Monday, September 22, 2008

2010 Honda CR-Z Hybrid


What it is: The spiritual successor to the CRX we loved so much when Reagan and George the First were in the Oval Office.

Why it's important: Honda brings back an affordable, sporty two-seater to its lineup. Although it's not an overt sports car, the front-drive CR-Z will offer hatchback practicality, sports-car thrills, and a hybrid system to boost fuel efficiency.

Estimated arrival and cost: Expect it in 2010


Honda plans to sell half a million hybrids per year globally with three new vehicles supplementing the Honda Civic hybrid in its lineup.

The automaker’s hybrid strategy includes a hybrid version of the Honda Fit, production of the CR-Z hybrid sports car concept, and an all-new, small five-door hatchback hybrid, CEO Takeo Fukui announced during his mid-year address in Tokyo.

First up will be the five-door hatch, which will use a completely new small-car platform dedicated to hybrid propulsion that won’t compromise utility or space for five passengers and their gear. The nameless car, sized smaller than a Civic, will be introduced in early 2009, with about half the anticipated 200,000 global sales earmarked for North America. It takes direct aim at the segment-leading Toyota Prius.

Lithium Ion Batteries Not Ready for Prime Time

Honda is billing the new hybrid as a lightweight and low-cost car, saying a “significant cost reduction in Integrated Motor Assist components will result in the most affordable hybrid vehicle to date.” Smaller packaging of the nickel-metal-hydride battery (lithium ion battery technology is not quite ready for this car) and processing unit make it possible to position them below the rear cargo area so as to not infringe on cargo space in a hatchback, the automaker says. Also promised are technologies to assist more fuel-efficient driving, a vague description presumably to address criticism that some customers are disappointed with real-world mileage figures from their hybrids.

The hatchback will be built on a new line at Honda’s Suzaka, Japan, plant, which already builds the Civic hybrid. Capacity at the plant will grow from 70,000 to 250,000, with room to expand even further—which tells us this is but the first of many hybrid announcements to come.

Design-wise, the smaller five-door will look similar to the Accord-sized FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle that converts hydrogen to electricity, with water as the only emission.

The CR-Z concept was first shown at the 2007 Tokyo auto show. CR-Z stands for “Compact Renaissance Zero” to denote Honda’s attempt to create a fun and sexy sports car that is also a fuel-efficient hybrid. Looking like the cult favorite, 1980s CRX compact, especially in the vertical glass section at the rear, the concept has a low-slung grille, aggressive LED headlights, and dual exhaust tips exiting through the rear bumper.

Honda to Keep Fit Hybrid Cost Reasonable

Adding a hybrid version of the popular and 10Best-winning Fit seems much like putting a second layer of icing on an already tasty cake. But in his press conference, Fukai is quoted as saying the premium for the hybrid over the conventional Fit cannot exceed $2000. The current price of a Fit ranges from $14,585 to $16,705. The hybrid reportedly would go on sale by 2015 with the third-generation of the B-segment car.

While Toyota gets most of the credit for the burgeoning hybrid market, Honda was actually first on the scene in the U.S. with the Insight in 1999. But consumers have not snapped up its subsequent hybrids, forcing the automaker to drop its Accord hybrid from the 2008 model line due to slow sales.

Up to 200 Can Lease FCX Clarity Fuel-Cell Vehicle

Meanwhile, Honda finally provides volume figures for the next-generation FCX Clarity four-passenger sedan, which customers will begin leasing for $600 a month in the U.S. in July and in Japan later in the year. Honda says it will lease up to 200 Claritys over the next three years.

Honda has been winnowing down potential customers for month. They must live in California near Santa Monica, Torrance, or Irvine for public access to hydrogen stations. The first Clarity, with a driving range of 270 miles, is scheduled to roll off an assembly line June 16 in Japan.

No comments: