Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

LOS ANGELES – Honda Motor Co. Ltd. steps further into the realm of advanced powertrains with its Fit EV Concept and midsize plug-in hybrid platform, both debuting at the auto show here.

Honda President and CEO Takanobu Ito says as the auto industry takes its first steps from a century of oil dependence, electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are the “bridge” technology between “using less petroleum to using no petroleum and producing fewer carbon-dioxide emissions to no CO2 emissions.”

While hydrogen fuel cells are the “ultimate technology,” he says the upcoming Fit EV concept car and new dedicated plug-in platform will add to the auto maker’s overarching focus on promoting zero-emissions through innovative products and cutting-edge energy-management and production initiatives.

The Fit 5-passenger electric B-car, powered by a lithium-ion battery, will hit the market in the U.S. and Japan in 2012. The new model will have the same blueprint as the popular Fit hatchback.

The EV will have a top speed of 90 mph (145 km/h) and an estimated 100-mile (161-km) driving range per charge, maximized through a 3-setting electric-drive system that is adapted from the ’11 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid.

In the Econ mode, practical driving range can increase by as much as 17% from the Normal mode and up to 25% in the Sport mode, Honda says. Acceleration improves dramatically in Sport mode, with the Fit performing closer to a vehicle equipped with a 2.0L gasoline engine.

Battery recharging can be accomplished in less than 12 hours when using a conventional 120-volt outlet and less than six hours when using a 240-volt outlet.

Ito notes the Fit EV also will have a state-of-the-art telematics system that can be accessed remotely through a smartphone, personal computer or exclusive interactive remote. The model will come standard with Honda’s satellite-connected navigation system, capable of locating public charging stations.

As for the new plug-in hybrid technology introduced at the show, Honda says it allows a vehicle using electric-only to achieve a range of about 10-15 miles (16-24 km) in city driving and a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h).

The powertrain employs a 6-kWh lithium-ion battery and 120-kW (27-hp) electric motor. Fully recharging the battery can take up to 2.5 hours using a 120V outlet and up to 1.5 hours using a 240V outlet.

The plug-in also uses a 2.0L i-VTEC inline 4-cyl. Atkinson cycle engine, paired with an electric continuously variable transmission. An onboard generator adds to the battery powering the electric motor.

Honda previously has said its new full-hybrid system would be used in midsize and larger vehicles, while it would retain its current mild-hybrid Integrated Motor Assist system for smaller vehicles.

Says Ito: “We want to use our technologies to help peoples’ daily lives by establishing a total energy-management system, including electric vehicles.”