By on November 18, 2010

Honda had been the first automaker that had the Insight to sell a hybrid in the U.S. But what about pure battery-powered ones? After a lot of hesitation, Honda will throw an all-electric Fit on the U.S. market, says Bloomberg. The plug-in will arrive in 2012, which might as well be pronounced “year of the EV.”

The car will be standard EV fare: Lithium-ion-powered, range about 100 miles between charges – on a good day. A price has not been announced. Expected volume? It “will be small” said  Honda President Takanobu Ito at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Like the colleagues at Toyota, Honda doesn’t view the EV as a runaway hit. Amazingly, also like Toyota, Honda sees hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars such as its Clarity sedan as the “ultimate” solution.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst for industry researcher Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, California, already has indentified the target group for the electric Fit: The car should “work well for fleets with predetermined routes like mail trucks and delivery trucks, especially because of the reconfigurable interior.”

More and more, there is a consensus building that the biggest small market for electric vehicles should be in 9-5 jobs at governments and companies that use the cars on carefully mapped out routes that do not stray too far form the charger back at the dock. That’s not what Musk and Fisker had in mind.

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24 Comments on “EVs? Honda Throws A Fit...”


  • avatar
    stryker1

    Maybe those wacky towable generators will catch on? I could see that being useful if it could double as a generator for your house or something.

  • avatar

    Eh, I’d still rather have an electric Fiat 500. If I want something electric, I want one with style.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    Pure political calculation. Honda figures the NHTSA (which regulates CAFE standards) and the EPA (which computes mileage estimates for each vehicle) are planning to throw GM/UAW a big ol’ bone for the Volt in order to protect GM’s money-making trucks — a ploy which will make GM even more money if said credits can be resold on the market. Other greenweenied nations may do likewise. By rolling out their own EV, Honda is positioning itself to vacuum up some of some of this cap-&-tax style crap for its own use.

    It doesn’t hurt that an EV Fit also gives Honda an eco-halo car; they know Toyota kicked their butts with the Prius, a niche product turned cultural icon.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “Amazingly, also like Toyota sees hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars such as its Clarity sedan as the “ultimate” solution.”
    I agree with both of them. A hydrogen fuel cell is actually a different kind of battery, one in which the recharging is done by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen and the discharging is done by recombining the two. These paired reactions don’t happen inside a closed container as with normal batteries, but it is still the same basic thing. Use electricity to create elemental hydrogen. Regenerate electricity when combining that elemental hydrogen back with oxygen.
    The advantage over other battery systems is two fold: One, the energy density of the in-car portion of the system is much higher than for any traditional battery. Two, the “recharging” happens in a stationary facility and the car’s virtual battery is replenished quickly when the hydrogen tank is refilled.
    A further benefit is that the elemental hydrogen can be created from one of multiple different energy conversion processes, electricity-to-hydrogen being but one of them.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Bytor

      Actual batteries run at about 3 Times the efficiency of the H2 Electrolysis/Fuel Cell cycle.
       
      Unless we are in a world with unlimited electricity that 3X efficiency gap is insurmountable.
       
      Not to mention the multi-trillion dollar hydrogen delivery infrastructure we would need.
       
      Hydrogen Vehicles are just an epic boondoggle that would dwarf the Corn Ethanol boondoggle.  A way to spend $Trillions without adding any energy to the system (actually reducing it through lost efficiency).
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      stryker1

      “Not to mention the mult-trillion dollar hydrogen delivery infrastructure we would need.”
      Not so. You only need two things to create hydrogen. Electricity and water. Any gas station that already has running water and electricity running to it has what it needs to have an electrolysis station installed and a pump out front.

    • 0 avatar
      Bytor

      @” Any gas station that already has running water and electricity running to it has what it needs to have an electrolysis station installed and a pump out front.”

      Small localized Electrolysis isn’t very efficient. It will take about 80KWh to produce 1 KG of Hydrogen. Pricing about $8 and range of 70 miles in a Clarity.
      That is enough energy to charge a Volt 10 times and drive 400 EV miles.
      It is not only expensive, but massively wasteful of electricity, which we don’t have in abundance.
      How much do you think it would cost to add H2 pumps to every gas station and how much for the power plants to supply them?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      The problem with hydrogen is bad PR, starting on May 6, 1937 with the Hindenberg, even though H2 only played a cameo role in that disaster.
       
