Honda's New Dedicated Hybrid Car
Unlike some companies, Honda has been keeping a tight lid on the development of its new dedicated hybrid car (meaning that like the Toyota Prius, there won't be a non-hybrid version). Even U.S. Honda engineers haven't yet seen what it will look like, and it is supposed to be on the market next year. But the company certainly can't be accused of trying to lower expectations because it lacks confidence in itself: It expects to sell 200,000 units per year and have hybrids add up to 10% of sales by 2012.
Honda President Takeo Fukui said about the upcoming hybrid: 1) The car will have a global nameplate, 2) the engine will be based on the Civic's, but will use a newly designed motor and engine control unit, making it lighter and more compact, 3) it will be priced below the current Civic Hybrid, 4) it will take its design cues from the FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (pictured above) and 5) it will use nickel metal hydride batteries.It's probably a smart move to use the Civic's engine, as it is very efficient (for a gasoline engine) and not developing a new engine will help keep costs down.
If the new Honda hybrid really is cheaper than the Civic hybrid, that could make it the least expensive hybrid in the USA and many other countries, at least until other automakers (from China? India?) come out with less expensive models.
It's also a good idea to take design cues from the FCX Clarity. That prototype car has been well received by the public, and few people will be able to afford fuel cell vehicles for a while (there's also the problem of making the hydrogen fuel cleanly). There is such a thing as wasting a good design. By the time something like the FCX Clarity can be made affordable, who knows where car design will be at.
Using nickel metal hydride batteries is slightly disappointing, as it probably means a limited electric range, but since more advanced Lithium-based batteries are not quite as mature and the supply is constricted (ask GM about how hard it is to get batteries for the Chevy Volt), it might be a smart choice. After all, nothing keeps Honda from switching to more advanced batteries as they become available.
We can hope that a plug-in version will be considered, even if only after an upgrade to more advanced batteries.
We'll keep you posted as we learn more about the new Honda hybrid.
See also: ::Honda to Introduce an "Entry Level" Hybrid in 2009, ::Honda to Build "Zero Waste" Plant in Indiana, ::Honda Looks Into Recycling Engine Waste Heat, ::Honda Bringing 62.8 MPG Diesel to the US by 2010