News: Honda Takes Wraps Off Sports EV Concept

News: Honda Takes Wraps Off Sports EV Concept

We suggest bring it from the Tokyo Motor Show to the USA

After teasing the Honda Sports EV Concept two-passenger battery electric sports car last week, Honda unveiled the tiny car at the Tokyo Motor Show early this morning. This is the second model to be previewed on Honda’s new dedicated electric car platform, following the Urban EV city car from the recent Frankfurt Motor Show.

Honda Sports EV, Tokyo Motor Show

Honda has another hit, but it may not hit the streets

At present, no other car maker offers a model anything like the Sports EV, so if Honda can turn around the concept from production as quickly as it will the Urban EV (scheduled for 2019), it could have the Honda Sports EV in production for 2020–well ahead of any rival.

Design Continuity from the Urban EV

The two-seat coupe continues the design theme set out by the Urban EV, adopting a retro-inspired look with square taillights, round headlamps and an illuminated front badge set in a blacked-out grille. The elongated hood, flared haunches and coupe-like roofline give it traditional sports car looks despite the advanced technology under the skin. Honda says the Sports EV uses artificial intelligence in the form of the Honda Automated Network Assistant. Aside from handling basic tasks like navigation, it uses an “emotion engine” that’s supposed to gauge the feelings that influence your driving decisions.

Honda Sports EV, Tokyo Motor Show

Classic lines, modern power

The Honda Sports EV appears to be slightly smaller than a Mazda Miata, and it is obvious it will be a front- engine, rear-wheel-drive car. No specific powertrain details were given for either the Sports EV or Urban EV concepts. Honda said the Urban EV featured a high-density, lightweight battery pack, integrated heat management and energy transfer functions both to and from the vehicle. The same technology would appear in the Sports EV too. Honda sources had suggested a range of around 150 miles for the Urban EV concept, so something similar should be expected for the Sports EV.

Honda Sports EV, Tokyo Motor Show

We like the looks, but don’t have much info

“We haven’t decided any specifications, including the range, as well as when to release this car,” Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said after unveiling the diminutive vehicle. “But if we were to introduce it, I would like to bring it first to the Japanese market.”

We would encourage Mr. Hachigo to consider bringing the Honda Sports EV to America. It would be a great little commuter car in the U.S. as well as Japan. And we’ll bet it would be fun to drive on some non-commute  roads we know. We’ll eagerly wait for an update from Honda on production plans. 

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Preview: 2017 Tokyo Motor Show

Preview: 2017 Tokyo Motor Show

Wacky & Weird Show Gets Electrified

The Tokyo Motor Show, held once every two years, is known for its wacky and weird automotive concept car creations designed primarily for the Japanese market. But it almost always boasts a few significant world premieres from local automakers. This year is no exception with electrified cars taking center stage, reflecting the show’s theme: “Beyond the Motor.” Here’s a preview of several of the electric cars that will debut during media days at the Tokyo Motor Show on October 25 and 26, 2017.

HONDA

On the heels of its electric Urban EV revealed on last month’s Frankfurt show, Honda will roll out the Sports EV Concept, a new battery-powered sports car. A teaser rendering of the Concept shows a rear-slung performance silhouette with a long hood, rounded rear fenders and square taillights having the same appearance as the hatch-styled Urban EV. The Sports EV Concept marries EV performance and artificial intelligence into a compact form and is expected to be produced for sale in China and Europe.

Tokyo Motor Show

Honda teases its new sporty EV

For the U.S. market, Honda is rumored to debut a hybrid CR-V small crossover that will utilize the company’s new two-motor i-MMD system. It’s a little late to the game, following the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Nissan Rogue Hybrid and Kia Niro Hybrid, but will help the automaker continue as the best-selling compact crossover SUV in North America.

LEXUS

Tokyo Motor Show

Lexus adds third row to its compact SUV

The Lexus RX series five-passenger luxury crossover has long been the segments top-selling model, but has lost sales to makers who offer seven-passenger seating. Lexus will no longer take that hit by introducing a seven-passenger version with both gasoline and hybrid powertrains. Named the RX 350L and RX350hL, the three-row SUVs will take on rivals BMW X7, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Volvo XC90 and Range Rover.

MITSUBISHI

Now part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Mitsubishi is ready to climb back up the automotive ladder with the introduction of the e-Evolution concept. No, it’s not a revival of the Lancer Evolution street racer, but rather a coupe-like designed SUV that ditches a piston engine in favor of three electric motors. One is linked to the front wheels while the other two give it a rear-wheel drive bias, with available all-wheel drive and electronically controlled torque vectoring.

