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Honda announces second plug-in vehicle testing program; Japan joins US, China may follow

The plug-in hybrid electric test vehicle for Japan. Click to enlarge.

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. announced its second Electric Vehicle Testing Program, this one with Saitama Prefecture for its next-generation personal mobility products, including electric vehicles (EVs); plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs); electric scooters; and electric carts. The specifics of the testing program, testing vehicles, and solar-powered charging stations made their public debut in Japan.

On 15 December, Honda announced a similar Electric Vehicle Testing Program in the US, featuring the first public test drive of a Fit EV prototype and an Accord Sedan test vehicle outfitted with a new two-motor plug-in hybrid system. (Earlier post.) In addition to Japan and the United States, Honda is considering the possibility of conducting a similar program in China.

Solar-powered charging station for the test vehicles. Click to enlarge.

In the US program, the city of Torrance, California along with Stanford University and Google Inc., will each receive a Fit EV for testing starting in 2011. In addition, the city of Torrance will test a plug-in hybrid as a part of the program in 2012. Each of the three demonstration program participants will conduct general testing as well as evaluating specific and distinct issues related to the introduction of electric vehicles.

The Saitama program will focus on motorcycles, automobiles and power products. The program will also use advanced communications and telematics and solar-powered charging technologies to explore future forms of personal mobility and their potential for reducing CO2 emissions.

In March 2009, Honda and Saitama Prefecture concluded an agreement to collaborate on environmental issues. Based on this agreement, Honda will start an Electric Vehicle Testing Program in the cities of Saitama, Kumagaya and Chichibu. The program will study the following:

  • The practicality and convenience of electromotive technology featured on next-generation personal mobility products, including Honda’s EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the EV-neo electric scooter and the Monpal ML200 4-wheel electric cart.
  • The effectiveness of solar power generation and other renewable energy sources in helping to realize a low-carbon mobility society.
  • The effectiveness of advanced communications and telematics to enhance customer convenience and product usability.

The following are the program objectives for each city:

  • Saitama City: Urban transportation testing featuring Honda’s EVs, plug-in hybrid vehicles and EV-neo, by partnering with public transportation facilities such as train stations. Study the low noise impact of electric vehicles in residential neighborhoods.
  • Kumagaya City: Using Kumagaya’s suburban metropolitan environment, study the practicality of applying Honda’s EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles to a park-and-ride system centered around Kagohara Station.
  • Chichibu City: Working alongside Chichibu’s city enhancement plan through local citizen cooperation, conduct studies to increase use of electromotive mobility opportunities and its convenience by renting out Monpal to citizens and tourists.

The Saitama Prefecture Electric Vehicle Testing Program vehicles will include:

  • Electric vehicle (EV). Based on the popular Fit, this vehicle features a coaxial motor and other electromotive technologies developed for the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle, combined with a Toshiba-produced lithium-ion battery. Charging with a 200-volt power source takes less than six hours, and vehicle driving range exceeds 160 km (99 miles).

  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Based on the platform of the Inspire mid-size sedan, this vehicle features a fuel-efficient 2.0-liter i-VTEC engine and two high-output electric motors, specially developed for this system. The vehicle can be operated in three drive modes: all-electric, gasoline-electric hybrid and engine drive modes. The 6 kWh lithium-ion battery is manufactured by Blue Energy and its all-electric mode driving range can achieve up to 15 to 25 km (9 to 16 miles).

  • Electric scooter (EV-neo). This electric scooter, which will start a lease sales program on 24 December to companies that make short-range deliveries and also to individual business owners, will receive custom coloring as a testing vehicle.

  • Electric Cart (Monpal ML200). First launched in 2006, this 4-wheel electric cart will also be used as a testing vehicle.

