Honda beats Toyota to a sporty hybrid for US market

Jan 12, 2010 by Mira Oberman
The new Honda CR-Z is on display at the North American International Auto Show January 11 in Detroit, Michigan. Honda unveiled a sporty new hybrid vehicle Monday that will land in US showrooms this summer -- at least two years ahead of a similar prototype introduced by rival Toyota.

Honda unveiled a sporty new hybrid vehicle that will land in US showrooms this summer -- at least two years ahead of a similar prototype introduced by rival Toyota.

"Now, I know you've heard from others with plans to offer up a product in this new segment," said American Honda Motor vice president John Mendel.

"But this is a real car coming to you in just a few months."

The Honda CR-Z is a sporty two-seater designed to evoke memories of the Japanese automaker's popular but now defunct CR-X.

It will build on Honda's existing US lineup of hybrid vehicles -- the Civic and the Insight. The automaker also announced plans to add hybrids to its luxury Acura brand. Related article: Optimism at

"CR-Z is an altogether new vision -- a renaissance if you will -- for a car of the future," Mendel said.

"The CR-Z was developed for a more discerning customer who is seeking a unique combination of forward-looking style, fun-to-drive spirit, advanced safety and ."

Toyota, which is expected to introduce eight new hybrids in the next few years, introduced a prototype of a two-seater hybrid with somewhat less of a sporty style.

The FT-CH concept car is aimed at Toyota's strategy "to offer a wider variety of conventional hybrid choices to its customers," as it begins to introduce plug-in hybrids and battery-powered vehicles in global markets, the company said.

It is expected to go on sale in 2012.

Honda was the first automaker to introduce a mass market hybrid in 1999 with the hatch-back two door Insight, revived last year as a roomier four-door.

But Toyota soon dominated the hybrid market with its popular dedicated model, the Prius.

Honda said it is continuing to forge ahead in developing alternative powertrains and plans to introduce an all-electric commuter car to the US market in the coming years.

"We continue to believe that a electric vehicle is the ultimate solution to reducing CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions," said Takanobu Ito, president and chief executive officer of .

"A fuel cell car is a full electric vehicle, but rather than use electricity from the grid, a fuel cell vehicle generates electricity on board and refills more quickly."

While the technology already exists to build fuel cell vehicles, Ito said the manufacturing costs must come down and the infrastructure to support hydrogen fueling must be developed.

"But make no mistake. As a vehicle, the Honda FCX Clarity is ready now," he said.

"Further, Honda is unique in making long-term investments to develop the refueling infrastructure for alternative fuel vehicles."

The automaker will begin operating its next-generation solar hydrogen station at its Los Angeles research station later this month.

Under the system, which could fit on the roof of a typical US home, solar panels help transform water into hydrogen fuel.

The latest generation eliminates the need for a costly compressor and also allows the system to be small enough to fit in a standard garage.

But Ito said expanding the use of hybrid vehicles is the "most important" near-term approach.

"To increase the opportunity for more customers to choose a hybrid we must be able to meet different needs with family, luxury and sporty hybrid vehicles," he said.

"We will apply hybrid systems which are compact, lightweight and affordable to a wider range of products in the near future."

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david_42
2 / 5 (1) Jan 12, 2010
How long before people accept that hydrogen is an expensive synthetic fuel that consumes far more energy that it can return? The inefficiencies in production and distribution waste 75% of the original energy. Even if a fuel cell was 100% efficient in transforming hydrogen to electricity, the overall process is worse than a gasoline engine.
antialias
5 / 5 (2) Jan 12, 2010
The difference is that hydrogen can be generated from energy sources that are eco-friendly (solar, wind, hydro, ... ). So that '75% waste' (a number which I'm a bit sceptical about) doesn't really matter.

You are also comparing apples and oranges here. Hydrogen is a energy transport medium (like a battery or a capaitor) while gasoline is a primary energy source.
PinkElephant
4 / 5 (3) Jan 12, 2010
The biggest problem with hydrogen, in my opinion, isn't generating it. Particularly with proposals that would put a hydrolysis plant in every garage, the problem is that hydrogen is very difficult to contain. It will inevitably leak -- even if in relatively tiny amounts. But the leaks will add up overall to a significant source of free hydrogen in the atmosphere. Being the lightest gas, it will rise into the stratosphere, where it will readily react with ozone -- thereby destroying the ozone layer. That, in my view, is why hydrogen is NOT the future of transportation.

If we absolutely must have fuel cell drivetrains, let's instead devote our efforts toward cells that are fueled by methanol, or ethanol.
Shootist
3 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2010
Plenty of H2 in the stratosphere from the disassociation of H2O by energetic photons and cosmic rays. We've been watching H2 stream off the planet since the days of the Gemini space program.

Hydrogen has two problems. The first is storage, as you mentioned. The second? There are no Hydrogen mines. It cost more energy to extract the H2 to burn than you get from the burning. For that reason alone it is a stupid fuel.
PinkElephant
not rated yet Jan 13, 2010
@Shootist,

Of course, O3 itself also forms due to those same "energetic photons and cosmic rays". However, as in all cases of chemical equilibrium, changing the relative concentration of a given reagent will inevitably change the stoichiometric results. I've read an analysis some years back, that quantified the problem in this regard (of escaping H2 from the "new infrastructure"), and the outcome was nasty -- far worse than anything caused by CFCs back in the last century.

As for the "second problem" you mention, try to pay attention to the article on which we're commenting here...

Under the system, which could fit on the roof of a typical US home, solar panels help transform water into hydrogen fuel.

The latest generation eliminates the need for a costly compressor and also allows the system to be small enough to fit in a standard garage.

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