Fuel cell technology is still two decades away, according to Honda. That’s why it is aiming to concentrate on refining existing systems and expanding its hybrid range to include a lightweight hybrid sports car.
Honda CEO Takanobu Ito said, “It will be 20 years at the earliest before fuel cell cars penetrate the mass market.”
Honda is currently the only car maker to have a fuel cell-powered car in production, but the FCX Clarity is only available to lease in the US and Japan.
In the meantime, Honda is working on a range of technologies to improve the efficiency of its cars and increase the number of hybrids it sells, including a high-performance sports car.
“This is something that we are considering, and the CR-Z is only one shape of Honda’s hybrid sports cars in the current age,” revealed Honda design boss Nobuki Ebisawa.
Some company insiders are believed to want to revive a bespoke sports car programme following the axing of the long-rumoured replacement for the NSX at the end of last year.
However, any new Honda sports car is unlikely to be as extreme as the NSX; the firm’s US dealers are known to want a rival to the Porsche Boxster, so the car could, in effect, replace the S2000.
Ebisawa is studying weight-saving processes such as using more aluminium, from which the first NSX was made.
But before the sports cars, Honda will further develop its hybrid tech with a two-motor system that will enable the firm to build petrol-electric versions of bigger cars.
“We recognise that one motor is not sufficient for bigger cars. The class above the Civic would need two motors, so we are developing such a system,” said Ito. “We want to minimise weight and maximise efficiency.”
The firm is also working on a plug-in hybrid as part of its research into improving its line-up in that area of the market. But it is cautious about launching the car due to the incentive-driven nature of how people buy hybrids, especially in Japan, where big government-funded discounts have fuelled sales of the Insight. Should these be reduced, sales could fall.
Styling, too, will be used to improve the vehicle’s efficiency. Honda’s R&D centre is working on active aerodynamics (bodywork that changes shape at different speeds to improve airflow over the car). It will introduce the aero technology within five years, according to Ebisawa.