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Honda CEO Outlines Three-Year Powertrain Technology and Fuel Economy Targets

Honda CEO and President Takeo Fukui

In his mid-year speech outlining Honda’s business plan for the next three years, President and CEO Takeo Fukui laid out the company’s major next-generation powertrain technology and fuel economy targets for automobiles, motorcycles, and power products.

Honda, said Fukui, is committed to addressing the three primary environmental needs facing society:

  • Reducing regulated emissions to reduce air pollution and improve health.
  • Reducing CO2 emissions via improved fuel efficiency to reduce the threat of global warming.
  • Developing alternative energy sources, such as fuel cells, to address the future depletion of petroleum-based energy.

Until fuel cell technology, a next-generation power source, reaches the point of mass market use, internal combustion engines—including gasoline, gas-electric hybrid, natural gas and diesel—will remain the dominant power source of passenger vehicles for the next few decades. Honda believes that one of the most effective environmental protection efforts we can pursue at this moment is to improve the efficiency of internal combustion engines—which are the primary means to enable people to enjoy the freedom of mobility—in the effort to minimize CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.


Automobile Fuel Economy Improvement Goals
Advanced VTEC 13% improvement vs. 2005 i-VTEC engine
Advanced VCM 11% improvement vs. 2005 Honda V6

This year, Honda will complete the shift to its next-generation i-series engines for almost all models, representing approximately a 20% improvement in fuel economy over their predecessors.

During the next three years, Honda will further advance its VTEC technologies at the core of the i-series, introducing new technologies to control air intake with a continuously variable valve control system, and further advance existing VCM (Variable Cylinder Management) technology.

An advanced VTEC engine, scheduled to be introduced at the end of the period, will reduce pumping losses by controlling engine aspiration through continuously variable control over the amount of intake valve lift and phase of valve switchover timing. With innovative valve control and control of the length of the intake manifold, combustion efficiency will be increased by 13% compared to current i-VTEC engines.

Honda introduced VCM in 2003. By increasing flexibility in the number of cylinders that are cut off, further advancing variable valve systems and improving the performance of active control engine mounts, the advanced VCM technology should achieve an 11% improvement in fuel economy compared to a Honda V-6 engine.

Honda will apply these advanced VTEC and VCM technologies to mass-market products by the end of the three-year period and then expand them to other models as core automobile engine technologies to further improve fuel economy.

Hybrids. Honda will continue to enhance the efficiency of the its IMA hybrid drive to accompany improvements made on the internal combustion side. Aside from noting the recent announcement of the new hybrid powertrain for the upcoming refresh of the Civic hybrid (earlier post), however, Fukui set no quantitative goals for improvement, nor discussed the expansion of hybrid efforts to other platforms.

Natural Gas. Honda will continue to promote the sales of its CNG-fueled Civic GX. On a related application, Fukui noted that Honda has sold a total of 17,000 units of a household cogeneration unit that uses natural gas as well as LPG gas as a fuel to supply electricity and heat. Honda will begin pre-launch trial sales in the US this year, preparing for the official mass market introduction in the US next year.

Ethanol. Honda will introduce a FlexFuel car that accepts ethanol in any blend up to 100% before the end of 2006.

Fukui made no mention of new technology work on the diesel platform, although he did note the importance of diesel to the European market, and commented that the new Civic will offer a powertrain lineup that includes various fuel options including gasoline, diesel, hybrid, CNG and ethanol to meet the demands of regional markets.

Honda Fit: Coming to N.A.

He also noted that Honda will introduce the fuel-efficient Fit as an entry-level model in North America next spring, and added that Honda will further expand its product lineup to respond to increasing customer demands for vehicles with high fuel efficiency.


Motorcycle Fuel Economy Improvement Goals
Super-low-friction engine 13% improvement vs. 2005
VCM for motorcycles 30% improvement vs. 2005

Honda has been promoting the introduction of fuel injection systems and the replacement of 2-stroke engines with 4-stroke engines for all categories including scooters and small and large motorcycles, resulting in a 34% improvement in fuel economy compared to 1995 models.

The company is developing super-low-friction engines for the 100cc to 125cc class—the largest volume segment in the world. The low friction engine achieves improved combustion efficiency by introducing two spark plugs while friction is dramatically reduced. This new innovation improves the fuel economy by 13% compared to the level of 2005.

Honda has developed new VCM (Variable Cylinder Management) engines for large motorcycles. This VCM system achieves both excellent driving performance and fuel economy by freely controlling valves in four stages from 2-cylinder/2-valve to 4-cylinder/4-valve. With this new technology, Honda aims to improve the fuel economy of large motorcycle engines by 30% compared to the level of 2005.

Fuel cell motorcycle. Using the Honda FC stack technology developed for automobiles, the company plans to launch a fuel cell motorcycle model for lease by 2009.


