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Honda's new EV-N concept debuted at the Tokyo Auto Show last week.  (Source: AutoBlog Green)

Honda announced that it may be switching gears and launching EVs of its own. That would leave Toyota as the only automaker without EV plans -- and the only automaker to be focusing chiefly on hydrogen.  (Source: Eco Auto Ninja)
Honda's CEO says a plug-in is a real possibility in the near future

Honda and Toyota bet big on two things -- hybrids in the short term and hydrogen fuel cells in the long term.  For Toyota, the first bet has added up to 2 million units in sales and big profits.  And while Honda, which was the first to release a commercial hybrid in the U.S. initially saw the attempt flop, it now has a new second generation model -- the 2010 Honda Insight.

The latter market, though -- hydrogen vehicles -- remains unproven and expensive.  And with federal funding drying up for hydrogen research and pouring into the electric vehicle industry, Toyota and Honda are placed in a tough position.  What makes it tougher is all the major U.S. automakers have plans to debut electric vehicles by 2012, as does Japanese competitor Nissan.  Even the Germans are looking to get in on the action, with Mercedes and Volvo both sporting electric concepts and cooking up commercial plans.

Now it appears that Honda may become the second to last of the major international automakers to jump on the electric vehicle bandwagon.  Honda debuted a fastidious and tidy little EV at the Tokyo Auto Show a mere week ago.  The vehicle features swappable seat fabrics, a solar roof, and an embedded "communications system".

However, Honda has dropped an even more tantalizing hint that it might be reaching for the plug -- and jumping into the EV market.  CEO Takanobu Ito told Reuters that his company is considering a major policy shift, moving away from hydrogen and instead moving to launch a mass-produced electric vehicle in Europe, Japan, U.S.

Honda admits that the considered switch is largely due to frustrations concerning the hydrogen infrastructure.  It says that stations are being installed too slowly to deploy to even parts of the U.S. in the short term.  And it fears that without EVs it will be unable to meet California's strict emissions regulations.

The news puts Toyota in a precarious position.  While Toyota is the world's largest automaker, and an incredibly successful firm, if Honda switches, it will literally be defying the entire market and calling them on their electric vehicle bet, hoping it fails.  If it doesn't, Toyota will be left on its own trying to deploy hydrogen to Europe, the U.S., and Japan.  And it will be left hoping that EV sales don't showcase the strong growth that some analysts are predicting.

Meanwhile the news is welcome for American automakers.  While a Honda entry would clutter the emerging auto market, it would be acknowledgment that the Big Three made the right call for once.  It would also leave Honda playing catch up to Ford, GM, and Chrysler all of which have spent the last few years crafting electric vehicle designs.  That's a position the U.S. automakers would undoubtedly love to maintain if they can keep it up.



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Isn't a hydrogen car basically an electric car?
By Fox5 on 10/21/2009 9:57:45 AM , Rating: 1
Unless they're burning the hydrogen in a combustion engine, I assume that hydrogen cars have an electric engine. The method of energy storage is just different, and I'd say the hydrogen one is probably more adaptable to our current infrastructure than electric.




RE: Isn't a hydrogen car basically an electric car?
By Fox5 on 10/21/2009 9:58:11 AM , Rating: 2
Oops, at the end there, I should say 'purely battery powered' cars as opposed to electric.


RE: Isn't a hydrogen car basically an electric car?
By TomZ on 10/21/2009 12:28:37 PM , Rating: 2
That's possible, but more likely, they would be using hydrogen fuel cells + electric motors.


RE: Isn't a hydrogen car basically an electric car?
By Marlonsm on 10/21/2009 3:51:44 PM , Rating: 2
Actually there is no way to use fuel cell without motors.

As the fuel cells only generate the power, they would replace the battery, not the motor.

What I want to see is a car with fuel cell + big capacitor. So the fuel cell won't need to be big but the capacitor will give the motors enough power for overtakes.


By TomZ on 10/21/2009 4:05:35 PM , Rating: 2
I think you misread my post. What I suggested is using fuel cell and electric motor together, as opposed to a hydrogen combustion engine. I wasn't suggesting that a fuel cell could be used without a motor.


