One alternative fuel area where Japanese automakers have shown comparatively little interest, until recently, is biofuels. Toyota has announced plans to offer a flex-fuel version of the Tundra and Honda offers flex-fuel Civics in Brazil. Toyota also recently announced a cellulosic ethanol partnership. Honda has now announced plans to build a new R&D facility in Japan that will focus on producing biofuels from non-food feedstocks. The 1,050 m2 lab is expected to be completed and operating by November of this year. Honda has been working with the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth since 2006 and began operating an experimental production facility in 2007.

So far, Honda hasn't given any indication that it will offer any flex-fuel vehicles in the U.S. market. Perhaps now that Honda has backed off from its plans to offer diesels in the U.S. market and only plans to offer hybrids in small cars, we may start to see the company embrace ethanol.

[Source: Honda]

Honda to Build New R&D Facility to Work Toward Establishment of Bio-Ethanol Production Technology

TOKYO, Japan, February 26, 2009 - Honda Motor Co., Ltd. announced that the company has signed an "Agreement concerning regulations and standards for establishing R&D facilities in Kazusa Akademia Park*" with Chiba prefecture and Investment Promotion Association of Kazusa Akademia Park (chaired by Governor Akiko Domoto of Chiba prefecture) based on its decision to build a new research facility that will enable Honda to work toward the establishment and practical application of bio-ethanol production technology from non-edible cellulosic material such as the stems and leaves of plants.

The new Kazusa-branch facility of Honda R&D Co., Ltd. Fundamental Technology Research Center, will be built within the Kazusa Akademia Park (in Kisarazu, Chiba). Honda plans to build a single 1,050m2 building (approximate gross floor space) as a testing facility on the 5,000m2 lot. The construction is scheduled to begin in April 2009, with the goal to begin operations in November 2009.

Honda is continuing its collaborative research on bio-ethanol production technology with RITE (Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth) which began in 2006 and has been conducting research on the bio-ethanol conversion process using an experimental plant built within the Honda R&D Co., Ltd. Fundamental Technology Research Center (Wako, Saitama) since April 2007. In order to move toward practical application of the technology, Honda decided to build a new facility as it became necessary to conduct a research using a large-scale experimental facility which enables more accurate evaluations.

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