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.