RE: Isn't a hydrogen car basically an electric car?
By randomly on 10/21/2009 1:25:45 PM , Rating: 5
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles aren't really a viable option.

Although they get a great deal of press as an Eco-Green marketing tool the economics of it don't add up and this has been known for years now. Hydrogen however remains a great poster child for Corporate Environmental advertising.

Many companies and analysts no longer believe Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are viable. Ballard Power Systems, the largest fuel cell company in North America abandoned their efforts on Automotive fuel cells because the business case didn't add up. "The problem was always, can you make hydrogen fuel at a cost that makes sense to anybody. And the answer to that to date has been no."

I think Toyota is reluctant to abandon a PR campaign they have so much money and momentum on. Hydrogen is also conveniently not ready, so they can get a lot of press out of it without actually having to invest any substantial money for producing real fuel cell cars. Building a hydrogen fueling infrastructure would require enormous amounts of money and many years to build. These are obstacles that make it unlikely to happen any time soon, so it safely postpones any manufacturing commitment.

However all this Hydrogen misdirection is wearing thin and the industry is moving in the direction of EV and Plug-in Hybrid designs like the Volt. Soon Toyota will follow also.


RE: Isn't a hydrogen car basically an electric car?
By TomZ on 10/21/2009 1:49:33 PM , Rating: 2
While of course the success of hydrogen fuel cells will be largely based on its economic viability, I don't think that the cost of the fuel itself is a primary consideration. Rather, the cost and time to develop hydrogen-generating and distribution infrastructure is the problem. But maybe that's what you meant...?


By Keeir on 10/21/2009 3:25:12 PM , Rating: 2
Err..

the Cost of the "Fuel" is also a principle concern. Hydrogen is an energy carrier. Unless the process to create Hydrogen and distrubite the Hydrogen is more than 85% energy efficient, it seems that on a per engery unit basis, Hydrogen will be more expensive that electricity. So Hydrogen cars must be significantly cheaper than electric cars....


By randomly on 10/21/2009 5:30:56 PM , Rating: 2
I mean exactly that the cost of the fuel is too high.

Currently hydrogen can be produced by reforming natural gas at around 80% efficiency. However this is of no use since the overall well to wheels fuel cycle of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is less efficient than a simple diesel hybrid car, and the CO2 generated is worse. Even including projected fuel cell advances to the year 2020. Increased costs with no benefit.

Economically it just doesn't add up. The proof is in where companies are putting serious money, and it's not in hydrogen.
The other way to produce hydrogen is using electricity to produce hydrogen from water using an electrolyzer. This is actually considerably more expensive since electrolyzers are only about 50% efficient and the cost of electrical power is much higher than fossil fuel energy sources. In virtually all cases there are better places to use that electrical power than making hydrogen fuel, at least until you've replaced all fossil fuel power generation.
Starting from an electrical power source Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are only about 25% as efficient as battery powered, to power an equivalent vehicle you must generate 4 times the energy for fuel cells vs batteries.


By Chinnan on 10/21/2009 9:39:49 AM , Rating: 2
Statement from Honda.

"Given some dramatic change in things, I don't think we'll get to 90,000. At 50,000 to 60,000, we will be just fine," Bloomberg cited American Honda Motor Executive Vice President John Mendel as saying.

http://www.reuters.com/article/GCA-autos/idUSTRE55...

But I like this car, for most city commuting I think this would be ideal car as riding a Bike or motor cycle is not possible in inclement weather. A range of 80-100 miles would give 3-4 days worth driving.




By randomposter on 10/21/2009 10:09:22 AM , Rating: 2
An RTG is a passenger vehicle? Exactly what part of your vehicle's performance having a half-life sounds appealing to you? There are plenty of other technologies that are a whole lot more applicable here.


By randomly on 10/21/2009 1:03:04 PM , Rating: 2
This isn't feasible. To put it mildly.

To generate 100 KW power at the wheels will take about 500 KW of thermal power.
That would require 1 million grams of Pu238, or about 50 times the current world stockpile, which at $300 a gram costs you 300 Million dollars just for the isotopes for 1 car, and which weighs the car down with 2200 lbs of radioactive goodness.

