2015 NAIAS: Honda Promises New Electric Car, Plug-in Hybrid by 2018, but Doesn’t Give Details

Like rival Japanese automaker Toyota, Honda has never been an eager fan of electric vehicles, preferring to focus on hydrogen fuel cell cars than plug-in battery electric vehicles.

Honda's previous all-electric model was the Fit EV -- a new future model could be similar in size and specification.

Honda’s previous all-electric model was the Fit EV — a new future model could be similar in size and specification.

At this week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit however, the world’s fifth largest automaker confirmed it intended to bring a brand-new electric car to market by 2018, alongside a new plug-in hybrid model.

Sadly as GreenCarReports details, Honda executives were unwilling to give further details.

“What we’re not sharing is anything else,” said Robert Bienefeld, Honda North America’s senior manager for environment and energy strategy during a roundtable session with the motoring press, but assured those present that the new vehicles would be built “to ensure Honda’s environmental vehicles remain strong competitors and provide a new sales-volume pillar.”

Honda is still heavily involved in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and we suspect a promised plug-in model would be a stop-gap measure.

Honda is still heavily involved in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and we suspect a promised plug-in model would be a stop-gap measure.

Deconstructing that statement, some may see it as proof that Honda, like some of its hydrogen-focused rivals, is starting to see the benefit to offering plug-in battery electric vehicles alongside its future hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

But given Honda still hasn’t revealed a production-ready hydrogen fuel cell vehicle yet — the hydrogen fuel cell car shown this year in Detroit is just the latest in a long-line of concept cars previewing a ‘potential’ future model — others may argue that Honda’s hydrogen fuel cell plan isn’t accelerating as quickly as perhaps it had hoped.

The fact that Honda’s most recent reveal — at the end of last year in Japan — was expected to be the production version of its 2016 Hydrogen fuel cell sedan just adds credence to that particular theory.

We’d suggest a third theory: that although Honda is most heavily invested in hydrogen fuel cells, it knows some degree of plug-in vehicles will be required to help it meet ever-stringent CARB and emissions requirements, especially given the relatively slow growth of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.

We're still awaiting Honda's first production fuel cell vehicle.

We’re still awaiting Honda’s first production fuel cell vehicle.

When it comes to the actual plug-in vehicles we can expect, we’d guess Honda’s all-electric model will most likely be a limited-range all-electric city car similar to the all-electric Fit EV. Produced between 2012 and 2014 in limited numbers as a compliance car, the Honda Fit EV was produced specifically to allow Honda to comply with tough California regulations concerning the sales of zero emission vehicles in state.

Despite pleas to keep the Honda Fit EV in production from fans and plug-in advocates, Honda abruptly ended production last year when it had produced the required number of vehicles under Californian law. Although it’s not necessarily the case, we feel it’s highly probable that the promised 2018 all-electric model will also be a limited-production vehicle, at least until Honda’s hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is being sold in high enough numbers to meet all ZEV requirements.

Given the rise in the plug-in hybrid SUV market, we’re also willing to predict that the future Honda plug-in hybrid model hinted at could be a plug-in hybrid version of its CR-V crossover, but at the current time we have no fact to back that prediction up — other than the belief it would be a logical step for an automaker focused more on hydrogen fuel cell cars than electric ones.

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  • GreenMonkeyPants

    Did Honda even try to market the Honda Accord Plug in?

  • tech01xpert

    Given what GM showed with the Bolt, GM might as well done the same thing as Honda. No details of any of the technologies required to deliver a 200 mile EPA range BEV was shown with the Bolt, so it is about as much vapor as this Honda. No aerodynamics, weight, battery, or cost breakthrough technologies were shown or demonstrated.

    • Joseph Dubeau

      How that giga factory doing? …not!

      • tech01xpert

        Have you not followed the construction? How about Panasonic’s positive comments on it?

        • Joseph Dubeau

          Why are taking shots at GM. nNot everyone can afford model S.nGM sales a lot cars.

          • RobMF

            Well, it’s true that the Bolt is still just a concept car. I hope GM produces it. But until there are clear moves in that direction, it’s still just PR.

  • Chris O

    “weu2019d guess Hondau2019s all-electric model will most likely be a limited-range all-electric city car”….actually Honda might find it difficult to find buyers for a car like that by 2018 when 150-200 miles of range has become the norm.nnnnIncreasing numbers are needed to comply so compliance cars need to be compelling enough to appeal to a much larger public than is currently the cased and serious range comes with that territory. It’s going to be expensive for Honda to have both a heavily subsidized H-model and a subsidized plug-in model for compliance purposes. Maybe time to bet big on batteries and come up with something people will buy in the numbers needed to get it profitable.

  • Rob Wilson

    Honda’s preoccupation with hydrogen is a massive mistake. Electric is clearly the future and plug in hybrids are a major step down that road while battery technology improves. Electrical vehicles will be safer (no flammable fuel), you can charge the car yourself (potentially with electricity you generate) without having to visit a gas station, and no need for dangerous hydrogen to be expensively transported in tankers around the country. Electric charging can be available much more flexibly around the road network.

  • Honda did specifically mention a BEV and two types of PHEV configurations (2 & 3 motor hybrid-systems) in a press release.nhttp://www.hondainamerica.com/news/honda-kicks-year-honda-innovations-2015-north-american-international-auto-shownn”Advanced environmental vehicles including a new plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric vehicle to launch by 2018″nn”An all-new battery electric vehicle and an all-new plug-in hybrid vehicle by 2018 and further application of Honda’s two- and three-motor hybrid systems, as part of the next phase of Honda’s commitment to advanced powertrain technologies that enable ultra-low carbon mobility.”

  • RobMF

    Honda should be moving faster on EVs, otherwise it will be lost in the dust.