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Tokyo show: Honda’s compact EV roadster races in

Dose of excitement: The Honda EV-STER concept sportcar was revealed at the Tokyo show.

Small rear-drive Honda sportscar hits Tokyo as hybrid NSX successor draws near

Honda logo30 Nov 2011

By TERRY MARTIN

HONDA has embarked on a fresh campaign to return to “exciting and thrilling” cars, starting with a new small rear-drive electric sportscar shown in concept form in Tokyo this week.

The “next-generation” EV-STER concept came to life at the Japanese motor show after sketches were issued earlier this month.

Further news from the Honda stand also pointed to a range-topping all-wheel-drive hybrid ‘Super Sports’ concept – the long-anticipated successor to the NSX supercar – in development and to be shown at the Detroit motor show in January.

After walking away from its performance-car heritage in favour of a softer, greener image, Honda has now made it clear that it is turning back in that direction.

In his speech this morning, Honda Motor Co president and CEO Takanobu Ito said: “Starting from here at the Tokyo motor show, we will sequentially introduce multiple new models including a high-performance sports model which is currently under development toward market introduction in the near future.

“In order for Honda to continue delivering environmentally responsible, exciting and thrilling products, ever since I was appointed as the president of the company I have been prompting systems and capabilities which enable us to develop ‘edgy products’.

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“By edgy products I mean products which have environmental and safety performance as the solid base, but also a sharp point that creates a distinctive ‘edge’.”

Known prior to the Tokyo show as the ‘Small Sports EV Concept’ and mooted as a potential Porsche Boxster rival, the sleek carbon-clad EV-STER has emerged more as a mainstream two-seater compact roadster that uses a 10kWh lithium-ion battery pack – offering a maximum output of 58kW – and can accelerate from 0-60km/h in 5.0 seconds. Top speed is listed at 160km/h.

Measuring 3570mm long and 1500mm wide, the EV-STER is shorter and wider than the current Mazda MX-5 but rests on a comparable wheelbase length of 2325mm. Overall height is just 1100mm.

The dimensions indicate that the car is designed to conform to Japanese mini-car (kei-car) regulations, with some reports suggesting it will also pick up a 660cc three-cylinder engine that is consistent with that class.

Few other details were provided for the EV-STER, other than a maximum driving range of 160km (based on the JC08 standard) and a recharging time of less than three hours using a 200-volt power supply, or around twice that on 100 volts.

There is no word yet on production, but overseas reports indicate that the compact sportscar – which also features a twin-lever steering system and offers the driver the ability to adjust motor output and suspension settings – is destined to reach showrooms in 2013.

Significantly, Honda also unveiled a new all-wheel-drive hybrid system as part of its ‘Earth Dreams Technology’ that is likely to power the forthcoming NSX successor.

Developed for larger-sized vehicles, the hybrid system features a new ‘electric’ version of Honda’s SH-AWD system and combines a 3.5-litre V6 engine driving the front wheels with two independent 20kW-plus motors – positioned at the rear wheels, each with adjustable torque control – to enable four-wheel drive.

Also included is a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with a built-in 30kW-plus high-efficiency electric motor, plus a high-performance lithium-ion battery.

Honda claims the hybrid system offers acceleration equivalent to a V8 and fuel efficiency equal or superior to inline four-cylinder engines.

Also among the technical developments announced at the show was a new 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine (to replace the current 2.2-litre engine), a 120kW 2.0-litre ‘two-motor’ plug-in and conventional hybrid system (to be first employed on mid-sized vehicles next year), a new compact and high-efficiency electric powertrain for EVs (offering a range of up to 210km), and three continuously variable transmission (CVT) ‘structures’ for mini, compact and mid-size vehicle classes across a variety of engine models.

Honda also said it would offer a 2.0-litre petrol engine in its forthcoming new-generation CR-V for the Japanese domestic market, in addition to the 2.4-litre petrol engine shown in the US and which is bound for Australia next year.

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