Of course with 500,000 watts of thermal energy pouring out of your car nonstop (since there is no way to turn an RTG off) You can never park it in a garage or the whole thing will just melt, and melt your garage with it. You would need cooling fans and radiators running non-stop. If the fans ever failed even outside the whole thing would melt.

I think what you really wanted was one of these.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_nucleon
Which of course you can't make either.


By Misty Dingos on 10/21/2009 12:29:30 PM , Rating: 2
I have an Insight (2010) it is a great car for my commute, which is over 30 miles each way. It is predominalty highway and I am getting over 48 mpg. It is a fun car to drive and it is in its own way a preformance car. Just not MPH but MPG. And it may not be as big a a Prius but it has an adjustable steering column.


By Spuke on 10/21/2009 4:12:32 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It is a fun car to drive and it is in its own way a preformance car. Just not MPH but MPG.
Uh oh! Another one of these hybrid is a "performance car" people. Your car is not quick, sporty, fast, or great handling. It is what it is dude. Be happy with it without trying to make it into something it's not. I drove eco cars for many years and I didn't think they were anything than what they were.

Now if you were to ditch the drivetrain and install a K24 with some I/H/C/E/ITB goodness, then we can talk.


By Keeir on 10/21/2009 4:20:40 PM , Rating: 2
Well... I think a Hybrid can be an exciting car to drive. And a Hybrid may be the type of car for many people that get them involved again in the driving experience, similar to how a good manual gearbox or a properly torquey engine can for most car people.

Provided getting high MPG is what gives you thrills.

Hope these people then don't get into pretty much any other car on the road, because if your connected to the driving experience, Hybrids are sadly lacking.


By Reclaimer77 on 10/21/2009 6:53:45 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Well... I think a Hybrid can be an exciting car to drive.


...


By Keeir on 10/21/2009 7:22:17 PM , Rating: 2
What? A Hypermiler who is able to eck out an additional 1-2 MPG on their daily treck is certainly excited.

I can understand that mentality. If I lived in an areas where I was chained to under 60 mph and sub 10 second 0-60 times were impossible I could see that high MPG would have a definate "Driving excitement" factor over the typical performance car. Heck, that describes 90% of my current driving conditions. I can't even burn from a stop light too often due to the high level of traffic. I have to purposely drive out someplace to enjoy my car. I can certainly see a trade-off... at least with a high MPG you can have the exciting factor all the time.


By Solandri on 10/22/2009 8:37:27 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Uh oh! Another one of these hybrid is a "performance car" people. Your car is not quick, sporty, fast, or great handling. It is what it is dude. Be happy with it without trying to make it into something it's not. I drove eco cars for many years and I didn't think they were anything than what they were.

While I agree that most hybrids aren't geared towards performance, the hybrid does solve a performance problem which has been vexing the auto industry for decades. Your car only needs about 25 horsepower to cruise at highway speeds. So why do people want cars with hundreds of horsepower? For acceleration - quickly getting up to speed from a stop, and for passing.

The problem is, you can only optimize the engine design for one RPM. If you optimize it around 25 horsepower (best highway mpg), then it will have (for its displacement) poor peak horsepower (and thus poorer acceleration characteristics than similar-sized competing engines). If you optimize it for peak horsepower, then it will suffer in mpg during cruise. Most car engines settle for a compromise which gives you a bit of both. One attempt to lick this problem has been the CVT (continously variable transmission), but the mechanical linkages just aren't strong enough to transmit the high horsepower of anything but eco-model cars.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuously_variable...

The hybrid solves this problem. You optimize the engine for the 25 hp cruise (actually a little more so you can divert some power to recharging the batteries). And you use battery power as a kicker for when the driver wants 100+ hp for acceleration. If you made a hybrid with a big enough battery and electric motor, you could have 300-400 hp on tap for acceleration thus making it quite the performance car, while the vehicle's engine was still optimized for cruise hp thus preserving mpg.

Honda tried just this with its Accord hybrid. Unfortunately it seems people weren't willing to pay extra for the hybrid drivetrain which gave roughly the same peak horsepower as the regular Accord, albeit with moderately better gas mileage. Whereas people wanting substantially better mileage are willing to pay for the hybrid drivetrain. Another problem is that the low rolling friction tires tend to be rather hard and not conducive to good cornering characteristics.


