• Sep 22nd 2008 at 8:09PM
  • 41
The same week that General Motors unveiled the production version of its Volt extended range EV, Honda R&D president Masaaki Kato downplayed the importance of plug-in hybrids, at least in the short term. While GM and Toyota are both developing hybrid vehicles with plug-in capability and a wide array of manufacturers are planning full battery electric vehicles, Honda doesn't believe that battery technology is where it needs to be for plug-in vehicles to be commercially viable. The company believes the latest lithium ion batteries are still too costly, heavy and low in energy density to meet consumer demands. For the time being, Honda will focus on its upcoming new hybrid models as well as developing fuel cell technology. Honda's FCX Clarity already has a range of 280 miles on 4 kg of hydrogen and the company believes it can make more improvements more easily there than with batteries. Honda doesn't rule out a plug-in at some point, but whenever we've talked to them over the last two years they've given no indication of when.

[Source: Bloomberg]


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  • 41 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      They invested a lot in hydrogen, so they might want to take a break from invesments,
        • 7 Years Ago
        Yes, and they've admitted that it will take at least a decade of research before they can bring the cost down to affordable levels and actually start production.
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Honda's FCX Clarity already has a range of 280 miles on 4 kg of hydrogen and the company believes it can make more improvements more easily there than with batteries."

      Uh-huh. The Clarity also costs between $500,000 and $1,000,000. The Volt will cost $40,000. Newsflash Honda: you're being moronic.

      And that's all I have to say on the matter.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Tankdog, do you really think GM will apply the full development cost to just the first vehicle off the line? Not likely, they've never done that on any other vehicle. That cost is always spread over the entire production run, usually over several years.

        But that half million dollar Clarity is just counting the cost of building the car, with most of that cost for the fuel cell and H2 storage - it doesn't account for ANY of the development cost! If that development cost was applied by your screwy accounting, that first car would be more than 11 million.

        Oh, by the way, that Clarity also has LiIon batteries, they are needed to run the car until the fuel cell gets going, store regenerative braking energy, and provide extra power for acceleration.

        Hmm, somehow Honda doesn't think LiIon is ready for a plug-in, but they are ready for their fuel cell car? Curious, that.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Who's being the moron here? The first volt off the line will cost somewhere around 10 million dollars.
        • 7 Years Ago
        tankd0g: you.
        If Honda charged all the development cost in their first Clarity, that would be a few hundred million dollars. Chris is absolutely right. And whatever you're driving now would be also a few hundred million dollars, if not a billion or more.
      • 7 Years Ago
      So GM's got a plug-in hybrid coming in 2010, 2011(?), and suddenly everyone thinks GM is great and Honda sucks? Honda, the company that brought us the first hybrid, the most fuel efficient car ever sold in America, the world's first production hydrogen car, and America's only natural gas car? Yeah, those morons. Honda's not half as smart as the people on this forum...

      This place is ridiculous.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I wouldn't give Honda too much credit for outfitting a car to run on Natural Gas. You can buy conversion kits anywhere, and I know a good portion of Alberta's ATCO fleet vehicles run on it, as well as many other fleets. I have a propane powered truck (86 C-10 LWB 2WD), are you going to send me flowers and a love note?
        • 7 Years Ago
        Hey, you must be too young or stupid. Natural gas cars have been around for decades.
        GM came out with the first fuel cell car and they are still the front runner. Electric and hybrid cars is nothing knew. The US car companies tinkered with them decades ago so Honda was not the first. Hybrid will go to the wayside after the Volt is out. GM holds more patents than all the Japanese cars companies put together. Put the credit where the credit belongs.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Battery technology may need some further development, but hydrogen storage has no easy solution either, and hydrogen storage may actually be arguably more difficult.

      Big Honda fan here, but even if I could afford the Clarity, where do I fill it up? Infrastructure is another BIG handicap for hydrogen adoption. Maybe in the long run...

      ...but in the next 5-15 years, PHEVs (& EVs) will dominate hydrogen power. Their quick adoption is going to be driven by the ever increasing price of oil and thus gasoline, and the cheaper price of electricity.
      • 7 Years Ago
      No plug, no sale.

      The Volt's concept, given the cost of batteries today, is the smartest possible. Offer a limited range (so much smaller and much cheaper battery than an all electric vehicle) which covers most of the people needs most of the time and then an ICE (still with very high MPG) kicks in (when you occasionally need to cover greater distances).
      This way EREVs can totally and immediately replace normal cars and, at the same time, still work as all electric vehicles for most people most of the time...

      NO PLUG, NO SALE.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The claim by Honda that batteries are not ready is just another ploy by them. I bet they are designing a plug-in car as we speak. Once the car is completed, they'll say, "ok, the batteries are ready now" and shortly after they'll have a plug-in car. Then, the public will say "oh, those Honda people are so smart, they don't need all that time like GM had to build a plug-in car".
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think Honda's management been sniffing too much hydrogen.

