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From Insight to NSX and Beyond: Green Cars to Dominate at Honda

Two-thirds of all models to use hydrogen, battery power by 2030.

by on Feb.25, 2016

Honda Chief Executive Officer Takahiro Hachigo helping introduce the Honda Clarity.

Two cars couldn’t seem more unlike one another. Yet the Honda Insight and Acura NSX have a lot in common – and they’re trailblazing the path being laid out by Honda’s new CEO Takahiro Hachigo.

Though one car focuses on fuel economy, the other on performance, both rely on gas-electric hybrid powertrains, Insight and NSX underscoring Honda Motor Co.’s plan to have hydrogen and battery-powered vehicles account for two-thirds of its line-up by 2030. Today, so-called “new-energy” vehicles make up just 5% of the Japanese automaker’s model mix.


“We want to focus our development resources for electrification,” Hachigo said during a Tokyo news conference that marks the start of his second year at the helm of Japan’s third-largest automaker.


Honda Set to Kill Off Insight Hybrid

Maker shifting focus to new generation of hybrids.

by on Feb.26, 2014

Honda CEO Takeo Fukui (l) was one of those celebrating the introduction of the latest Insight hybrid.

It appears Honda finally is ready to end production of its dedicated Insight hybrid-electric vehicle as the Japanese automaker moves to address some long-festering problems.

News reports from Japan indicate Honda executives have finally pulled the plug on the latest version of the Insight, the successor to Honda’s first hybrid model originally introduced in 1999.

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The likely demise of the Insight has been the subject of rumors for months and appears to reflect Honda’s inability to generate much consumer interest in the model which was once seen as the maker’s answer to the Toyota Prius.  Toyota’s hybrid was the best -selling vehicle in California last year and dominated sales charts in Japan, as well, while the Insight was never in the hunt.


Acura Will Update – Then Drop — Slow-Selling ZDX

A grand send-off for a product few will miss.

by on Oct.10, 2012

Fade to black: Acura updates the ZDX before banishing the unloved crossover.

Some makers prefer to let their failures slip away quietly.  Acura, however, is giving a big send-off to the unloved ZDX as it prepares to banish the slow-selling crossover off into oblivion.

The ZDX has been one of the poorest performers in the entire lineup of Honda/Acura products – and one of an assortment of niche products that didn’t quite connect with U.S. consumers, also including the Honda-branded Insight and CR-Z models.

The maker is now looking to either find fixes – as with the updated CR-Z unveiled at the Paris Motor Show — or pare back and, as a corporate statement suggests, “sharpen (the) focus on new models and core products.”

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The Acura ZDX emerged in 2009 as part of a new wave of crossovers that seemed to be trying to find a balance between sports coupe and sport-ute. Perhaps the only real success in the segment has been the BMX X6. For the first nine months of the year, Acura sold just 642 ZDX crossovers, down from an already anemic 1220 during the same period the year before.  By comparison, the luxury maker sold 4692 of its more conventional MDX crossovers in September.


Honda Polishes its Environmental Credentials

"Earth Dreams" technology to debut on new Accord.

by on Jun.29, 2012

The production version of the 2013 Honda Accord -- the Coupe Concept shown here -- will introduce the maker's new Earth Dreams technology.

Honda, looking to regain some of the momentum it has lost over the past couple of years, plans to introduce its “Earth Dreams” technology this coming fall on its new 2013 Honda Accord.

Honda officials told that the Earth Dreams package on the new Accord will include a new 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder engine with direct injection and a new continuously variable (or CVT) transmission, according to Steve Center, American Honda’s vice president overseeing environmental business development.

Center also said a plug-in electric version of the Accord will debut in early 2013 as part of the maker’s overall strategy of reducing CO2 emissions.

