Honda Planning a Major Jump in Hybrid Sales in Japan in 2011

By dancurranjr On December 20th, 2010

Honda will put pedal to the metal in Japan next year when a new and bigger range of hybrid models will land on the market.

Joining the CR-Z and Fit Hybrid on the scene will be a hybridized version of the Freed, Honda’s quirky small domestic van. Honda will also introduce a stretched wagon version of the Fit hybrid for domestic consumption, according to sources. The front half of the body will be stock, but overall length will stretch by more than 2 feet.

The Fit hybrid wagon is expected out in March, while the Freed hybrid will arrive later, around fall 2011.

The redesigned Civic Hybrid, to be unveiled in January at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show and tipped to be the first Honda hybrid to get a lithium-ion battery pack, will be another 2011 debut, but Japan, in fact, might not get it.

Having announced the end of Civic sales in Japan and with that longer Fit hybrid wagon in the wings, Honda may feel that it doesn’t need the new Civic Hybrid in Japan anymore, not even as an iconic stand-alone model.

Honda will also have the Insight to fall back on, of course, and the good news there is that that to-date lackluster model is due for a major revamp next July.

Toyota will counter with a hybrid version of the new Vitz (Yaris) and Mazda is promising a face-lifted Mazda 2 with the automaker’s new Skyactiv G gas engine that can achieve hybrid-type economy without the weight and complexity of battery and motor.

Add it up and, although the technology is light and compact, Honda’s IMA hybrids have yet to truly catch on and/or frighten Toyota, the market leader. So will 2011 at last be the turning point for Honda?

Inside Line says: The new Honda hybrids could be big in Japan where the word “hybrid” is a major come-on, but in the U.S., given the inevitable price premium for the technology, such small gasoline-electric models could be a harder sell.


One in Five Honda Sales In Japan Will Be Hybrids by 2011

By dancurranjr On November 30th, 2010

Honda plans for hybrids to account for about 23 percent of its Japanese sales in fiscal year 2011, according to a report from Japan’s Nikkei over the weekend. The new target represents an increase to nearly 150,000 annual domestic hybrid sales—supported by the introduction of a new hybrid gas-electric wagon, based on the Honda Fit, and the company’s first hybrid minivan.

Honda debuted its new two-motor hybrid system for mid-size cars, at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Honda appears determined to reclaim its leading position on hybrids by introducing these new models—and developing a full range of electric-drive technology including full hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars. At the recent 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, the company announced its intentions to produce an all-electric Fit, as well as a two-motor hybrid system with plug-in capability, both by 2012.

Honda’s current hybrid system, known as Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), is considered a mild hybrid with limited capability to directly power the wheels. Most analysts believe Honda’s reliance on IMA has limited its ability to fully enter the market for competitive hybrids and electric cars. Honda’s new technology and models, and its aggressive sales targets for Japan, reveal a more comprehensive vehicle electrification strategy. “We have an IMA system for our smaller cars, the Insight, the CR-Z, and the Civic [Hybrid], and this new [plug-in] platform, which we’ll be able to utilize on larger vehicles,” said William Walton, manager of product planning at Honda.

In February, Reuters reported that Honda is developing a hybrid system suitable for larger cars such as the Odyssey minivan the Pilot sports utility vehicle. At that time, Tomohiko Kawanabe, Honda’s chief operating officer for automobile research and development, said, “We’ve left the research stage and entered the field of development.” He said these vehicles could hit the U.S. market around 2013.
Honda Freed minivan

Honda will introduce a hybrid version of its Freed small minivan in Japan in late 2011. While there’s no sign that the Freed hybrid or Honda Fit Hybrid are coming to the U.S., the company is expanding its hybrid technology for greater compatibility with larger vehicles.

Honda launched the Fit Hybrid in Japan last month—at a price below all other available hybrids—but it’s uncertain if it will be sold in the United States. A wagon version of the Fit Hybrid, roughly 20 inches longer than the standard Fit platform, will be launched in March 2011. Later in the year, Honda plans to introduce a hybrid version of the Freed small minivan. At that point, Honda will have five hybrids on the market in Japan. The company is expecting to discontinue domestic sales of the Civic Hybrid.

