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Detroit show: Honda amps up its electric charge

Sparky: American Honda vice-president John Mendel with Honda’s FCV concept at the Detroit motor show.

New plug-in models to join Honda range by 2018 in electric vehicle expansion

Honda logo14 Jan 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

HONDA is working on all-new full electric and plug-in hybrid models for sale by 2018 when they are scheduled to join the Japanese company’s upcoming FCV fuel-cell hatchback and new-generation hybrids in showrooms.

Announcing the accelerated plunge into electrification, American Honda executive vice-president John Mendel said at the Detroit motor show that the new models would create volume sales pillars for Honda by meeting a variety of customer needs for mobility.

American Honda public relations representative Angie Nucci told GoAuto that the foreshadowed new battery electric and plug-in hybrid models were for the US market "at this time".

Honda was one of the earliest mass manufacturers to embrace hybrid technology and is a pioneer of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles via the FCX Clarity and its upcoming replacement, the FCV production car. As well, it sells a full-electric Fit (Jazz) in some markets.

However, the plug-in hybrid model announced in Detroit will be a first for the brand.

The wording of Mr Mendel’s speech seems to indicate Honda will build just one all-new battery-powered electric car and a single plug-in hybrid model, rather that multiple models using each of these technologies.

On the hybrid side, Honda is getting more serious with new-generation petrol-electric powertrains, starting with the launch overseas of the all-new Legend hybrid luxury sedan and – later this year in the United States – the much-anticipated NSX sports coupe with a powerful V6 mated with no fewer than three electric motors driving all four wheels.

This three-motor hybrid technology, and a related two-motor hybrid powertrain, will filter down to other models, presumably in less powerful forms.

While Honda Australia has ruled out the Legend for local showrooms, the American-built NSX is expected to land in Australia in 2016.

Overseas, the NSX will be followed in 2016 by the introduction into Japanese and US showrooms of the hydrogen fuel-cell FCV which is being shown in concept form at Detroit.

The production FCV is likely to be revealed at this year’s Tokyo motor show in late October. In the US, the launch could happen one month later at the Los Angeles auto show in California where Honda, along with several other manufacturers including Toyota, is helping to establish a broad network of hydrogen refuelling stations.

A lack of hydrogen infrastructure is likely to preclude an Australian launch of the FCV any time soon, but plug-in hybrid and – perhaps – the full-electric car might be a different story.

Along with electrified powertrains, Honda has announced that it is set to expand its application of turbocharged VTEC engines beyond the upcoming Civic Type R due this year.

The company is adding a new engine production line at its Ohio engine plant to produce the engines from later this year, presumably for the North American market.

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