in hybrid platform, which showcases Honda’s next-generation two-motor hybrid system. Integrated into a mid-size sedan platform, the plug-in hybrid is designed to be compatible with daily driving habits, allowing for short, frequent trips in all-electric mode, while providing long-distance driving capability when needed. The Honda two-motor system continuously moves through three different modes to maximize driving efficiency: all-electric, gasoline-electric and a unique, engine direct-drive mode. The plug-in hybrid also uses regenerative braking to charge the battery.
The Honda Clarity may be the perfect car for Honda’s first plug-in hybrid. The Clarity is a beautiful and roomy four-door sedan. It is currently only offered as the FCX with an electric-drive system and hydrogen fuel cell to extend range. My test drive of the FCX Clarity demonstrated great handling and premium interior. Honda may decide on a different plug-in platform, such as a cross vehicle.
In all-electric mode, the plug-in (PHEV) uses a 6kWh lithium-ion battery and a powerful 120 kW electric motor. The all-electric mode achieves a range of approximately 10-15 miles in city driving and a top speed of 62 mph. Fully recharging the battery will take 2 to 2.5 hours using a 120-volt outlet and 1 to 1.5 hours using a 240-volt outlet.
The PHEV can also run in a gasoline-electric hybrid mode, the platform features a fuel-efficient 2.0-liter, i-VTEC® inline 4-cylinder, Atkinson cycle engine, paired with an electric Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT). An onboard generator adds to the battery powering the electric motor.
For more efficient high-speed cruising, the vehicle can engage in a direct-drive mode, in which only the engine drives the front wheels. The new Honda PHEV will compete with the Toyota Prius Plug-in and the Chevrolet Volt which has a 40-mile electric range.
Honda Electric Mobility Network and Energy Management
Together with the Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle, the Fit EV and the future plug-in hybrid vehicle are a part of the company’s comprehensive approach to reducing CO2 emissions. Honda is unique in its efforts to create both environmentally responsible products and the renewable energy solutions to power them. Honda is currently producing and marketing thin-film solar panels in Japan, and an installation is planned at Honda Performance Development in Southern California in early 2011. Honda is also using innovative ways to produce and distribute energy through sustainable methods, such as using solar power to produce hydrogen fuel from water. Additionally, Honda is developing home energy-management systems that utilize micro-cogeneration technology and solar cell modules to power and heat homes as well as charge electric vehicles. The Honda Electric Mobility Network joins clean vehicle technology, renewable energy production and energy management solutions for the benefit of customers and society.
Honda Environmental Leadership
The Fit EV and a plug-in hybrid sedan will be introduced to the U.S. and Japan in 2012, joining Honda’s diverse lineup of environmentally-responsible vehicles, which include the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle, the Civic GX compressed natural gas-powered sedan (U.S. only) and four distinct gasoline-electric hybrid models: Civic Hybrid; CR-Z sport hybrid; Insight hybrid and Fit Hybrid (Japan and Europe only). Both vehicles are integral to the Honda Electric Mobility Network, the company’s comprehensive approach to reducing CO2 emissions through innovative products, energy-management and energy-production technologies.
Honda was recently named America’s “Greenest Automaker” for the fifth consecutive time by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The award is earned by the company with the lowest combined smog-forming and greenhouse-gas emissions (primarily CO2) in its U.S. automobile fleet.
Honda has led the UCS rankings of overall vehicle environmental performance since the first UCS study in 2000, marking a decade of Honda leadership in reduced vehicle emissions. Honda earned the recognition this year with an industry-best score based on model year 2008 data, the latest available for analysis.
By John Addison (updated 7/28/10; 7/20/10)
Honda Expands on All Fronts with Hybrids, Plug-in Hybrids, and Electric Car
In 2011 Honda will introduce a new Civic Hybrid using a new lithium-ion battery from Blue Energy, a joint venture company between GS Yuasa and Honda that will begin production of the battery at its plant in the latter half of this year. The lithium battery will be high-output, lighter weight than the older NiMH, and compact.
Honda hybrids increased to 16% of total Honda sales in Japan in 2009 in the middle of a severe recession. This hybrid financial success is encouraging Honda to become more aggressive about hybrid cars and plug-ins, especially in the face of Japanese competition from Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi.
Honda introduced new models equipped with Honda’s original lightweight and compact IMA hybrid system, namely Insight and CR-Z. The percentage of hybrid vehicle sales among all Honda vehicle sales in Japan increased to 16% in 2009.
The Honda Fit Hybrid will be introduced in Japan this fall, capitalizing on the success of the Fit. Honda will introduce multiple models, mainly small-sized vehicles, equipped with its IMA hybrid system in Japan next year.
Electric Car and Plug-in Hybrid
Honda Motor Co., Ltd., President and CEO Takanobu Ito in his mid-year address today announced that Battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will be introduced in the U.S. in 2012; with a demonstration program of the technologies beginning this year. By the end of 2010 and continuing through 2011, Honda will roll out a battery-electric vehicle demonstration program in the U.S. with participants, including:
- Stanford University
- City of Torrance, California
Last year, I saw a Honda concept vehicle that wowed drivers in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Next year, Honda may begin sales of an electric car inspired by the EV-N concept design, with one seat in front and two in back. The EV-N is a battery electric concept vehicle incorporated Honda’s own solar panels in to the roof of the concept, to charge the car while it is parked. Two of Honda’s U3-X, electric personal mobility devices are attached to the inside of each door. The two-door Concept is envisioned with a Lithium ion battery pack, and small electric motor for predominantly urban use.
The EV-N concept’s four-seat interior had adequate room due to a compact battery electric drivetrain. The seats had a mesh finish, both very light and easy to change. The interior used a minimal style, to reduce the weight of the vehicle, increasing range and performance.
The City of Torrance will receive a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle for evaluation by the end of 2010. A new plug-in hybrid system for mid-size to larger vehicles will be introduced in the U.S. market in 2012. Clean Fleet Report speculates that a potential plug-in hybrid platform is the beautiful Honda FCX Clarity. The Clarity already has an electric drive system and is the most technologically advanced fuel cell vehicle. A similar model could be offered with a small gasoline engine and gas tank, replacing the fuel cell and hydrogen tank. Honda could offer customers a choice between fuel cell and plug-in hybrid.
Clean Fleet Report predicts that the battery-electric car with be a smaller car for the urban environment designed to compete with the Toyota FT-EV and the Mitsubishi iMiEV.
The Blue Energy JV with Honda adds to the success of GS Yuasa which already has the Lithium Energy JV with Mitsubishi. The most popular electric car in Japan is the iMiEV. Mitsubishi expects to have sold 5,000 of these pure battery-electric cars by the end of this year.
Both Toyota and Ford have been implementing comprehensive plans to give customers a wide choice of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery electric cars. Now Honda makes this competition much more interesting.