Honda Goes Back to the Future

The new Honda two-motor system opens the possibility for full hybrids (with or without a plug), but so far Honda is only talking in general terms about a mid-size plug-in hybrid and the Fit EV. “Plug-in hybrid technology is a bridge technology leading us to ultimately CO2-free vehicles,” Walton said. The Honda two-motor system continuously shifts between three different modes to maximize efficiency: all-electric, gasoline-electric and a “engine direct-drive mode,” in which only the engine drives the wheels during high-speed driving.

The plug-in hybrid uses a 6 kWh lithium-ion battery, a 120 kW electric motor, and a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine with a Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT). The all-electric mode achieves a range of approximately 10-15 miles in city driving and a top all-electric speed of 62 miles per hour. 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.

Japanese subsidies for fuel-efficient cars, as well as high gas prices, have invigorated domestic hybrid sales and have helped make the Toyota Prius the top-selling car in Japan for nearly two years. In 2009, hybrid sales in Japan surpassed the United States to become the largest hybrid market in the world—despite Japan selling about one-third as many total vehicles per year.

Source: Hybrid Cars

Road Test: 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid

By dancurranjr On March 24th, 2009

2009-honda-civic-hybridA little more than a year ago, Honda’s president and CEO, Takeo Fukui, said that 10% of the vehicles the company sells worldwide would be hybrid by 2010. Even to those who appreciate the drivetrain for what it is and what it can accomplish, this seemed a little ambitious. A week with the Civic Hybrid proved the goal may not be as pie-in-the-sky as it seems.

The Civic Hybrid uses Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system. The design teams a 1.3-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor. The gasoline side pushes 93 horsepower and 89 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor contributes another 20 hp and 76 lb-ft of torque. When the engine and motor are giving their all, the Hybrid boasts a net system output of 110 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. The latter arrives anywhere between 1,000 and 2,500 rpm. Yes, it does take all of 12.9 seconds to run from rest to 100 kilometres an hour, but the Hybrid feels so much faster — credit the torque characteristics and the car’s light 1,304-kilogram mass. The combination also has enough snap to pass a slower vehicle, and, on the highway, it hums along at the usual 120 km/h without missing a beat.

The beauty of the design is that while prowling suburbia there’s a certain smugness that comes from knowing that one is polluting the planet less than the car ahead. The fact the Hybrid delivers stellar fuel economy reinforces the clean notion. A week with the car returned an overall average of 5.2 L/100 km. This and the fact it consumes a diet of regular fuel means the pain at the pump is minimal.

The manner in which the Civic Hybrid drives feels a little different at first. To begin with, it takes a much larger stab at the gas to get the expected response, at least when compared with a regular Civic. Likewise, the fact all is quiet whenever the Hybrid comes to a halt (because of the idle stop feature) also makes it seem different. However, spend some time with the car and it all becomes second nature.

The power is fed to the P195/65R15 front tires through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). As is common, the CVT forces the engine to run at the top of the rev range under hard acceleration. The good news is that the sound it makes at wide-open throttle is not as shrill as most, which makes it less annoying.

The Hybrid’s handling is also a cut above the norm. The tendency is to think of green cars as being less sporty. The Civic managed to carve a corner while delivering a plush ride. The stiff body and suspension combine to deliver a flat attitude and less body roll than is typical of family sedans. Likewise, the response to steering input is quick, and this in spite of the tester’s winter tires.

The braking feel is, again, a little different. The need to capture otherwise waste energy through regenerative braking (to keep the main 158-volt battery charged) means the pedal feels a tad spongy. This is not a complaint as it is a common hybrid trait.

The Civic’s interior also takes a little getting used to, and it boils down to the split dashboard. The top half, which is viewed over the steering wheel, houses the digital speedometer along with the fuel and temperature gauges. The lower half, seen through the steering wheel, houses the tachometer, gear position, the warning lights and a gauge that shows whether the electric motor is helping to power the car or charge the battery. As with the driving experience, a little time with the design eased my initial concerns regarding the setup.

The rest of the cabin is typical Honda. The top-shelf materials are butted together with impeccable precision, and the seating, in all positions, is a cut above the class norm.

There’s also enough room for three adults to squeeze into the back seat without too much whining. The reason is the tunnel-less floor — it gives the middle rider somewhere to put his feet. The only outward compromise is found in the trunk. As the main battery sits behind the back seat, it reduces the cargo capacity to 10.4 cubic feet and precludes any sort of pass-through.

