Honda had some significant things to say at the 2010 Los Angeles auto show. It announced that a new Civic hybrid would be coming out next spring and that it was working on a completely new mid-size plug-in hybrid model for 2012, the inner workings of which were represented in a model on the company’s stand.
The company also said that it considers hybrids to be a bridge technology, with fuel cells (as found in the hydrogen-powered Honda FCX Clarity which has been available through a limited lease program for two years) as the ultimate technology. For the meantime, Honda offered a world debut at the show: the Fit EV Concept.
The Fit five-passenger, five-door subcompact hatch is one of the best cars in its class, despite having a less-than-thrilling 1.5-liter engine. With an electric motor, says Honda, performance would be more like a 2.0-liter. An all-electric version of the Fit would also become a direct competitor with the EV of today, the Nissan Leaf.
Like most up and coming electric vehicles, the battery is lithium-ion and supplies a claimed range of around 100 miles. One thing for which the Fit is famed is its versatile seating, where many folding permutations lend a high degree of practicality. Chris Martin, a spokesman for Honda, says the battery pack won’t have much of an impact on this talent. Perhaps the rear seats won’t fold completely flat, but many things will still be able to fit in the Fit.
Like its cousin, the CR-Z hybrid coupe, the Fit EV has three driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. Eco mode uses 17 percent less power than Normal and 25 percent less than Sport. There’s also a feature that allows the driver to start up the air conditioning while the car is still plugged in to the charging unit.
The Fit EV has no grille – no engine cooling is needed, so the nose was restyled for better aerodynamics. This concept model is also finished in a rich Deep Clear Blue Pearl paint and fitted with five-spoke alloy wheels sporting blue inserts. The one-off interior could almost be described as sumptuous, with bio-fabric on the seats and a pleasant dashboard design.
There will be a production version, set for a 2012 release. A navigation system with the whereabouts of charging stations pre-programed into it will be standard and Honda has a smartphone app that imparts much of the Fit EV’s systems information. On the subject of money, Martin said the Fit EV would be “priced competitively.”
COLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.