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.

SOURCE: InsideLine.com

Honda Plugs-In On Way to Fuel Cells

By dancurranjr On December 2nd, 2010

Honda plans to begin selling an all-electric plug-in version of its Fit compact car in the United States and Japan in 2012.

The Fit EV will have a driving range of about 100 miles and a top speed of 90 miles per hour. It will have three driving modes — Sport, Normal and Econ — similar to those used in Honda’s CR-Z hybrid.

Honda said this car “hints strongly at the direction and styling” of a future Fit electric car. Apparently, it will look a lot like a regular gas-powered Honda Fit, assuming the giant lettering on the side won’t be a standard part of the package.

Honda also unveiled technology for a future plug-in hybrid car. Cars using the plug-in hybrid engineering would have a 10 to 15 mile all-electric driving range.

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

Honda CR-Z and Fit Hybrid Planned for 2010

By dancurranjr On August 8th, 2009

honda-crzThe Honda CR-Z, when it first appeared at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2007 as a concept car, caused quite a stir, both good and bad.

Readers were reminded of the Honda CRX of the 1980s and the fond memories it evoked. At the same time, few admired the styling, especially the big-mouth front end.

On Monday, Honda announced that the CR-Z would move from concept to reality and that it would go on sale in the United States next year.

It will be a gas-electric hybrid, using the current Integrated Motor Assist that is found in the new Insight and Civic Hybrid. Honda said it was also working on a new hybrid system for midsize and large cars.

Details were still sketchy, but according to a news release, sales of the CR-Z will start in Japan in February 2010. The Fit Hybrid will be available in Japan by the end of 2010. While Honda has not announced the availability of the Fit Hybrid outside of Japan, the CR-Z has its own American micro site, where consumers can register for e-mail updates.

Honda said the letters CR-Z stand for Compact Renaissance Zero. Many people will think of the Honda CRX, which continues to be one of the more beloved cars from the 1980s.

SOURCE: New York Times

Honda Fit for sale

Honda To Roll Out Hybrid Fit in Autumn 2010

By dancurranjr On June 6th, 2009

honda_logoHonda Motor Co plans to roll out a gas-electric hybrid version of its Fit subcompact car in the autumn of 2010, about a year and a half ahead of the original schedule, to tap growing demand for low-emission vehicles, the Nikkei business daily reported on Wednesday.

Japan’s No.2 automaker, which introduced the Insight hybrid in February, has said it plans to launch three more low-cost gasoline-electric cars by 2012, starting with the CR-Z sports car next year. It has not officially disclosed the timing of the launch of the Fit and Civic hybrids which will follow.

Amid the devastating global slump in demand for cars, fuel-sipping hybrid cars have become a bright spot for the industry with Honda and Toyota Motor Corp seeing robust demand for their latest models.

Honda’s new Insight, priced from 1.89 million yen ($19,960), became the first hybrid ever to top the best-seller list in Japan last month.

Toyota plans to resume overtime at its factory in Aichi, central Japan, next month in response to strong demand for its new Prius hybrid, public broadcaster NHK said on Wednesday.

Toyota has received orders for more than 110,000 vehicles and plans to raise monthly output of the model by 20 percent from the original schedule to about 50,000 cars, NHK said.

The Nikkei, without citing sources, said Honda aims to sell the hybrid Fit subcompact for about 1.5 million yen ($15,800) and expects annual sales of over 50,000 vehicles.

Honda spokeswoman Akemi Ando said the automaker has not decided the timing of release, price or sales target for the Fit hybrid.

Honda Motor shares rose 1.5 percent to 2,725 yen, in line with the benchmark Nikkei average .N225, while Toyota Motor gained 2.2 percent to 3,680 yen.

SOURCE: Reuters