Monday must have been "Engine Tech" day at Honda, seeing as they released info about their new clean diesel, Advanced VTEC, and the topic we're about to discuss: the new FFV system that'll be rolled out in Brazil later this year. Before we do that, we should mention that it isn't just automotive powerplants that received the laboratory love, as Honda also announced innovations for its motorcycle and power equipment engines, too. The White Lab Coat Brigade has certainly been keeping itself occupied.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. With its new flexible-fuel system, Honda believes that it has essentially conquered all the known drawbacks of using ethanol. Problems with cold starts, inconsistent performance, variations in fuel economy and emissions are all addressed with the new system. Designed to operate on fuel grades ranging from E20 all the way up to E100, the Honda FFV system analyzes the levels of exhaust gas concentration in the exhaust system to estimate what fuel blend is currently in the tank, and then adjusts accordingly. The result, according to Honda, is that its FFVs will have performance and fuel economy ratios that nearly equal those of their gasoline-only engines.

The two prototypes revealed today, a Civic FFV and a Fit FFV, seem to bear this out. The Civic, when running on E100, generates 140PS at 6,200 rpm and 174 Nm of torque at 4,300 rpm. Fill it with an E22 mix and theose numbers only drop to 138 PS and 172 Nm (this torque peak arrives at 5,000 rpm). With the Fit, it's more of the same. On E100, it makes 83PS at 5,700 rpm and 119Nm of torque at 2,800 rpm. On E22, it drops to 80PS and 116 Nm at identical engine speeds.

What does this all mean? It mean that Honda has positioned itself to be all things to all people in the next few years. Not sold on green tech? No problem, there's Advanced VTEC standing by. Into diesel? Its new clean diesel technology will pass US regulatory muster. Tree hugger? Technophile? You know about the already-available hybrid powertrain, and in '08, it'll be joined in the marketplace by a limited-production FCV. And if growing fuel is your thing, these new FFVs appear to be up to snuff (if Honda ever decides to offer them outside Brazil).

Honda's chess pieces are slowly moving into place. They've dipped a toe into all the technology pools, and should be able to capitalize if one emerges as the clear favorite among consumers.

What? No pure EV? Hey, nobody's perfect.

(Additional photos, press release after the jump)

Honda's Civic and Fit FFVs:


PRESS RELEASE:
Honda Develops Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV) System For Introduction in Brazil in 2006

September 25, 2006– Honda Motor Co., Ltd., announced that it has developed a new flexible fuel vehicle (FFV) system that enables gasoline engine-based power plants to operate on either 100% ethanol or a wide range of ethanol-gasoline fuel mixtures.

Up to now, variations in the ratio of ethanol-to-gasoline have affected low-temperature startup performance, and caused variations in air-fuel ratio and engine output. This has made it a challenge to maintain stable dynamic performance, fuel economy and emissions levels. The new Honda system adapts to different ethanol-to-gasoline ratios by estimating the concentration of ethanol in the ethanol-gasoline mix in the fuel tank based on measurements of exhaust gas concentration in the vehicle's exhaust system. This provides the flexibility to adapt to ethanol-to-gasoline ratios of between 20% and 100%, while achieving outstanding fuel economy and dynamic performance on a par with a 100% gasoline-powered vehicle. In addition, a cold-start system utilizing a secondary fuel tank ensures reliable starts even at low ambient temperatures.

Bioethanol fuel, as used in Brazil and other countries, is made from plant sources such as sugar cane. Because plants absorb CO2 via photosynthesis, the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere from burning bioethanol fuel does not increase atmospheric CO2. This makes bioethanol fuel an effective means to combat global warming as well as an alternative to petroleum.

In late 2006, Honda plans to begin sales of FFVs in Brazil, where bio-ethanol has gained in popularity.

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