Honda to build new plug-in and EV, shows FCV concept

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

American Honda Motor Co. Inc. Tuesday debuted its Honda FCV Concept at the North American International Auto Show and said it will add battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2018.

The Honda FCV made its North American debut, and the unnamed fuel-cell vehicle will be available to buy in 2016.

Honda said it would add the new battery-electric and plug-in to bolster sales and ensure Honda remains atop the competition for environmentally friendly vehicles.

"We haven't announced how or what will debut or replace or anything else, but I think it's leveraging the platform and technology across a couple different modes," John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda, told reporters. "One would be a plug-in, one would be a battery, one would be hydrogen."

The automaker also said it will use its two- and three-motor hybrid systems in more vehicles. The company said it plans later this year to start building a family of turbocharged four-cylinder engines at its Anna Engine Plant in Ohio, where it is investing $340 million. Those engines will debut on vehicles later this year.

The aerodynamic Honda fuel cell vehicle, with seating for five and a driving range of more than 300 miles, is expected to launch in the U.S. after it goes on sale in March 2016 in Japan. The fuel cell stack is 33 percent smaller than that of of the outgoing Honda FCX Clarity and fits under the car's hood, Mendel said. The FCV adds another seat, power density was boosted by 60 percent and the FCV can refuel in about 3 minutes.

Honda was the first automaker to lease a fuel-cell electric car to fleet customers. In 2005 it delivered the first fuel-cell EV to a retail buyer. Adoption was very small and just a few dozen are driving the FCX Clarity in California through leases. Mendel is hoping for more buyers with this second-generation fuel cell car as it hopes to address technology improvements with power and range plus infrastructure concerns.

"We've been very careful with the current Clarity to not provide it to customers outside a reasonable range of a fuel-cell station, which therefore has limited the amount available," he said.

Honda is providing FirstElement Fuel with $13.8 million to help build more hydrogen refueling stations in California to boost wider introduction of fuel-cell vehicles.

The FCV Concept was shown in Japan in November.

(313) 222-2319