Honda Hotness Is Coming Back?

2008 was a great year for Honda fans and maybe even for automotive scene in general. Just imagine this, Honda, a conservative company who swears on sensibility and quality is throwing those notions away for a V8 rear wheel luxury sedan and a V10 powered super car. The automotive scene roars with high expectations. Spy photos of the rear wheel sedan test car is everywhere and the super car already making runs on a race track. Alas, comes 2009 and demand for automotive products dwindles as most sought after cars are econoboxes. Honda new President, Takanobu Ito back then changed his tune about the new cars and tells the fans and the scene to go “enjoy yourself” (there’s a new profanity filter in effect). So everything was scrapped, and all hopes out the window.

Denied luxury: The canceled mule of the FR Luxury Sedan

Rumors from inside automotive industry said that the V8 rear wheel luxury sedan which was destined to go to Acura division was a great car one that should put Honda luxury division on par with tier 1 luxury marque. While the super car lives on as a special fielded race car on Japan’s most prestigious racing event, the Super GT and won it. So as you can read, it’s very unfortunate for Honda to cancels both of these cars altogether.

Denied performance: Reportedly, this car doesn’t even consider GT-R and LF-A as competition

But this morning, birds are chirping beautifully on my front porch, the wind blows softly and the sun rose with a hint of blue and orange altogether. While I browsed Autoblog and Temple of VTEC the next minute, I was shocked out of my pants that Takanobu Ito in a way hints a little hope of a super car comeback after Honda discontinued the NSX. Apparently, Takanobu Ito was interviewed in Japan and some reporters asked if Honda would make a road going version of the super car that won the Super GT.

Ito’s answer for the question was “I have something in mind”. Now for those who don’t know Takanobu Ito, this guy is all straight as an arrow kind of leader. He always answers question in a definite way, yes or no and that’s that. For Ito to answer “having something in mind” well, it’s still ambiguous but having something is better than nothing right?

Such a tease: “I have something in mind”

Okay, so the news came from a French auto news site, which might make some little mistranslation (from Japanese to French to English). However, according to Temple of VTEC news section;Yahoo Japan and Asahi Shimbun also confirms and clearly stated that Takanobu Ito greenlight the project once again. Asahi Shimbun which post the news in English also mentions that Ito hints at making two sports car, the affordable and high performance… *faints*…

For those who don’t know, this is actually earth shattering news. Honda currently has no true performance sports car in its lineup, well, sure there’s the Civic Type R, but it’s more of a pedestrian car with souped up engine. Honda Prelude ends its production in 2001, Honda NSX ended in 2005, Honda Integra ended in 2007 and finally Honda S2000 ended in 2009. What came from the demise of those cars? Hybrids and lots of it. Civic Hybrid, Insight 2.0, CR-Z, and Fit Hybrid, not to mention Freed Hybrid and next generation Accord with Honda next generation hybrid system.

The shift from hardcore to green for some was considered too rough as there are no transition product in between. It’s quite understandable actually, as technology to produce performance with fuel economy wasn’t available yet. The  2010 CR-Z was Honda answer to this and although the blend of performance and fuel economy is good enough, as usual,  some consumers demand more… Well, to be fair… This particular consumer is too accustomed to huge ass performance gas guzzler 2 door sports car that’s bigger than a Honda Fit. Still, the CR-Z receives acclaims and accolades in a place where sensibility is praised.

But remember folks, Honda has set its sight straight in the green line and we’re not talking about money. Ever since the green revolution in the late 00′ Honda has been making fuel sipper as priority. So when you think about Takanobu Ito statement, don’t forget to add the green juice. Honda has fielded NSX with KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System, a form of hardcore hybrid system for racing) as a test bed for SuperGT 2012 rule change that mandates smaller engine and a hybrid system. It’s unclear whether this will be applied to Honda super car but you can be sure Honda will put every single piece of technology in its super car.

Front engine – KERS NSX test car: notice the exhaust tip on the side skirt?

Whatever it is Honda… We are awaiting with arms wide open, but until this car shows up in the real world, I’m putting a question mark on the title. We’ve been burned before Ito-san, and I won’t let my heart be broken the fourth time.


Temple of VTEC: Ito san changing his tune about NSX/HSV

Yahoo Japan: NSX development to resume (Japanese)

Asahi Shimbun: Honda to develop high performance sports car

SuperGT: 2012 KERS rule

JDM Fit Refresh: Angry Fit RS Cometh!

For its best selling JDM model, Honda finally breaks the mold and refreshed the Fit with flair and fireworks that almost eclipsed a new product launch. When usually a refresh just offers minor cosmetic changes, Honda did the almost unthinkable, expand the model portfolio. The result is tantalizing to say the least, a new hybrid trim line and tricked up performance trim line colors the refreshed Fit for a greater choice to consumers.

The info here are taken from Temple of VTEC member, DanielGR who lives in Japan and kindly scans the refreshed Fit brochure. For higher resolution pictures and more info please click here.