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The first maker to launch a hybrid model in the U.S. – its original Insight model – Honda has since taken a back seat, in terms of its environmental image, to Toyota which produces the Prius, the world’s best-selling gas-electric model.  Recent Honda hybrids, including a new Insight and the CR-Z, have failed to gain the market traction the maker had anticipated.


Honda Makes Belated, Reluctant Move Into Plug-Ins and EVs

After fast start, maker slow to embrace battery power.

by on Jul.21, 2010

Honda's FCX fuel cell vehicle tanks up at a solar-powered hydrogen station.

It was the first to launch a battery-powered vehicle in the U.S. market, but Honda Motor Co. has been surprisingly reluctant – until now – to embrace the evolving electrification of the auto industry.

While its competitors have pushed into more advanced hybrids, plug-ins, extended-range electric vehicles and pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, Honda has stuck with the “mild” hybrid technology it first introduced a decade ago.

But that’s about to change, the Japanese maker says.  It is getting ready an array of battery vehicles that will cover a gamut of applications, says the maker’s CEO, declaring the move “our highest management priority.”

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But will Honda be able to regain the lead it briefly held in the green automotive sector with the launch of its first-generation Insight, a 2-seat hybrid?  Recent offerings, including a new, 4-door version of the Insight, have fared poorly in the U.S. market, despite growing demand for battery-based vehicles.

“Our highest management priority is to establish a corporate structure that ensures a profit while we develop and commercialize advanced environmental technologies,” says Honda President and CEO Takanobu Ito.


Single Occupant Honda CNG and Fuel Cell Vehicles Granted California High Occupancy Vehicle Access

Civic GX and FCX Clarity retain special access, while more popular and effective Honda and Toyota hybrids are ousted?

by on Jul.13, 2010

The Civic GX is the only dedicated natural gas vehicle from a major automaker in America, and Honda Manufacturing of Indiana is now its exclusive source.

Ah, the ongoing joys of observing California legislators bestow economic advantages on companies that are marketing the green flavor du jour.

The state that brought you the ill-fated Electric Vehicle mandate that cost automakers billions upon billions of dollars developing what turned out to be non-saleable EVs is again intervening in the market for other alternative fuel vehicles that are now in favor.

Once again it is electric vehicles and some latter day variants that have caught the fancy of lawmakers.

The root problem here is that politicians keep trying to set design standards – favoring one type of technology over another – rather than performance standards, which simply set the goals desired and let companies fight for customers in the marketplace. This results in faster development times and economically feasible results– not that politicians care if anyone will buy the things they are mandating – just look at the whole sorry history of the previous California EV mandate of the 1990s.

In the latest example of this ongoing folly, the recently passed California Assembly Bill 1500 extends HOV lane access to “Inherently Low Emission Vehicles” (ILEV), which includes cars that are certified as zero emission and CNG vehicles. In addition, new HOV stickers will be available for those driving pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, such as the Tesla Roadster.


California drivers of compressed natural gas (CNG) powered Civic GXs, and the “zero-emissions” FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle will continue to have access to coveted High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) highway lanes until January 2015.


California Yanks Prius Owners’ Express Lane Passes

Hybrid owners will now have to crawl through traffic like everyone else.

by on Jul.09, 2010

Prius, Insight and Civic Hybrid models with this sticker will no longer have access to California HOV lanes after December 31st.

For the past several years there’s been a booming gray market, in California, for the Toyota Prius.  Not just any Prius, but specifically those which have an HOV access sticker pasted onto the bumper, a perk that can save a lucky, long-distance commuter an hour or more a day in travel time.

California regulators limited to 85,000 the number of High-Occupancy Vehicle stickers – which give access to the normally restricted car pool lanes.  And only the three highest-mileage hybrids and electric vehicles, including the Prius, the Honda Insight and Honda Civic Hybrid qualified.

But as of December 31st, those three gas-electric models will have to fight it out for space on the I-405 and other crowded Golden State freeways along with Camry sedans, Ford Explorers and, gasp, gas-guzzling Chevy Silverado pickups.