It takes a little time to fully appreciate the Civic Hybrid’s talents. It does feel different, but, as stated, time brings familiarity. The one thing that did not take time to warm up to was the fuel consumption — it took just $20.37 to top off the tank after the 461-kilometre road test. Sometimes, it is the simplest things in life that bring the greatest pleasure. With petroleum companies posting obscene profits in an economic climate that is seeing once-strong corporations suck wind, cruising past gas station after gas station brought a wry smile to my face.

SOURCE: National Post

Honda Civic for sale

Honda Civic Hybrid To Go Off Showrooms in India

By dancurranjr On February 23rd, 2009

2009-honda-civic-hybridBarely weeks after getting the biggest discount in the history of India’s car industry, the Honda Civic Hybrid will now do a disappearing act from local showrooms. Honda Siel Cars India will no longer retail the Civic Hybrid through its dealerships, less than a year after its India launch. The car will now be available only as a direct import through the company with a longer waiting period.

The Civic Hybrid, which runs on both petrol and battery and gives a mileage of up to 21 km per litre, did not enjoy a great run in India till the Rs 8-lakh discount in November created a demand rush. But now, if a customer wants to buy the car he will have to approach the dealers or the company to import it. “After the customer places an order, the company will take 3-4 months to bring it to India,” said a Honda Siel official.

The first hybrid model to hit Indian roads, the Civic Hybrid, was readily available after its launch in June 2008 through Honda Siel dealerships. But at Rs 21.5 lakh, including a 104% import duty, it was too expensive to be a hit with customers.

Honda Siel maintains that the lack of government support for imported hybrid cars also played spoilsport and the Civic Hybrid clocked sales of just 65 units in the first five months of its launch as against almost 300 units imported by the company in June 2008.

Honda Siel finally decided to clear the stock pile-up by opting for an almost Rs 8-lakh discount in November. This triggered a mad rush for the model and the entire stock got cleaned out in less than ten days. Honda Siel had said at that time the company will take a decision to import more Civic Hybrids for retail in the Indian market towards the end of this financial year. But it has now decided not to import any more of these cars for its dealerships in India.

Source: Economic Times

Hybrid Cars: Top Three in MPG

By dancurranjr On February 20th, 2009

save-moneyIf you’re looking for the very best fuel economy and insurance you can get, it’s a no-brainer that a hybrid car will have to be your choice, at least if you’re doing a lot of city driving, but even among hybrids there are varying levels of economy.

If the cars rated in the 2008 (and now 2009) model year seem somehow less impressive than their predecessors, or at least, less improved, remember that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) overhauled their ratings system in 2007, with 2008 models the first to be measured by the new standard, which is based on combined city and highway driving.

Nevertheless the top three cars of the year were all hybrids. Here’s a brief look at each of them:

  • Toyota Prius: A five-seat lift-back with a plug-in version expected in the 2010 model year, the Prius has long been the poster-child of hybrid technology, despite the fact that it wasn’t actually the first to be sold. The old numbering system rates it at 48 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway, thanks to its 4-cylinder, 1.5 liter gas engine and electric motor which work together to provide 110 horsepower. Currently, the only transmission available is a CVT (continuously variable transmission) system. No manual transmission is offered, or planned, at this time.
  • Honda Civic Hybrid: Frequently compared to its direct competitor, the Prius, the Honda Civic Hybrid was actually the first such car to be marketed in the USA. Its gas engine is smaller the Prius’s, but more powerful (1.3 liters & 95 bhp) while its electronic assist motor is less powerful. The current version of the Civic Hybrid (2nd generation) is based on the 4th generation standard Civic.
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid: While most other hybrids (Prius, Civic) are smaller cars, the Camry, which ranks as the third most fuel efficient hybrid, is on the larger side. This mid-sized sedan offers a roomy interior, the same clean, curves as the standard Camry, and a gas-electric powertrain system that produces something close to a V6 engine cranking out 187 hp. Its combined fuel economy is 35 mpg.

What about 2009?

For 2009, the first two cars on the most efficient list remain the same – Toyota Prius in the number one spot and Honda Civic Hybrid in number two, but the Toyota Camry Hybrid falls to sixth place, with the Nissan Altima Hybrid rounding out the top three instead. It has a combined fuel efficiency of 35 mpg for 2009, while the Camry is only rated at 33 mpg.

Does this mean prospective purchasers should only be looking at the Prius and Civic? Of course not  – unless they want the absolute best fuel efficiency available, and don’t mind getting it in a small package.

Source: Insurance Specialists