Honda made an appropriately auspicious splash, Wednesday, as it staged its first-ever global preview at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show.
And, suitably enough, the event marked the debut of the Japanese maker’s new Honda Fit EV Concept, a thinly-disguised version of the battery car it will put into production in 2012, said the automaker’s CEO Takanobu Ito.
Though Honda was the first to bring a hybrid-electric vehicle to the U.S. market, it has been struggling to set a clear course for its future electrification efforts, in part due to its concerns about the viability of lithium-ion battery technology. But earlier this year, Ito decided Honda could no longer dither and has announced a relatively aggressive program to expand its use of battery power.
“A change of this scale is not easy for consumers, for the auto industry or for the (electric) infrastructure,” he acknowledged in explanation of Honda’s continuing concerns about battery propulsion.
But the maker has clearly recognized it must move beyond its current mild hybrid technology. And the production version of the Fit EV – which will begin field testing next year – is only part of Honda’s strategy.
Honda also is developing a two-motor plug-in hybrid, using lithium batteries, Ito announced. The vehicle – which the CEO declined to identify in detail – is expected to get between 10 and 15 miles per charge before switching to gasoline power. That is roughly a third of the range of the new Chevrolet Volt.
The Fit EV, on the other hand, will get an estimated 100 miles per charge, according to the so-called LA4 test cycle – though the EPA testing process cuts that to just 70 miles.
The maker says a key goal was to emphasize “fun-to-drive” performance which, according to Ito, is in line with a 2.0-liter engine, something on the large size for the little Fit.
The vehicle will feature three modes, including Sport and Econ, the latter intended to boost range by as much as 17%.
Though Fit may be targeted as a “short-range commuter” car, according to the CEO, it appears Honda will be pushing to electrify other product lines.
“Our ultimate goal,” emphasized Ito, “is to power personal mobility with electricity.”