Tokyo Motor Show

Mitsubishi looks to get back in the game

The teaser photo presents the e-Evolution as a modern, futuristic-looking crossover that features an edgy, certainly polarizing, design. It’s obviously a true show car, with huge wheels, side cameras, futuristic LED lights and no conventional door handles.

NISSAN

Nissan will feature its Leaf Nismo Concept, a performance take of the

Tokyo Motor Show

A performance EV from Nismo

world’s best-selling battery-electric car. It’s intended to grab the attention of younger buyers with treatment by the automaker’s Nismo subbrand. Sporty exterior tweaks improve aerodynamics and reduce lift to keep the Nismo Leaf glued to the road. It also gets a sport-tuned suspension, high-performance tires and a custom-tuned computer that delivers “instant acceleration at all speeds.” The new battery-powered model will go on sale in 2019.

The Leaf Nismo may be sexy, but Nissan’s star at the Tokyo show is likely to be a Leaf electric crossover.  For the past few days Nissan has been teasing a dark silhouette of what is surely an SUV styled vehicle. Stay tuned for this one.

SUZUKI

Tokyo Motor Show

Suzuki take electric drive off-road

Suzuki may have left the U.S. market in 2013, but it carries on the Tokyo Motor Show’s tradition of wacky and weird automotive concept car creations with the e-Survivor Concept. As the name suggests, the e-Survivor is all-electric with an electric motor inside all four wheels, creating electric four-wheel drive. Huge ground clearance, gigantic wheel arches and almost nonexistent overhangs suggest class-leading approach and departure angles. Knobby tires cement its off-road ability.

TOYOTA

As you might expect, Toyota will debut the most electrified vehicles at the Tokyo show. The intros begin with the Fine-Comfort Ride Concept, a new six-seat hydrogen fuel cell electric sedan. It’s barely a foot longer than the Toyota Prius, but because of the distinctive powertrain, the layout offers nearly as much interior space as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. With an estimated range of 620 miles between fill-ups, the Fine-Comfort Ride would deliver about twice the range of Toyota’s current production hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, the Mirai.

Tokyo Motor Show

A future view from Toyota

Toyota is billing the concept vehicle as “a new form of premium saloon” and says it wants passengers to feel like they are “being wrapped in comfort,” rather than simply going along for a ride. Gee, that sounds like it should be a Lexus, not a Toyota.

The Japanese auto maker goes from large size to tiny with the Concept i-Ride, a two-seat electric pod car perfect for crowded city streets with an estimated driving range of between 62-93 miles. The tiny EV is envisioned as a personal mobility option for the elderly or handicapped. Its gull-wing doors open wide to allow easy loading and unloading of wheelchairs, and it is driven by a joystick, instead of pedals.

Toyota’s FJ Cruiser has been retired, so how about a TJ Cruiser?  It’s a boxy-styled concept that gets its name from the words “Toolbox” and “Joy,” and is a cross between a minivan and an SUV. Based on the company’s TNGA platform, power comes from a hybridized 2.0-liter gasoline engine. The show car can be fitted with either front or all-wheel-drive. Its SUV credentials are supported by the suspension setup and 20-inch alloy wheels with chunky Bridgestone tires.

Tokyo Motor Show

Toyota cruising off-road with electricity

Toyota will also show its sporty side with the GR HV Sports concept. It draws heavily from the 86 sporty coupe with a couple twists. For starters, it gets a vertical array of LED headlamps and a targa top. Powering the matte black car is the Toyota Hybrid System-Racing, the electrified drivetrain technology used in the TS050 racer Toyota enters in Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship.

Tokyo Motor Show

Toyota’s mobility machine

Last, and certainly not least, Toyota will present its latest version of the company’s other hydrogen-powered vehicle, the roomiest vehicle at the show, the Sora city bus. It uses two fuel cell stacks, two electric motors, a nickel-metal hydride battery and 10 high-pressure hydrogen tanks. Toyota aims to put 100 of the buses on the streets of Tokyo and have them in service when the Japanese capital hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics.    

News: Frankfurt Show Editors’ Choice: Honda Urban EV Concept

News: Frankfurt Show Editors’ Choice: Honda Urban EV Concept

At last week’s Frankfurt auto show, automakers vied to show that Tesla won’t overtake them by introducing a passel of battery-electric vehicles themselves. Here’s a look from Clean Fleet Report of one of those new electrified cars that you could be driving by the end of this decade.