Let’s start with the baseline model first. The refreshed baseline Fit comes with a refreshed bumpers front and back with slightly remodeled turning light position in the headlight and LED taillights. Fuel consumption gets better by 0.5 Km/L according to the translation. The best IMHO addition is the optional inclusion of ECON mode and assisted parking system for the refreshed baseline Fit. The ECON mode when switched on affects the throttle reaction, making it mushier and slightly lethargic Aircon system. I don’t know much about ECON mode yet, but safe to assume it’s going to make the car drives a little bit more lazy and the aircon a little bit hotter.

The assisted parking system is like your cool uncle, he’s not your father so it’s a little bit hit or miss. The assisted parking system is not a full blown automatic parking system like Toyota’s version, but rather a combination of simple systems. First you need to manually line up the “parking sight” on the passenger door side, engage the assisted parking by selecting parallel parking or reverse parking, and then the car will automatically engage slowly and turns the wheel automatically. After a preset distance is achieved, the driver manually engages the reverse gear and the car will again automatically reverses slowly and turns the wheel automatically. A cheaper alternative to full blown camera assisted automated parking but it gets the job done.

Then comes the hybrid trim line, the jewel of Honda green movement for the masses; The Fit hybrid. You see, the car is special, not for its crazy fuel miser capability; at 30 Km/L or 70 MPG (US) it’s expected for a hybrid. Nor for its great design, which is basically an old model with a new engine. The Fit hybrid is special, because it will be the first cheapest hybrid ever, period, exclamation point. Starting at 1.59 Million Yen, the Fit Hybrid will undercut Toyota Prius that starts at 2.1 Million Yen.

The Fit hybrid is essentially a cheap Honda Insight with the same drivetrain and driving platform. Well, if this is a chicken or the egg question, the Jazz is actually the egg to Insight’s chicken because the Insight is actually a modified Jazz. You’ll find the same 1.3L i-VTEC IMA engine producing around 100ps with the same battery placement under the boot replacing the spare tire and with the same McPherson Strut – Torsion Beam combo suspension. Attractive pricing and respectable fuel consumption, my expectation of the car is that it will sell well, very well even.

Finally we came to Fit RS. Honda RS trim is not what you expect from competing Ford RS trim. Although I don’t know about Ford RS trim stands for… (but Rapid, Racing, Speed, comes to mind)… The RS trim on Honda means Road Sailing, it’s never meant to be a demon like fast or burn rubber at any moment notice kind of car, heck, the 1.5L engine 120ps not only just good enough, it’s available on the non RS trim. For people who want to drive the car at its limit, the baseline 1.5L 5MT is enough and cheaper to modify and tricked up. Honda seems to acknowledge it and finally comes out with a great enough reason for people to buy the RS trim line… Because it’s now a monster… Well, cookie monster cute, but still… A 6 gear manual should pique your curiosity.

The refreshed Fit RS now comes with an aggressive front and rear bumpers, complete with faux front and rear brake air ducts. I assume that these faux ducts can be made functional with just a little bit of tinkering. But the biggest addition of all is the 6 gear manual transmission which will make improving the engine’s power more freely with the extra gear. It’s been proven that with an Intake + Header + Exhaust upgrade, the Fit engine produces 139 ps easy (Indonesian Link), you can even break the 100ps/L barrier with a proper tuning. So a 6th gear will definitely help you gearheads getting the most out of this little gem.

It’s been a while since Honda mild model change tantalizes me. The late Stream model received significant face lift that warrants a Stream 1.5 moniker as it literally change the whole front of the car, making it much more modern. My brother still drives the first generation Stream refresh, and it doesn’t look old, it aged well, very well. Other refreshes from Honda doesn’t offer much in way of making the car stand the test of times, but the Fit refresh seems like it will stand its ground nicely.

What I’m expecting is the demise of Honda Keii cars with the Fit hybrid existence. Honda Keii’s small 0.6L engine and chassis means it will deliver good fuel economy but at the expense of power and interior space. The Fit hybrid starts at 1.59 Million Yen, yes, more than Honda Life that starts at 945 Thousand Yen, but rated fuel economy goes up from 22 Km/L (Life C) to 30 Km/L (Fit hybrid). Bigger interior space, better fuel economy… Does the Keii car relevant anymore?


Temple of VTEC DanielGR scans

Otomotifnet modified compact shootout (Bahasa Indonesia)

Honda Fit/Jazz Hybrid Official Pictures And Some Facts (plus estimated price)

The MOST anticipated entry level hybrid from Honda is coming in hot and Autocar jumped the gun on the media embargo and present the Jazz Hybrid to be unveiled at Paris Motor Show next month. Please visit Autocar website for better resolution pictures of the car here. You can also check at your other favorite auto blogs or online automotive news about the Jazz hybrid.

As you can see, the difference is merely cosmetics, different grill, bumper and blue shaded headlights differentiating the regular and the hybrid Fit. The rear also receives similar cosmetic changes with clear taillights, accented bumper and chrome accented trunk garnish.

Without the hybrid plaque on the rear, you will surely miss this hybrid on the road… Which is good, because you don’t want to attract attention to criminals whose MO is to puncture your tire with a hollow nail and rob you silly (because you don’t have spare tire).

