Honda Changes Its Mind, Will Invest More Into Advanced Hybrids

honda IMA hybrid engine photo

Only Fools Never Change Their Minds
Honda is one of the pioneers when it comes to hybrid cars. The original Insight (not to be confused with the new 100% redesigned Insight hybrid) would still hold the hybrid car MPG record if it was still in production, and hypermilers have been getting averages of over 120 MPG with it. But until recently, Honda seemed to think that hybrids were just a "short-term technology bridge" between the past and whatever would come next ("any day now!"). When it turned out that things were moving slower than the engineers at Honda expected, a change of strategy became necessary...
honda ima engine hybrid photo

Photo: Wikipedia, CC

At the SAE 2009 World Congress, Kenji Nakano, Senior Chief Engineer at Honda R&D;, said that Honda has changed its view of the role and longevity of hybrid technology. He said (via GCC):

But hybrids have stayed in limelight longer than we expected. Today, an increasing number of people think that hybrids will remain a player 2-3 times longer, until fuel cell vehicles and electric vehicles begin [gaining share]. Hybrid technology is also applied to fuel cell vehicles, range-extender vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles. Thus, instead of being a bridge technology, hybrids are expected to remain in the mainstream for quite some time.

We think simple lightweight hybrid systems such as IMA are now suitable, especially for compact cars. We’ll do our best to promote hybrid technology which leads to electric drive [such as plug-in hybrids].

Honda's Future Hybrid Car Strategy
Honda's portfolio will expand to include more "mild hybrids; strong hybrids; plug-in hybrids; range extended electric vehicles; and full battery electric vehicles," depending on vehicle type and intended use.

This is good news for those of us who thought that Honda's mild hybrid approach was starting to look like a dead end. In the short term, its low weight and lower cost can be an advantage (the new low-cost Insight hybrid is proof of that), but it shows its limitations when comes time to move to plug-in hybrids or to make hybrids that perform best in urban conditions.

From a R&D; perspective, you probably also gain more experience that can be directly applied to electric vehicles from hybrid cars where the electric motors can drive the wheels on their own than from the "assist" kind.

Via Green Car Congress
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