Design Purity & Electric Power Win Our Hearts

Amidst high-performance supercars, flashy designed luxury cars and a passel of self-driving electric car concepts, the pint-size, almost plain-Jane Honda Urban EV Concept won our hearts at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. It was brilliant in its simplicity and design purity, a styling choice rarely seen these days.

Honda Urban EV

Inside the Honda Urban EV it’s clean and minimalist

A wisp shorter than the Honda Fit, the Urban EV Concept hearkens back to the original Civic with its hatchback shape, round headlights and rectangular grill, which is now a screen between the headlights that can display messages to the outside world, including greetings, advice for other drivers on the road, or charging status updates. The rear end has the same feature, and the blue backlit Honda badge is a design cue that will be used on the company’s EVs going forward.

Entry and exit from the vehicle is via rear-hinged coach doors, formerly called “suicide doors.” The electric charging cable connection is housed on the hood.

A Throw-back Machine

The four-passenger car features 1970s-style twin bench seats with fabric upholstery. Seat backs and arm rests are embellished with wood finish accents. The same wood finish wraps around a large “floating” dashboard console. This houses the steering wheel column, a set of simple control buttons and a panoramic display screen. The dashboard itself is completed by a wrap-around screen that runs behind the console and extends into the doors. The main dashboard screen presents a range of vehicle information, including remaining battery charge level.

Honda included the advanced Automated Network Assistant, which acts as a personal concierge. It is said to learn from the driver and detect emotions behind his/her judgements. It can then use this information to make new choices and recommendations to the driver.

1970s Honda Civic

Is that 70s Civic coming back?

No details on the range of the electric powertrain were released, but Honda says key parts of the powertrain development will include a high-density, lightweight battery pack, integrated heat management and the evolution of energy transfer functions–both to and from the vehicle.

The Urban EV Concept is no concept pipe dream. During the introduction in Frankfurt, Honda Motor Co. president and CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, said, “This is not some vision of the distant future; a production version of this car will be here in Europe in 2019.”

While Honda’s Urban EVs will be buzzing around European cities two years from now, the company made no mention of if or when it would come to the U.S. That saddens us somewhat, because we want to drive it, and hope that the production model looks as cool as the concept!

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News: Honda Unveils CR-V Hybrid at Frankfurt Motor Show

News: Honda Unveils CR-V Hybrid at Frankfurt Motor Show

At last week’s Frankfurt auto show, automakers vied to show that Tesla won’t overtake them by introducing a passel of battery-electric vehicles themselves. Here’s a look from Clean Fleet Report of one of those new electrified cars that you could be driving by the end of this decade.

Honda Joins the Compact SUV Hybrid Club

Last week, Honda unveiled its CR-V hybrid prototype at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. Featuring some new styling changes, reminiscent of the new Civic Type-R, the CR-V hybrid boasts an Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive system, dubbed i-MMD. The system (based off the current Accord Hybrid) is comprised of a 2.0-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder gasoline engine, an electric motor and a separate electric generator.

Honda CR-V Hybrid

Honda CR-V Hybrid Coming

Rather than using a normal automatic transmission, the system uses a single-ratio direct drive transmission. This allows for seamless transition between three driving modes: EV Drive, Hybrid Drive and Engine Drive.

In EV Drive mode, power is drawn solely from the batteries and sent to the electric motor, allowing for emission-free driving. When in Hybrid Drive mode, the gasoline engine supplies power to the electric generator, which in turn delivers power to the electric motor. In Hybrid mode, any unused power from the gasoline engine can be redirected to recharge the batteries. In Engine Drive mode, the wheels are driven by the gasoline engine, with ‘on-demand’ boost available from the electric motor.

While it has not yet been announced that the CR-V Hybrid will come to North America, it will reach Europe sometime in 2018 and is likely to find its way to the U.S. after that.

Crossovers Get Electrified

But does Honda’s Frankfurt reveal also tell us something about global auto-market trajectory?

Honda CR-V Hybrid

The compact crossover segment is seeing more electrified models

While Honda’s CR-V Hybrid is still one of only a few crossover vehicles to be electrified, it seems to be the beginning of a larger trend. As the market moves away from sedans in favor of lifted “lifestyle” hatchbacks, it is only a matter of time before hybrid and electric crossovers become the leading segment.

