Honda's President has given his support to plans for a four-motor, pure-electric sports car that could sit just below the newly launched NSX in its line-up.
The long gestation period for the Japanese manufacturer’s hybrid supercar has allowed it to start work on several other sporting projects in parallel. These include a smaller, four-cylinder engine-based sports car and, as a higher priority, a successor to the S2000 roadster - but also a performance-focused pure EV that could showcase the next generation of Honda’s SH-AWD torque distribution system.
Honda has already developed an all-electric version of SH-AWD that uses an inboard electric motor at each corner and mixes torque vectoring with four-wheel steering. It demonstrated this complex set-up with a modified CR-Z at this year’s Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, winning the Exhibition Class and posting the 11th fastest time overall.
Honda has allowed journalists to experience a tuned-down version of the racer on the eve of the Tokyo motor show - and revealed that the project has always had a production version of the car as its end goal. “We started this car back in 2012, not as a race car but as an all-electric sports car for public sales,” said a senior project source. “We are making every possible effort to make it to the market. More specifically, with the success at Pikes Peak we have verified that the testing period is completed. Now we have to think about the commercialisation of it.”
The company's president Takahiro Hachigo said, "This car was developed by young engineers in our R&D department who were trying to see what fun cars they could come up with. I personally have driven it and I would like to see it mass-produced. I hope the young engineers can, in the next phase, come up with a way of achieving that. There are some challenges in the way, but while I cannot say when we can launch a car like this, I want to see it happen as early as possible."
The CR-Z Pikes Peak racer had a 444bhp combined output and weighed 1800kg (thanks to a jumbo 50kWh battery and a heavy-duty roll cage designed to protect both it and the driver); the roadgoing mule driven ahead of the Tokyo show has around 250bhp and weighed 1600kg, but Honda engineers have indicated that it could run at 350bhp with relative ease.
The car currently has a 16kWh battery but engineers say they need to target range of 250 miles “to make customers satisfied”; that’s likely to bring extra weight that will add a few tenths to the car’s current 0-62mph time of 3.5sec.
Autocar understands that one of the chief attractions of four electric motors is that they can be relatively inexpensive, ‘stock’ components that are already available; the motors used on the CR-Z test mule are from Honda’s American flagship, the Acura RLX Hybrid.
Honda is likely to gauge final reaction to the NSX before signing off on this, one of the more controversial sports car projects in its history. That’s because the targeted range of the production version and the need to use lithium-ion batteries are likely to drive up the price - not to as high a point as the NSX’s, but feasibly as high as $100,000, or £65,000.
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