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Honda Committed To EV Technology

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On: Fri, Nov 5, 2010 at 10:54AM | By: Chris Weiss

Honda Committed To EV Technology

Over the past year, Honda has been doing a slow U-turn in terms of developing and committing to electric vehicles. Plug-ins were considered a waste of resources by previous CEO Takeo Fukui, but CEO Takanobu Ito, who took over last summer, seems to view them a little less skeptically. Last week, Honda announced a new electric vehicle concept that will debut at the LA Auto Show, and Ito said of the future of EVs and Honda: "...we have been researching [batteries] all along. Since I became president, that was accelerated quite a bit." Ito recently provided some further insight into Honda's EV plans in a discussion with Reuters.

Ito expressed the view that electric vehicles are shaping up to be a viable reality. He told Reuters: "It's starting to look like there will be a market for electric vehicles (EVs). We can't keep shooting down their potential, and we can't say there's no business case for it."

He went on to repeat one of the classic arguments for EVs, stating that not everyone needs to drive long distances each day. Even the limited ranges of the first generation of mass-produced EVs like the Nissan Leaf (100 miles) will be enough to meet many commuters daily needs. Honda had originally supported fuel-cell technology over electric vehicle technology because of the increased range, but is slowly realizing that electric vehicles are more of a here-and-now reality and offer enough practicality for many consumers.

Though Honda is known to be developing a plug-in hybrid with an expected 2012 release, Ito isn't quite sold on plug-in hybrid technology. He explained: "Plug-in hybrids are essentially for people who drive short distances, but it has the handicap of having an engine, a motor and a stack of batteries. Why wouldn't you just drive an EV?"

In looking toward the future, I'd agree with that assessment. It seems like if you really want to go green, you eliminate the engine altogether. But EVs just aren't capable of offering the range of plug-in hybrids, and this promises to be an important consideration for many drivers. Once battery technology improves and ranges increase, I think EVs will start to replace plug-in hybrids. In the short term, though, hybrids are a necessary step.

Ito will make his first auto-show debut when he personally pulls the sheets off of Honda's EV concept in LA. The company hasn't released any information about that concept outside of to say that LA will be its debut venue.

Honda also plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid platform at the show.

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