      Hydrogen has many benefits, but it is not portable, and the infrastructure/PR problem is insurmountable.  Even electricity is more portable than hydrogen, and more easily delivered to remote places.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      And BTW electrolysis will NOT be used to create hydrogen in most cases.  The current plans are for the energy companies to generate it from existing hydrocarbon sources such as natural gas (which is why you don’t hear them complaining about hydrogen vehicles as they will still profit from them, if they ever happen).

  • avatar
    ash78

    The fundamental problem with pure electrics (Leaf, Fit) vs. the various hybrid-type systems (Volt, Prius, etc) is this:
     
    For a pure electric, the cost per mile is going to be astronomical–assuming that’s a metric you intend to follow. Yes, you will probably save money on fuel. But the limited range basically means no long-distance driving, which is where most cars end up “averaging down” their cost of ownership.
     
    If you’re in the niche of people who don’t drive much, stay very local, and look at ownership simply in terms of “cost per month” (or other time-based metric), then there could be some good value there. But there are a lot of gambles and compromises on the part of the companies to deliver such a product.

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      Where are all the economic arguments for every article on the latest supercar?  An SL65 AMG costs $4/mile to own and operate.  That’s sixty grand for the average 15K miles per year.  Does that mean the car makes no sense?
       
      Some people care about driving fast.  Other people care about figuring out how to pass on the planet in decent condition to their children*.  Why is that so difficult for people to grok?
       
      It’s like Americans simply cannot imagine that someone would want to do something good without it having an economic payback.  Meanwhile, almost every person in the country spends countless hours imagining ways they could blow money having “fun”.  And if anyone does do something out of consideration for others, people call them snobs, hippies, and tree-huggers.
       
      Don’t you ever do something nice for your kids or your friends, even though it costs you money?  Is it so hard to imagine that money is not the only appropriate decision-making device?
       
       
       
      * Even if you argue that EVs or hybrids don’t do that now, it’s hard to argue that they won’t have a far better chance than traditional automobiles of becoming a lower-pollution transportation mechanism in the long term.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Where are all the economic arguments for every article on the latest supercar?

      Because we’ve been accultured to idolize wealth and consumption, but to see altruistic frugality as communistmorally suspect.  Gee, I wonder why?

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      @imag
       
      Because nobody mistakenly thinks the SL65 is a proxy for the future of motoring, which is what electric cars represent in most people’s minds.
       
      Quite simply, if I had extra money to “blow” on a nebulous contribution to the world’s ecological future, there are MANY better ways to spend it than on an electric car, which is still extremely wasteful in the overall scheme of things.
       
      Some of the best contributions to reduce vehicular CO2 are still being kept out of Americans’ hands via excessive restrictions on diesels. Many companies simply don’t offer them because they think the market is too small, or the filtration systems are too expensive, or because California’s bans won’t let them be profitable.
       
      Why won’t these shortsighted companies think about the future of the world instead of trying to grok some kind of economic benefit from their model lineups? ;)

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      Because your mileage (and economic) analysis misses two things that important in this here real world: cold starts and stop-and-go traffic.
       
      My wife is the perfect candidate for a small EV.  Every morning she drives to light rail (BART).  Every evening she drives back.  Total distance: less than 8 miles, with a tiny jump on the freeway and a whole lotta poorly timed lights in between.  I’m sure we could save more emissions with proper light timing than through a number of more expensive alternatives, but that’s a whole other rant.
       
      The thing is – it’s not the mileage.  It’s the cold start and the stop-and-go that are the waste elements here.  Hybrids deal with the latter through regenerative braking, and help with the former because they have smaller motors, but little beats an EV.  The EV doesn’t have to pump a bunch of crap into the air trying to warm up the engine, oil, radiator, and catalytic converter.  And it recaptures a respectable amount of energy from the stop and go, energy that is all wasted with a traditional vehicle.  Net effect: lower CO2 emissions and WAY lower emittance of all the old school pollutants, the ones we’ve stopped talking about, but which you inhale every morning walking along the street next to all the cold-driving cars.
       
      The point is, the total energy my wife *needs* to get to BART is a fraction of what she currently *uses*.  And sure – she could have a lower-weight vehicle like a scooter, but she’s got hair and suits and rain and all that to worry about.  Also note that an EV used for this kind of commute will last a long, long time, because the battery is barely being cycled.
       