EV-N
By PublixE on 10/21/2009 10:19:37 AM , Rating: 2
That is just ugly.




RE: EV-N
By mars2k on 10/21/2009 11:26:18 AM , Rating: 2
Has anyone else noticed what a chick magnet that EV-N is? Wow..... just think how many clowns can pile out of that sexy beast!


RE: EV-N
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/21/2009 1:56:32 PM , Rating: 2
Bricks are sexy, in a way. Looks like they didn't spend any money on aerodynamics. So much for mileage pushing that barn door to work and back.


RE: EV-N
By Keeir on 10/21/2009 3:52:53 PM , Rating: 2
Errr...

This is a Japanese Car Company concept car. Likely intended for the Japanese Domestic Market as a primary market for any production car

Check out these production-intent concepts for the Japanese Market

http://www.autoblog.com/2009/10/21/tokyo-2009-daih...

Aerodynamics make a big deal from 30 mph and on up. In many applications, Japanese road system seems to be mainly <40 mph, so they are more concerned with interior volume packing... the "upright" light wieght high internal volume cars are pretty popular.


RE: EV-N
By Keeir on 10/21/2009 4:16:41 PM , Rating: 2
http://www.teslamotors.com/blog4/

Sorry, forgot this link.


Motorcycles
By Mitch101 on 10/21/2009 11:05:35 AM , Rating: 2
Motorcycles dont get much mention here as far as electrics so here is one.

http://ridemission.com/blog/2009/10/introducing-th...

The Neiman Marcus Mission One will have a production series limited to just 10 motorcycles. Like our 2010 Premier Limited Edition, the motorcycle will reach a top speed of 150 miles per hour and allow for 150 miles of driving between charges




RE: Motorcycles
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/21/2009 1:58:10 PM , Rating: 2
Will allow up to 150 miles per hour -- OR -- 150 miles of driving. Those are batteries, right?


RE: Motorcycles
By Mitch101 on 10/22/2009 9:11:49 AM , Rating: 2
Yes its an electric motorcycle. Small electric cars are great but seem limited in range for my commute. I saw something on Discovery about electric motorcycles and started poking around. For a car this seems impractical because you need a big battery to go any decent distance and the bigger the battery the more weight the car has to deal with. Tough balance ratio in design. The high cost also sits around the batteries but a Motorcycle would require they cut back on the battery thus reducing the cost and to keep the weight down. 150 mile range is great. The cost seems possible becuase its not huge. Seems like neat option.

But then what would Harley Davidson do without the noise? Somehow a speaker making the signature Harley noise doesn't seem right.


Correction
By baloubic on 10/21/2009 10:41:35 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
Even the Germans are looking to get in on the action, with Mercedes and Volvo

Volvo's a swedish, Ford-owned company.




Why is Toyota left out?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/21/2009 2:01:41 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Toyota Motor Sales announced an expanded commitment to electric vehicles on Saturday, disclosing plans to manufacture an all-electric city car by 2012 and a wider fleet of gas-electric hybrids.

quote:
At the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Toyota showed off a concept car called the FT-EV, a battery-powered four-seat compact car. Although it's concept car, Toyota said it will release an "urban commuter" electric car in 2012.


From January of this year. http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-10140083-54.html




By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/21/2009 2:02:48 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, pffft, answered my own question. It's Jason's polemics at work again.


Not always right.....
By brshoemak on 10/21/2009 7:44:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
While a Honda entry would clutter the emerging auto market, it would be acknowledgment that the Big Three made the right call for once.


I'm reminded of the line: "What is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular."

Not to say the decision isn't right, but it's a pretty broad assumption to say that the Big Three made the right call because others are onboard. Just ask everyone in the 14th century besides Copernicus who thought the earth was the center of the universe.




RE: Not always right.....
By Oregonian2 on 10/21/2009 9:58:17 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, I think most all privately knew that the Earth wasn't at the center of the solar system. That just wasn't the official position that one would speak in public. The king having no clothes was indeed noted, even if not spoken about.


"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer














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