Honda to Build Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Vehicle in 2012

Honda was one of the first automakers to sell a hybrid vehicle with the original Insight coupe in 1999, but has since fallen behind in hybrid and electric vehicle technology. According Honda CEO Taknobu Ito, the Japanese automaker aims to correct this in 2012 by introducing a plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle.

In his mid-year address, Ito announced that Honda is preparing a new plug-in hybrid. In addition to developing the plug-in hybrid, Honda is also working on a battery electric vehicle, both of which will be for sale in Japan and the U.S by 2012. Information about Honda’s upcoming plug-in hybrid is scarce, but early reports indicate that Honda’s plug-in hybrid will be capable of achieving 136 mpg. Reports haven’t yet mentioned the car’s possible electric-only range.

Honda’s interim solution until 2012 is to release products that use its Integrated Motor Assist technology first unveiled on the 1999 Insight. It uses an electric motor sandwiched between the internal combustion engine and transmission to boost fuel economy by reducing the load on the engine, enabling start/stop capabilities, and using regenerative braking. Unlike many newer hybrid systems, IMA can’t be fitted to larger vehicles such as Honda’s Pilot or propel the vehicle on electricity alone.

Honda’s development of a plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicle for sale in the U.S. and Japan is part of the company’s larger push to reduce CO2 emissions. Honda still sees its hydrogen fuel cell FCX Clarity concept as a long-term solution, however, and will continue to develop fuel cell technology.

The new hybrid vehicles have been announced for sale in Japan, but one, the Fit Hybrid, may arrive in the U.S.

Source: Honda, Automotive News (Subscription required)