Honda to Start Testing EVs, PHEVs in Japan

By dancurranjr On December 26th, 2010

Honda Motor Co Ltd announced Dec 20, 2010, that it will start field tests of its electric vehicle (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in Japan.

On the same day, the company showed prototypes of an EV based on the Fit minicar and a PHEV based on the Inspire sedan.

Honda announced a prototype of the EV and the platform of the PHEV at the Los Angeles Motor Show, which took place in November 2010. And the vehicles announced this time were their new versions designed for the Japanese market.

“For expanding the use of EVs, the balance between price and performance is important,” Honda President Takanobu Ito said. “It is still difficult to achieve the balance. But there may be markets in specific regions such as rural areas where there is no service station.”

Honda will conduct the field tests in Saitama and Kumamoto prefectures in Japan. For each field test, five EVs and five PHEVs will be used. And the company will conduct similar field tests in Torrance, the US, by using three EVs and three PHEVs.

It is also planning to conduct field tests in Stamford, the US, by using the “EV-neo” electric two-wheeled vehicle and the “Monpal ML200” electric cart in addition to EVs and PHEVs.

“Though we have not determined a specific period of time for the tests, it will be about two years,” the company said.

In Saitama Prefecture, the vehicles will be tested in various areas depending on their characteristics. For example, in Saitama City, Honda will examine how the EV and the electric two-wheeled vehicle can be selectively used in the areas around train stations.

In Kumagaya City, Honda will test the “Park & Ride” system, which combines EVs, PHEVs and trains in the area around the Kagohara Station. In Chichibu City, the company will establish a system by using the Monpal.

This time, Honda also disclosed a charging station equipped with photovoltaic batteries developed by Honda Soltec Co Ltd. The station has a rapid charger manufactured by Kyuki Corp, a subsidiary of Kyushu Electric Power Co Inc, and three normal chargers manufactured by Nihon Unisys Ltd.

“Supposing that an EV travels 40km per day, we would like to supply electricity to four EVs by using only solar batteries,” Ito said.

As for charging technologies, Honda developed a system to monitor the use of chargers, etc in real time by using car navigation systems and smartphones. The system utilizes the company’s “Internavi Premium Club” telematics service, which uses a dedicated communication device equipped in the Fit.

Moreover, Honda mounted another communication device on vehicles to collect data on the use of automotive batteries.


Electric Car Market Gets Useful Jump-Start, Tax Breaks

By dancurranjr On December 25th, 2010

When Toyota unveiled its gasoline-electric Prius hybrid in Japan in 1997, car executives here scoffed that the car was little more than an expensive novelty. When Honda began selling the first hybrid in the U.S. market in 1999, the two-seat Insight was derided as cramped and impractical.

OPPOSING VIEW: Subsidies? Just say no

Eleven years later, more than 2 million Priuses have been sold worldwide, and there are about 1.5 million hybrids on the roads here, including models from the U.S. automakers. That’s still a tiny fraction of the 250 million vehicles in America, but they have helped cut gasoline use.

Now comes Round 2, as General Motors and Nissan begin delivering their first new electric cars to buyers amid some of the same sort of skepticism that dogged the early hybrids. Americans should hope the skeptics are wrong again.

The two new cars, due to be followed by models from other automakers, are promising fuel savers. The Chevy Volt can go 25 miles to 50 miles on battery power alone; after that a gasoline engine kicks in to power a generator for a total range of about 350 miles before fill-up or recharge. The more limited battery-only Nissan Leaf can travel an estimated 62 miles to 138 miles before it needs a recharge.

It’s easy to deride the new electric cars, just as it was the early hybrids. The batteries take hours to recharge, and when the Leaf is out of juice, it had better be at a plug. It presumably would be useful only to short-range commuters with no other need for the car. Both cars are small, though the Volt is no smaller than many sedans, and automotive writers say it’s as quick and responsive as a gas-powered car.

The biggest drawback, and the one critics have made much of, is the cost, and not just to buyers. The Volt lists for $41,000 and the Leaf for $33,000, so the federal government, eager to jump-start a market for electric cars, is helping with the sticker shock by shelling out up to $7,500 per car in tax credits for the first 200,000 cars an automaker sells.

There’s a downside to this. The tax code would be far better if it weren’t riddled with tax breaks such as this one. In addition, the tax credit spends money the government doesn’t have.