Specifications of Saitama Prefecture program vehicles
 EVPlug-in HybridEV-neoMonpal ML200
Engine 2.0L 4 cyl. Atkinson cycle i-VTEC
Transmission ECVT
Motor Coaxial electric
(same as in FCX Clarity)
Two-motor system
(drive, regeneration)
DC brushless DC brushless
Max. motor output 92 kW 120 kW 2.8 kW  
Battery type,
6 kWh Li-ion,
Blue Energy
VRLA (lead-acid),
EV range >160 km 25 km (JC08 mode) >34 km (at 30 km/h on flat road) Approx. 25 km (6 km/h on level ground)
EV max speed 144 km/h 100 km/h    
Charge time 100 V: <12 h
200 V: <6h
rapid charge: 30 min (80%)
100V: <4 h
200V: < 1.5h
100 V: approx 4h
200V: approx. 0.5 h with rapid charger
100V: approx 9 h



Good news from Honda, shame they couldn't lead the charge rather than be first. But they might be the first company to have a full EV and plug in vehicle on sale.


It’s not about being the first.
Auto making is not a spectator sport.

It’s about selling cars (EVs, in this case).

The Mustang and Thunderbird were arguably first - which resulted in a few year’s jump on GM and Chrysler and millions of extra (immediate) car sales due to the desirability (direct sales) mostly, and show room traffic (PR).

These endless series of test programs show that the EV is (after 10 years ) STILL not ready - battery prices are still too high.

GM (EV1) and Honda(Insight –I) and Toyota (Prius and RAV4 EV) were “first” 10 years ago
– what was that worth?

Toyota persevered with the Prius and got some (apparently affordable) PR, but overall hybrid EV (and Prius) sales are still small.


The Honda PHEV with a 6kWh battery is a curious beast. These EV modes only able to run 6-12 miles will not satsify a green buyer and probably have little meaning to a non-greenie.

But, we welcome all EV comers and recognize that part of the scaling process is to introduce a variety of models. The Honda Fit-based EV with the 99 mile AER is a far better entry.

The strength of the battery warranty then becomes an important sales tool. Given similar range and cost, a consumer might select the Honda over the Leaf because the Honda warranty is longer or more generous.


E-mode performances of most electrified vehicles are currently limited due to low battery performances. Those limiting factors may not be sufficiently overcome before 2015/16, when 400+ Wh/kg, very quick charges/discharge, lower cost batteries become available. E-range would go from 160 Km to about 500 Km for BEVs and 100+ Km for PHEVs with much smaller batteries.


Fuel is too cheap in the USA for any kind of economical vehicle to take off.
A few greens will buy hybrids to show how good they are, but Joe 6 pack doesn't care as long as gas is < $4/gal.

If you had European, (> $6.5 / US gal) or Japanese, prices people would take more notice.

On the subject of small battery PHEVs, I think they are a great ides, once you look at mpg, and assume you will be doing some gasoline driving, just very efficiently.

Don't worry about the number of Emiles you can drive, look at the amount of fuel you will use per year, and the flexibility to do a long road trip any time you like.
It is much better to have three 13 mile PHEVs on the road than one 40 miler and 2 raw ICE cars [IMHO].

The question is, how low can you go before it just isn't worth plugging the car in every night (10 miles, 8, 5) ?


With 6kWh of batteries, they should be able to accelerate and regenerative brake nicely. People would plug them in to save $400 per year in gasoline.


Yes, limited e-range PHEVs with small batteries may be one of the best fuel saving solution for the next 10 years or until such time as batteries performance has improved by 2x to 3x and prices are down by another 33% to 66%.

Oil has reached $90+/barrel today and will possibly go over $100/barrel in 2011. That should push gas retail price over $4/gallon soon. A (very doubtful) major fuel tax increase or a doubtful $200/barrel would be required to raise retail price over $6.50/gallon.


Some are predicting $150 dollar per barrel oil by summer. This time it may not go back down in price. This would be like a fuel tax, but instead of going to roads, bridges and more efficient cars, it goes to countries that do not like us, but have plenty of oil.

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