Power Products Fuel Economy Improvement Goals
Further STR Applications 15% improvement vs. 2005
High-expansion ratio engine 20% improvement vs. 2005

Honda will continue to expand application of STR (Self-Tuning Regulator) technology through a series of engines, while continuing development of further engine advances.

The company is also developing a next-generation general-propose engine. This high expansion ratio engine has a mechanism to vary the intake/compression stroke, and expansion/emission stroke. This newly developed engine has already proved operational in the test lab. This innovative technology achieves an ideal Atkinson cycle and makes it possible to improve fuel economy by 20%.




The L.A. Times had an article a couple of days ago about experimental fuel cell vehicles being tested in California. Apparently there are a number of hydrogen fueling stations in the state. The article doesn't seem to be online, but I found a map showing the same data at .

The article also described how the fueling works; you plug in a nozzle and rotate a lever on the nozzle to produce an air-tight (Hydrogen-tight!) fit. Then there is some kind of electrical connection needed, apparently the car has to tell the station how full it is. It didn't say how long the fueling process takes, that would be interesting to know.

Anyway I was surprised to see that the infrastructure is so far advanced. If you're in the L.A. or S.F. area then it wouldn't be too difficult to find a hydrogen station nearby.

Arthur the Grump

The LATimes article is about the Honda FCX, hydrogen fuel cell 2-door subcompact, leased by a commuter and driven 80 miles a day. Since the FCX has a driving limit of 190 miles, this commuter must fill up every other day, a major inconvenience. Honda should cancel the fuel cell nonsense and build Plug-in Hybrids.

A Plug-in Hybrid, combined with rooftop solar panel recharging, creates an economic incentive to drive shorter distances within local economies. In time, more local destinations become accessable without having to drive. Walking and bicycling and mass transit, all far more economical than any kind of car, become the preferred, rather than an optional means of travel.



Mikhail Capone

Plug-in hybrids sure make a lot of sense. As battery technology gets better, in most situations the ICE would not even be used (except for long trips), and by improving the electrical grid (cleaning it up with renewables) and improving the fuel supply (biodiesel, ethanol (the low energy input kind - cellulose, etc).. It's possible to progressively clean up transportation.

Fuel cells seem more adapted to other things than transportation anyway. At least until some major breakthroughs.


I have read two complaints about the idea of using solar power to run plug-in hybrids.

The first is that the typical rooftop does not have enough area to generate the power needed for the typical commuter. I don't have hard figures on this though. The Honda FCX test family driving 80 miles/day could not practically power their car just from their rooftop solar panels even if they had them. Plus, you'd probably like to do other things with rooftop solar, like power your house for example. Diverting power to your car means drawing it from the grid for your house, so either way you're getting it off the grid. Further, most commuters are gone during the day when the sun is shining, and to recharge the car at night requires a large home battery system, which is less efficient and more expensive.

The other point, and here I do have figures, is that if we use kiloWatt-hours (kWh) as a unit of energy, gasoline has about 39 kWh per gallon. Electricity in Los Angeles costs about 17 cents/kWh due to the state's enormous losses a few years ago as part of their experiment with deregulation. This translates to a cost of $6.60 for the electrical energy equivalent to a gallon of gas. Unless or until gas rises to above this costs, electrical cars or plug-in hybrids will be more expensive to operate than ordinary hybrids.

Drawing power from a rooftop solar grid will be even more expensive; the cheapest estimates I have seen are 25 cents/kWh (which includes tax subsidies and also depends on cheap energy for manufacturing the units) which is going to raise the cost of operation even more.

Of course if you assume that people are going to drive less, they can save money regardless of how they power their cars. If they commute 20 miles/day instead of 80 then even with current hydrogen technology they would only have to fill up once a week instead of every other day. But I don't know how you solve the commuting problem in a city like Los Angeles. In some ways it is the worst case example of the requirements for a practical commuting vehicle. Honda's choice of L.A. either reflects the company's commitment to making sure their technology is suitable for even the most challenging environment, or an attempt to cause the experiment to fail by stacking the deck against it in advance.

Joe R.

I have to question the math here regarding the equivalece of gas and electricity prices--It appears you are assuming 100% efficiency of the gas engine--in reality gas engines are closer to only around 25% or so. (The newest generation of engines will be a little better.) Batteries and electric motors are much more efficient at 80-90% depending on various factors, so the LA break-even point should be closer to $1.75--we are already there! Most areas of the country have much lower electric rates driving the break-even point even lower. We should expect off-peak favorable rates as well to encourage use of these vehicles.

Chelsey Fisher

I am a student at Cal State University San Marcos in San Diego, California. I am actually conducting a research project regarding Honda's implementation of "Green Manufacturing" in numerous production sites around the world. I need a few further details and questions answered. Can you please let me know how to get a hold of someone who can give me feedback on this matter. Thank you so much.
Chelsey Fisher
[email protected]

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