But those are bigger, more important issues in which the credit is a bit player. The benefit comes if electric-car technology gets cheap enough to stand on its own, providing a way to trim U.S. dependency on foreign oil, now two-thirds of our use, some of it from countries hostile to us. There’s plenty of skepticism, but the automakers are optimistic enough to invest in the technology, betting that rising oil prices will boost sales, as they did with hybrids.

One of the best arguments for tax breaks is that they helped get the hybrid market where it is today, along with gas prices and the fact that some states allowed hybrid drivers access to HOV lanes.

Those hybrid tax breaks have been phasing out as the law required — just as the tax breaks for electric cars are required to do. Electric cars must eventually live or die without government help.

As the writer of the opposing view argues, there are compelling arguments against the new cars — but there are equally compelling arguments against every other alternative to the status quo as well. Nuclear is too dangerous, coal too dirty, solar and wind too unreliable, offshore oil drilling too risky and so on.

But the most compelling argument is that the status quo — more and more foreign oil — is unsustainable. Electric cars might not be the answer, but they are an answer, and that makes them worth a try.


Toyota to Launch Prius Plug-in by 2012 in all Major Markets

By dancurranjr On December 24th, 2010

“Green Thinking” and development of nature friendly hybrid cars in the coming years is going to become a top priority for all the automakers. So says the Japanese company Toyota, which is one of the pioneers in the field of ‘green’ cars and is planning to bring hybrid car Prius by 2012 in a big way.

Now, while evaluating the results of this year, it is evident that Toyota has made huge investments in the development of innovative, and nature friendly technologies. In order to explore vast potentials of eco-cars, the company has set before it a large number of tasks for the next two years.

By the end of 2012, the world should see 11 brand new and updated hybrid models. Also in 2012, the company plans to begin intensive selling of Prius Plug-in model simultaneously in Europe, Japan and the U.S.: it is estimated that they will be able to sell about 50 thousand cars per year. In 2015, Toyota plans to release a model with a hydrogen engine mounted under the hood. Next year 2011, for strengthening the positive image of alternative technologies, Toyota iQ (in the electric version) will be included in the European program of road tests.

This year, as in the past, Toyota continues to develop new technologies. One of the promising areas is its development of new generation of batteries, which by their performance will be much better than the currently available lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are now being used in Toyota Prius Plug-in models. By the way, in order to evaluate the use of new generation of batteries in the automotive industry, earlier this year the company created a special organizational unit, bringing together a team of 100 people.

Toyota’s management is confident that eco-cars can have a positive effect on the state of nature, only if they would be used by maximum possible people in the world. Moreover, if the demand will be higher, more people will opt for the cars with new technologies thereby eventually leading to lowers costs.


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.


Global Hybrid Car Sales On The Rise

By dancurranjr On December 15th, 2010

Despite being on sale for more than a decade, global sales of hybrid cars will still total less than one million in 2010.

Industry analysts JD Power and Associates predict sales of hybrids will reach 934,000 this year, meaning 2010 will most likely be the last year global sales do not crack the million mark.

The predictions are up significantly from the reduced levels of 2009, when just 728,000 were sold in a tough global economic climate.

Hybrids make up slightly less than two percent of the total global passenger vehicle market.

According to the JD Power data, around half of the growth in 2010 has come from Japan, where the government has implemented substantial tax incentives to encourage the purchase of hybrid vehicles.

November’s sales figures confirmed the Toyota Prius was the highest selling passenger vehicle in Japan for the 18th consecutive month.

Europe has been much slower to embrace hybrid technology, with significant competition coming from entry-level low-emission petrol and diesel vehicles. JD Power predicts sales will reach 107,000 this year, up from last year’s 74,000.

Sales in the US – one of the major markets driving the hybrid movement – will increase around eight percent compared with 2009, although that figure is below the predicted total US market growth of 12 percent. Sales for 2010 are tipped to reach 315,000.

Australian hybrid sales have increased significantly in 2010, largely on the back of Toyota’s introduction of the Camry Hybrid.

In total, 8453 hybrids have been sold in 2010 – 1.11 percent of the 759,546 new passenger vehicle market (excluding commercial vehicles).

In the first 11 months of 2009, just 3891 hybrid vehicles were sold in Australia.

SOURCE: CarAdvice