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While the Governator, California chief executive Arnold Schwarzenegger, has signed into law a 4-year extension of what had come to be known as the “Prius Perk,” the extension notably now excludes mere hybrids.  The new focus is on pure battery power, something California regulators have been trying to promote since an ill-fated zero-emission law was briefly implemented back in the early 1990s.


2011 Honda CR-Z to Launch at $19,200

Will be one of market’s lowest-cost hybrids.

by on Jun.22, 2010

Add in destination charges and you'll be able to get the new 2011 Honda CR-Z for less than $20,000.

Honda dealers will get the official go to start selling the maker’s latest hybrid model, on August 10, and the Japanese maker says the 2011 Honda CR-Z will carry a base price of $19,200 – plus a $750 destination charge – making it one of the market’s lowest-price gasoline-electric vehicles.

Reminiscent of the long-lamented Honda CR-X, the sporty 2-seat coupe will be offered only with a hybrid powertrain, in this case a 1.5-liter VTEC-based gasoline engine mated to the maker’s well-known Integrated Motor Assist system.

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In an unusual move, Honda will offer CR-Z buyers the choice of a 6-speed manual gearbox or the Continuously Variable Transmission the carmaker’s other hybrid models are normally outfitted with.  But even the CVT will come with sporty wheel-mounted paddle shifters.


Styling Sells – Battery Cars – More Than Mileage

Alt-fuel vehicle sales rising, but exterior design may be more important than fuel economy.

by on Jun.18, 2010

Styling sells, even when it comes to high-mileage "green" machines.

How much of a market is there for battery cars and other “green” powertrain technologies? 

The answer seems to depend on who you ask and what your basic assumptions about fuel prices are, though there’s little doubt demand for alternative fuel vehicles is growing steadily.  But concerns about such issues as rising fuel costs and global warming may not be the biggest motivators, suggests at least one new report.  Styling may be equally important.

The current year will be a milestone in the green movement, what with two significant launches scheduled for later this year: the 2011 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and the pure battery-electric Nissan Leaf.  Makers around the world are ramping up production of more conventional green powertrain vehicles, as well, Hyundai, for one, readying its first hybrid-electric vehicle for the U.S. market.

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While Volt and Leaf will come too late to make any real impact on the market, a new study by J.D. Power and Associates predicts that global sales of alternative-fuel vehicles will surge a significant 28% this year, “outpacing the 8% growth we expect in light vehicle sales.”


A Quarter Century of Mileage Misers

Who Needs Hybrids?

by on Jun.14, 2010

The latest Honda Insight delivers Top 10 mileage, but some of the most fuel-efficient cars of the last quarter century have relied on gas or diesel powertrains, not hybrid power.

Who needs hybrids?  Though gasoline-electric powertrains certainly raise the bar when it comes to fuel efficiency, you don’t always have to go quite so high-tech, as a review of the last quarter-century’s biggest mileage misers will reveal.

More than half the cars on the EPA’s Top 10 list of Rated Fuel Sippers used conventional gasoline technology, rather than hybrid powertrains.

As almost any motorist can tell you, the government mileage rating on your window sticker is only an estimate, calculated under carefully controlled conditions.  “Mileage,” as they say, “may vary,” often by quite a bit when it comes to real-world driving.  And the EPA’s Top 10 Real-World Fuel Sippers reveals that traditional power is even more dominant, accounting for six models on the list.

(Increased fuel Economy will carry a steep price. Click Here for more.)

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The original, 2-seat Honda Insight tops both charts.  The 2000 model-year version, with its 3-cylinder 1-liter hybrid powertrain was rated at 49 mpg City/61 Highway, and a Combined mileage rating of 53.  Tracking real-world driving, the EPA says the 2004 through 2006 version of the aluminum-bodied Honda Insight delivered a user average of 70.4 mpg, compared with a government Combined rating of 52 mpg.