Honda slipped two more pieces of the Honda Electric Mobility Network into place at the LA Auto Show yesterday, revealing a Fit EV Concept and details of the plug-in hybrid platform, both of which forecast vehicles that will hit showrooms in 2012. The Fit EV and plug-in platform are impressive, but the evolution of Honda's Electric Mobility Network is looking increasingly like a killer proposition for consumers.
The Fit EV and plug-in hybrid sedan (based on the platform displayed at the show) will be introduced to the U.S. and Japan in 2012, joining Honda’s growing line-up of low- or no-emission vehicles, which include the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle, the Civic GX compressed natural gas-powered sedan (U.S. only) and four distinct petrol-electric hybrid models: Civic Hybrid; CR-Z sport hybrid; Insight hybrid and Fit Hybrid (Japan and Europe only).
The Fit EVThe Fit EV is a derivative of the company's five seater Fit hatchback, but lacks little in terms of range or power. The high-density electric motor used in the concept vehicle has been borrowed from the FCX Clarity fuel cell. It delivers a top speed of 90 mph (145 km/h), which should be more than adequate for commuting purposes. More importantly, its driving range is also adequate – estimated at around 100 miles (160 km) range per charge using the US EPA LA41 city cycle and 70 miles when applying EPA’s adjustment factor.
The Fit EV will be able to seamlessly switch between different driving modes, a system adapted from the 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid. The system allows the driver to optimize efficiency in Econ mode or improve acceleration in Sport mode. 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.
Perhaps moreso than the range, the claimed performance of the Fit EV in Sport mode makes it a genuine little rocketship. Honda's startling claim is that the acceleration in Sport mode is “similar to a vehicle equipped with a 2.0-litre petrol engine.” If that's true, then the Fit demonstrates that all-electric commuters have reach the point where they are more than viable, and will sate most leadfoot addictions into the bargain.
As with most electric vehicles we'll see in the future, Honda has overlayed a “game layer” to its E-Drive system, with interactive coaching systems designed to assist the driver in maximizing battery range and eeking more efficiency from the system with intelligent and conservative driving. A special meter display advises the driver when to shut off air conditioning and other accessories to conserve battery power.
Yet another clever move from Honda is a connectivity system that allows the driver to stay connected through a smartphone, personal computer, or an interactive remote control which comes with the vehicle. The system will enable drivers to remotely monitor 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 small Honda interactive remote will fit inside a pocket easily, and provides connectivity without the need for a mobile phone or internet connection.
Battery recharging takes less than 12 hours using a conventional 120-volt electricity outlet and less than six hours when using a 240-volt outlet.
Honda Charging Stand
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. Honda says the charging stand provides a glimpse at the future of an electric-charging infrastructure that is easy to use and intuitive for consumers.
The Plug-in Hybrid Platform
The plug-in hybrid platform on display 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, petrol-electric and a unique, engine direct-drive mode. The plug-in hybrid also uses regenerative braking to charge the battery.
In all-electric mode, the vehicle uses a 6kWh lithium-ion battery and a powerful 120 kW electric motor. The all-electric mode achieves a range between 10 and 15 miles (16-24 km) in city driving and a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h). 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 platform features a 2.0-liter, i-VTEC® inline four-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.
Advanced Technology Demonstration Program
Honda partner with Stanford University and Google to launch an Advanced Technology Demonstration Program later this year in order to provide real-world testing of its new vehicles, as well as research into customer behavior and usability, public charging infrastructure planning and sustainability initiatives.
Honda Electric Mobility Network and Energy Management
If the individual vehicles shown by Honda in LA are impressive, then the total vision is becoming increasingly moreso. American Honda was recently named America’s “Greenest Automaker” for the fifth consecutive time by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and its strategy of using solar energy to power the home-based production of hydrogen from water is ingenious and may one day give it a killer differentiator.
Honda already makes thin-film solar panels in Japan and the aim is to utilize micro-cogeneration technology and solar cell modules to power and heat homes as well as charge electric vehicles. Having a comprehensive home energy production and management system that supplies all of your household power needs and your automobile would surely tip the balance in favor of purchasing a whole Honda power management ecosystem rather than just another car from another brand.