      I do fully agree on the diesels point – for drivers like me, but not for my wife.  I think they are a great way to have our cake and eat it too.  When they get this algae figured out, I’m looking forward to building a biodiesel supercar.
       
      Also note that I argue with all due respect, because I think you are one of the finest commentators that I have yet seen on these here tubes they call the Interwebs.  Keep at it.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      @imag

      Glad you mentioned the traffic light timing issue…I think that would be the single biggest non-car related thing we could fix to improve our ecological impact in cars. No infrastructure changes, no car changes, just some effort to keep the flow moving. That’s part of the reason I’ve always pushed hard to get flex time at my jobs, since it creates easily half the running time in my car each day. Extrapolate that across all the 9-to-5 people in the country who don’t have flex time.

      Your wife is definitely a good candidate for an electric (at first glance). In fact, I usually argue in favor of cars like the Volt, which theoretically strikes gold in having a limitless range on the current refueling infrastructure. The big question–and this is not just mine, but everyone considering cars like these–is whether the non-monetary (enviro) benefits can close the gap with the more obvious cost reductions…and be compelling enough to overcome the cost of entry.

      I didn’t mean to come across as purely financially-minded, but I have a longstanding pet peeve when people look at something like mpg/mileage and think “it’ll be so much cheaper than my current car!” while ignoring almost every other cost. Nothing will stop an individual’s eco-efforts quicker than being surprised (an angered) at extra costs or drawbacks they didn’t consider.

      In short, and IMHO, what we need are more incremental, sustainable/repeatable, and easily adoptable solutions…and those rarely make the news because they’re just not as interesting.

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      The TTAC commenting system ate my half-decent comment, and I had to get back to work, but I’ll catch you on the next one.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    What’s the big deal?  This won’t be the first time that Honda has offered a pure EV, I give you the EV plus:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_EV_Plus

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Well they better do a far better implementation on the Fit EV than they did on the Insight.  And the Crosstour.  And the CR-Z.  And the entire Acura line up…

  • avatar
    ash78

    @imag
     
    Glad you mentioned the traffic light timing issue…I think that would be the single biggest non-car related thing we could fix to improve our ecological impact in cars. No infrastructure changes, no car changes, just some effort to keep the flow moving. That’s part of the reason I’ve always pushed hard to get flex time at my jobs, since it creates easily half the running time in my car each day. Extrapolate that across all the 9-to-5 people in the country who don’t have flex time.
     
    Your wife is definitely a good candidate for an electric (at first glance). In fact, I usually argue in favor of cars like the Volt, which theoretically strikes gold in having a limitless range on the current refueling infrastructure. The big question–and this is not just mine, but everyone considering cars like these–is whether the non-monetary (enviro) benefits can close the gap with the more obvious cost reductions…and be compelling enough to overcome the cost of entry.
     
    I didn’t mean to come across as purely financially-minded, but I have a longstanding pet peeve when people look at something like mpg/mileage and think “it’ll be so much cheaper than my current car!” while ignoring almost every other cost. Nothing will stop an individual’s eco-efforts quicker than being surprised (an angered) at extra costs or drawbacks they didn’t consider.
     
    In short, and IMHO, what we need are more incremental, sustainable/repeatable, and easily adoptable solutions…and those rarely make the news because they’re just not as interesting.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    It’s hard to understand why taxi fleets aren’t all hybridized already. They hardly ever go on long freeway rides, and the constant stop-and-go should regenerate plenty of power for electric or electric-assisted operation. Besides availability of suitable-sized vehicles, is there some other reason?

    • 0 avatar
      Bytor

      Prejudiced idiots that think only full frame RWD cars make good Taxis?
      I have read reports from Taxi companies use the Prius. They save greater than 50% of fuel costs and more than 50% of maintenance costs as well. They are routinely going 400 000kms on the original batteries as well.
       
       
       

  • avatar

    Unfortunately, at NYC and LI 22 cent kwH prices, plug-in makes no economic sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Tree Trunk

      Don’t know about the Fit but the Leaf is expected to get 4 miles per KWH or 5.5cent a mile at your electric rate. If you currently have a reasonably efficient car with 30 mpg that would be about 10 cent a mile at 3$ a gallon.
       
      Right now the savings would be 50% in fuel, if your current ride is less efficient or if gas goes up the savings will be greater.


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