In fact, Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid has already raced past the clearly aging Prius V in sales numbers. Admittedly, Subaru’s XV Crosstrek Hybrid did not last long, Nissan’s Rogue Hybrid has followed a similar trajectory. Kia added the hybrid Niro. Ford has followed the trend, announcing an electrified version of its Escape (to replace the departing C-Max Hybrid), while Chevrolet dropped a diesel engine in the Equinox to maximize fuel economy. The race is on.

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Top 10 Best MPG AWD SUVs/Crossovers

Top 10 Best MPG AWD SUVs/Crossovers

subaru,crosstrek,mpg, awd

Subaru’s latest AWD model ups its MPG

The Wheels You Need with the Fuel Economy You Crave

So the scientists announced this last week (ed note: we originally wrote this three years ago–and updated it since–but the climate change news has not gotten any brighter in the intervening years) that the world has hit another milestone. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has hit a concentration not seen for millions of years. While many in the environmental community might see this as the point at which personal transportation should be curtailed–starting with SUVs or Crossovers–it is clear the automotive market is not going to make such a quick shift.

Sport utility vehicles and crossovers (crossovers being sport utility vehicles based on a car rather than truck chassis) are more popular than ever in 2017, even as the general trend toward higher MPG vehicles moves forward.  The reason is simple: they are functional. One trip to Costco is enough to convince many families that a Prius won’t cut it. Regular trips up to the mountains in the winter to ski could similarly motivate a car buyer to look for an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle rather than the front-wheel drive found on most high-mileage hybrids. Cars don’t always cut it.

Tesla,Model X,falcon doors,mpg,electic car

Winging it…on electricity

All of which leaves the environmentally conscious consumer with some tough choices. If your lifestyle points you toward an SUV or crossover, you still want to do what you can to minimize your contribution to further CO2 in the atmosphere.  The first electric SUV has appeared (after one short-lived version, the RAV4 EV was on the market for a brief time), but the Tesla Model X is out of most buyers’ price range. Plug-in hybrids are just hitting the market this year and more are promised, but again most are luxury first and SUV second. A few hybrid and clean diesel models are out there, so the key is to check out the most fuel efficient models that fit your needs.  Since one of those needs with this class of vehicles usually entails a good amount of distance travel, we’re use the highway fuel economy as the benchmark for our Top 10 list.

While cars, especially smaller ones, appear to be able to top the 40 mpg mark without much difficulty and are pushing even higher with plug-in models, AWD and 4WD models, with extra hardware and usually a larger size, have historically found 30 mpg on the highway a tough mark. No more. We’ve got an EV and several plug-ins that boast sophisticated technology that offers welcome progress on the MPG front. The downside is all this new hardware comes at a serious premium. But not far down the list are gasoline-powered models delivering mid-30s fuel economy.

The numbers are based on the federal fuel economy tests, so of course your mileage will vary. We’ve updated this list and pruned out some of the two-wheel-drive interlopers. We expect this list to keep growing, offering mpg-conscious car buyers even more options.

The Top 10 SUVs/Crossovers

1. 95 MPGe – Tesla Model X EV – So how does almost 100 mpg sound for an SUV? Is that worth $70 or $80,000? Tesla’s foray into the SUV space is an all-wheel-drive, all-electric crossover with seating for seven adults and their luggage. It is based off of Tesla’s Model S sedan (which it now outsells) and features two electric motors (of varying sizes depending on the model) and a variety battery pack sizes and performance levels. Oh, and it also has gull-wing (falcon in Tesla parlance) doors. And loads of tech features, including fairly sophisticated self-driving capability. The car will deliver about 250 miles of range in the high-end model; 220 in the “entry-level” model. When we did a brief test drive, we were impressed. The Toyota RAV4 EV was the first SUV with a plug, but in two iterations it only had a brief run and totaled about 3,000 vehicles. Tesla passed that mark in its first year on the market and continues crank them out of its Fremont plant.

Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X

2. 56 MPGe BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV – BMW took its most popular SUV and added a plug. It seems simple, but the process entailed added technology. Thankfully, BMW has not subtracted any of the positive attributes of its all-wheel-drive SUV. Forget to plug in and you’re back to mid-20s fuel economy. It has 14 miles of all-electric range augmented by more than 300 horsepower of gasoline-fueled power, which is helpful if you’ve carrying a full three rows of passengers. We have a review of this model.

