Currently reading: Honda to focus on hybrids
Fuel cell pioneer says the tech is too far off; it wants a hybrid sports car, and soon

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.

Dan Stevens

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NiallOswald 8 November 2009

Re: Honda to focus on hybrids

The point that generally gets missed is that fuel cells are essentially just another type of battery - the drivetrain of a fuel cell car is otherwise identical to that of a battery EV. The TG item was very misleading, suggesting that the abundance of hydrogen essentially makes it a free fuel. Anyone with even half a science GCSE should have seen straight through it.

Charge/discharge cycle efficiency of fuel cells is far worse than today's batteries, so when the energy is fundamentally coming from the same source (the grid) it's hard to justify their use. On the other hand, if there's a generation/conversion process which efficiently produces hydrogen directly, they make more sense.

jammy_rex 6 November 2009

Re: Honda to focus on hybrids

Uncle Mellow wrote:

NobbyUK wrote:

Honda got it right when they made motorbikes reliable when the Brits couldn't, they made the lean-burn CVCC car engines when the Yanks said it was impossible, they created the VTEC engine with power and efficiency, pioneered aluminium construction to save weight and hybrid motors to take petrol further. So maybe, just maybe, we should all get behind them when they have Another Big Idea.

Can't argue with that.

I agree completely - very well said.

I really hope they do revive their sports car programme and develop a replacement for the S2000 too...

HyundaiSmoke 6 November 2009

Re: Honda to focus on hybrids

Honda should sell the CR-Z just like that, but with pull out door handles.