Honda executes 180° turn on plug-in e-cars
Future's not all hydrogen, after all
'Leccy Tech If you listen very carefully, you can hear the screech of tyres at Honda as the company performs a U-turn.
Ever since Honda President Takeo Fukui said that he saw no value in developing plug-in hybrid vehicles because the technology was immature, we've been anticipating this. And so it has come to pass. Honda R&D Chief Engineer Kenji Nakano has now said that Honda does indeed see the point of plug-in hybrid and range-extended e-cars.
Honda's Insight: coming soon to a wall socket near you?
According to Nakano, speaking at the Society of Auto Engineers 2009 World Congress this week, Honda now believes that a range of hybrid options will be necessary, including mild and strong hybrids, plug-in hybrids, fully fledged battery electric vehicles and even range-extended electric vehicles.
“Hybrids have stayed in the limelight longer than we expected," he said. "Thus, instead of being a bridge technology, hybrids are expected to remain in the mainstream for quite some time.” Presumably Honda had previously regarded hybrids and EVs as flash-in-the-pan precursors to the hydrogen revolution.
Last week, at the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Blue Energy battery factory in Kyoto, more light was shed on Honda's Damascene conversion. President Fukui said: “We started working with GS Yuasa with just the hybrid application in mind. We are thinking about extending that application to plug-in hybrids.”
Blue Energy is a joint venture between Honda and Japanese battery maker GS Yuasa and will start producing lithium-ion batteries for Honda's hybrid fleet – be they plug-in or not – in 2010.
Fukui - the same man who only last year said that e-cars can only manage 100km (62 miles) on a charge, which suggests he may be a bit behind the times or is paying too much attention to Jeremy Clarkson – steps down as President of Honda in February 2010.
Honda's about-face probably has something to do with the ominous silence from the Obama administration about developing the Hydrogen Highway and the incentives on offer to both the purchasers and makers of plug-in EV and plug-in hybrid vehicles. It seems a good bet that Obama and his advisors see the Chevy Volt and Tesla Model S rather than the hydrogen powered Honda FCX Clarity as the way forward for reduced-carbon personal transport, at least in the medium term.
Toyota's plug-in Prius: in ahead of the Insight?
More to the point, Toyota looks certain to go ahead with a lithium-ion battery equipped plug-in version of its Prius. This will give it a distinct advantage over Honda's Insight if the latter is only available as a petrol hybrid. ®
Where do most UK cars spend their time?
I'd prepared to wager that during the week most UK cars are in the car park of people's employers, multi-story car parks in general or the car parks of railway (or possibly bus) stations.
Obviously this does not apply to most Reg readers, who I believe are mostly international IT consultants and may have to go anywhere in the world at fairly short notice to rescue some multi-billion pound IT development from disaster. Your cars will be in the airport long-stay areas instead (Unless some of you been fibbing when you fill in those reader profiling questionnaires).
So perhaps hooking up all those car parks first *might* be a good idea. If you go the hybrid route, with both a fuel and charging cap then the fuel can get you to the car park but the battery can get you home, and probably will for quite a few days to come.
In fact were the Govt to play this correctly they would combine this with some kind of trading agreement, offsetting car pollution VS employer pollution, or CO2 emitted from power station Vs Co2 from car. And lets not forget the reduced ground level particulates and ozone.
Provided we sort out a standard UK (Europe?) wide plug of course.
Indeed the lack of availability of a fueling infrastructure is a problem for hydrogen powered cars. But it isn't the fundamental problem - that is the essentially very poor thermodynamic efficiency of the whole supply chain that simply can't be got round as it is dictated by some basic laws of physics (primarily those involved in the electrolysis and the unrecoverable energy lost in compression or liquefaction stages).
hydrogen car efficiencies
some interesting arguments in this book, available online about electric versus hydrogen in "Sustainable energy - without hot air" (a really good book if you want to understand green energy in general).