3. 53 MPGe – Volvo XC90 AWD PHEV – The first plug-in Volvo has arrived. We saw it some time ago and are pleased that it has been delivered intact with great fuel economy along with all of the usual Volvo safety equipment and great wagon space. Without plugging in the fuel economy drops to the mid-20s. It’s all-electric range is about 14 miles. A week in the wagon reinforced out initial impression.

4. 50 MPGe – Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e – The latest addition to the plug-in SUV crowd comes from Mercedes-Benz. This five-passenger SUV can shut down its 400+ horsepower V-6 biturbo engine and move on electric power to maximize fuel economy. Its default mode is a hybrid drive that will shift from gas to electric power.

5. 47 MPGe – Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid PHEV – To offset some performance models with less-than-stellar fuel economy, Porsche is leading the way by offering plug-in versions that promise enhanced MPG. The company’s SUV adds an electric motor than can give 16 miles of EV range. On gas alone the car is in the low 20s MPG. 

2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid

2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid

6. Tie 34 MPG – Nissan Rogue Hybrid/Toyota RAV4 Hybrid In case there was any question about the competitive nature of the automotive market, these two models should settle the debate. Locked into a battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the hot compact class of crossover, both companies have added hybrid systems to their hot-selling small SUVs. Its working as both effortlessly deliver stellar fuel economy a the no-fuss hybrid system that makes most of the decisions for the driver. The market loves them, too, (in hybrid and non-hybrid mode) as in early 2017 both models are among the top-selling models in the U.S. We tested both here, here and here.

8. Tie 33 MPG – Lexus NX 300h – A new entry takes a top spot as Toyota fields a hybrid version of the RAV4 with a Lexus badge. The fuel economy numbers are for city driving. As is typical of hybrids, it gives you more MPG around town than out on the highway (31 highway and 33 combined). These numbers are for the two-wheel-drive version; moving all four wheels knocks off one or two MPG. We tested it when it first came out and found it a competent machine.

2105 Lexus,NX 300h,fuel economy,mpg

Lexus NX 300h

8. Tie 33 MPG – Honda CR-V Honda’s best-selling crossover tops 30 MPG with all-wheel-drive on board. We’ve driven this compact utility several times and find it a real winner in its class, coming in only a shade below hybridized versions of its competition. Since it isn’t a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, it also has an edge in affortability.

8. Tie 33 MPG – Jaguar F-Pace – It’s highly unusual for a Jaguar to show up on the best-MPG list, but the F-Pace is something a little different. Jaguar added an efficient clean diesel engine to bump its fuel economy into the range of usually more efficient but smaller crossovers. We’ve experienced the engine in a sedan and believe it should deliver some solid performance for this new entry.

8. Tie 33 MPG – Subaru XV CrosstrekSubaru continues to test the market with vehicles that depart from its typical cars. The Crosstrek has a 2-liter version of the traditional (for Subaru) horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine producing 148 horsepower when paired with the CVT automatic. It bumps up the MPG of the popular Crosstrek.

Just missing the Top 10 mpg mark are a half-dozen models

Not that long ago 30 mpg for an all-wheel-drive vehicles was unheard of. As you can see above, it is quickly becoming the ticket of entry in this class of vehicles. The variety of models is astounding and the range of features runs the gamut from affordable small crossovers to SUVs capable of carrying more than a family of four and taking the group well off the highway.

We used the federal fuel economy numbers from the EPA at  to rank these models. Lurking just below the Top 10 (which of course is actually 11  models) are a variety of vary capable cars, all of which come in 4WD with a variety of engine options. Ones to check out are the Mazda CX-3, Lexus RX 450h Hybrid, Honda HR-V, Nissan Murano Hybrid, Buick Encore, Subaru Forester, Mercedes-Benz GLA250, Infiniti QX30, Subaru Outback, Audi Q5 Hybrid, Chevrolet Trax, BMW X1 xDrive, Jeep Renegade and Toyota Highlander Hybrid for some other 30+ MPG cars. The variety has never been greater.

And coming soon:

The onslaught of new models focused on fuel efficiency will continue as automakers strive to reach fuel economy and greenhouse gas targets set by governments around the world. Models announced, but not yet introduced include plug-in versions of several more BMW and Mercedes SUVs. We’ve also been waiting for the U.S. introduction of the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, which is already on the market in Japan and Europe. It’s expected to have 20-25 miles of all-electric range and could turn in mpge (mileage factoring in the electric range) well above 50.

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