      Fuel cell are too pricey by a factor of ... about 10...
        • 7 Years Ago
        Tankdog
        "Good thing you can just put hydrogen right into an existing ICE them isn't it? Can you do that with li-ion?"

        No, you use existing Electric Motor technology, that has been around as long as the car. Is that really your argument?
        • 7 Years Ago
        Yes, tankdog, an internal combustion engine can run on hydrogen, but the power is greatly reduced as it is difficult to pack enough bulky H2 into the cylinder, and the range is hardly usable and the H2 fuel cost is double that of gasoline.

        Example: Quantum Technology converted a Prius to run on H2 for $80,000, and in spite of hybrid efficiency a tank of H2 compressed to 10,000 psi would only last 80 miles. The conversion costs more than 3x the cost of the car!

        So lets see, a Honda H2 Hybrid Civic with an 80 mile range that costs $100,000 - how well do you think that would sell?
        • 7 Years Ago
        Good thing you can just put hydrogen right into an existing ICE them isn't it? Can you do that with li-ion?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Lithium is more energy dense then NiCad's, and a heck of a lot lighter in weight too.

      Where do I fill up my car with hydrogen? It takes 4 times the energy in fossil fuel to produce hydrogen. I think Honda has the wool pulled over their head on this one. My house is connected to a grid, not a hydrogen station. I don't have solar or windmills, and not a lot of average Joe middle class have them either.

      It's just the government's way of keeping the protecting the elimination of the current petrol infrastructure and keeping people tied to the pump.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Honda never said hydrogen was Viable yet either. They just said EVs aren't commercially viable yet and they are right. The volt is a perfect example. Lets compare to what Honda considers commercially viable, an Insight Hybrid:

        Model Insight Volt
        Price $20000 $40000
        EV Rnge 0 40
        gasMPG ~50 ~50

        Other than that they are both nearly identical economy cars. With similar size/shape and hatchback layout.

        So what does that EV range save you. About 0.8 Gallons of gas/day maximum x 365 days maximum = 292 gallons annually.

        How much money does it save you in a year? 292*$4 = $1168
        Oops, not done, need to calculate electricity cost. So I will be generous only 8KWh to go 40 miles.

        365*8KWh*10cent/KWh = $292.

        So now annual savings are $1168-292 = $876.

        There you go. AT MAXIMUM the volt can save you $876 and for this you pay $20000 EXTRA.

        BTW $20000 at %5 return is $1000.

        So not only do you start $20000 behind with volt, it doesn't pay back, you just get further behind as time goes on.

        A completely financially (commercially) senseless purchase. Does this give some idea why Honda says batteries aren't ready yet.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Anyone on autobloggreen who thinks they are smarter than honda is definately smoking something. Honda is one of the most innovative companies around and isnt going to let itself get behind on technology. I wouldn't be suprised if they are downplaying plug in hybrids until the week before the volt comes out. Then they will unveil their production ready $20,000 plug in hybrid that does twice the electric miles of the volt.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Oh! Those Honda people are so so smart. We engineers in the US don't stand a chance!! That kind of thinking is insane. Wake up Americans and stop putting down the USA. For those who are so in love Japanese car companies, move to Japan, but then on the other hand, if you did, you would find something else to bitch about.
        • 7 Years Ago
        And your intimate knowledge of their product planning is based on...? What are you smoking?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I agree that Honda isn't saying Hydrogen is ready for primetime either, they just said the batteries aren't.

      GM is saying the batteries aren't currently fully viable either, the difference is they are saying it by announcing their Volt won't be available til late 2010. Honda comes out and says it.
      GM HAS pushed back the Volt and will continue to until the price/ performance of the batteries are where they need them to be.

      The Volt is so much hype... sure I love the concept but how long can they milk this thing? Late 2010?? Hell, GM will likely be out of business by then.

      and... by the way, the Volt is still vaporware in case nobody noticed.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Everybody who thinks Hydrogen is BS, is Smarter then Honda.

      The UltraBattery is here already:

      http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/09/furukawa-batter.html
      • 7 Years Ago
      From a technical standpoint Li-ion batteries are more than capable of meeting the energy needs of commuter cars in lots of cities. Even the Rav4 EV's had a decent range for daily driving on previous generation batteries. Yes, batteries are by far still too costly to gain mainstream acceptance, but saying they are incapable of having any use at this point in their development is silly.

      Getting a Clarity down from costing a half million bucks or so down to 40K will be quite a feat of engineering. I wonder what battery prices will do while they're working on that. And doesn't the Clarity use batteries as storage for regenerative braking energy to help it achieve that range?
        • 7 Years Ago
        The FCX Clarity does use LiIon batteries to store regenerative braking power, supply extra power for acceleration, and run the car until the fuel cell can start working.

        There are several major breakthroughs needed in both fuel cells and in H2 storage to bring the cost of H2 FC vehicles down to merely expensive levels, and nothing obvious has shown up in 40 years of research. On the other hand, LiIon automotive batteries are expensive but affordable now, and several potential breakthroughs have already been announced that could drop the price dramatically in the near future.
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