It has been confirmed that the Fit/Jazz hybrid will be sporting the same engine used on the Insight 2.0, a 1.3L i-VTEC with IMA producing around 100ps. Interior pictures are still kept secret from Honda, but words are circulating that the Fit/Jazz Hybrid will have single color dashboard and blue lit dials. You can check out my entry about Honda Insight engine here, but for peace of mind sake, I’ll divulge a bit about the heart of Honda hybrid system.

Honda hybrid system or Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) is a simple system where an electric motor is sandwiched between the internal combustion motor and the driving wheel, in Honda case it’s always the front wheel to date. Back when it was introduced with the 2000 Honda Insight, the IMA doesn’t have the ability to purely run on electric motor. However, when the Insight 2.0 launched early last year, the IMA system was updated to purely run on electric motor albeit with a very strict condition… Steady cruise speed without any inclination… Any degree of inclination, then the motor kicks in again. Still good anyway.

A cut out of Honda IMA system, notice how the engine’s width is very narrow

Honda called its hybrid system IMA for a good reason, it simply “assists” the internal combustion engine at low speed and when the car is accelerating fast. A good thing because the nature of electric motor to produce maximum torque at just 1000 RPM means the engine doesn’t have to burn unnecessary excessive fuel to launch the car at stop and go driving. The IMA also acts as a starter motor because the whole engine has the ability to be turned off at idle (traffic lights) automatically and restarts at the press of the gas pedal.

To produce electricity, the IMA system itself is a cylindrical generator system that spins with the internal combustion engine. At steady speed, the IMA recharge the battery and when there’s a forward movement usually caused by braking the IMA also captures this momentum to spin the generator the opposite way and producing electricity.

A complete Honda IMA engine + transmission, the IMA system is marked yellow at the bottom picture

Something to note is that Honda engineers can’t magically insert an IMA system to an existing engine *snap* like that. The IMA takes considerable space inside the engine bay, therefore something got to give and it’s usually the engine that gets the shorter end of the straw. Honda hybrid system uses a specifically designed narrow engine to allow the placement of the IMA system next to the gearbox.

Now for the million Pesos/Ringgit/Sing Dollar/Rupiah/Baht/Dong question for us Asia Pacific residents… Will we get it? We don’t get the Insight, the CR-Z and the Civic Hybrid costs an arm and a leg. Are we getting the cream again instead of a bite of the cake? Not quite! We’ve seen the almost miraculous Honda Freed launched in the Asia Pacific, exclusive even outside of Japan… And why? Because the Freed is produced in the Asia Pacific region to gain advantage of AFTA. The Fit/Jazz has been produced in Indonesia for quite sometime, so you see where I’m going, it’s too easy for Honda to just import the hybrid engine and assembled it in Indonesia and imports it to other country in ASEAN. If this is inline with Honda global plan to be the leading automaker of hybrids (it’s in the CEO midyear speech which I’m going to cover soon), then, we will see a near simultaneous release of the Fit hybrid all over the world; Europe, America, Australia and Asia.

So when? The Fit hybrid in Europe will be announced at the Paris Motor Show next month and launched early 2011, in the United States it’s still unconfirmed but it will be there around 2011 as 2012 model, nope, it’s totally unconfirmed. The United States might even missed the hybrid Fit/Jazz totally… A bit of a “huh” moment, because the Europeans will get it although they already has the Insight 2.0 just like the Americans. On the other side of the world, Japan’s Nikkei confirmed that the Fit hybrid will be launched around Fall in Japan. Using Freed’s launch time frame, then it’s just a matter of 1 to 1.5 years before us ASEANs can drive a genuine affordable hybrid courtesy of Honda. So expect the Fit/Jazz hybrid to announced at the end of 2011 and available at the latest early 2012 in ASEAN.

How much? Now this is the interesting part… Because of difference in currency and taxes, I’m just going to use Indonesia expected price and price estimate slot, which will be universal. Honda Jazz RS in Indonesia is priced at Rp. 222 Million (2 Million Yen) while the Japanese Fit RS is priced at 1.69 Million Yen, specs are the same except we use 5AT instead of CVT, price difference between both automatic transmission should be negligible. The Freed in Indonesia is priced at Rp. 258 Million (2.4 Million Yen) while the same Freed is priced at 1.99 Million Yen in Japan, again specs are the same (digital AC control & power retractable mirror just recently added), except for the use of 5AT instead of CVT and the lack of HID.

Let’s do a simple math, now both the Fit/Jazz RS and the Freed in Indonesia reflects a 18 & 20% mark up in price compared with its Japanese brothers, let’s take 20% as our baseline number. Now let’s take Nikkei’s reported Fit hybrid price which starts at  a cool 1.59 Million Yen, in Indonesia, the Jazz hybrid will be priced starting at Rp. 202 Million… Now I suspect that it will be a manual version, so add the usual 10-14 Million for an automatic version, and voila! The estimated Honda Jazz hybrid automatic will be offered in Indonesia for around Rp. 216 Million (roughly US$22K), hell! Round that up to Rp. 220 Million and people will still buy it! Now let’s say Honda decided to go greedy or wanted to add the RS trim to the Jazz hybrid. In Indonesia, the Jazz RS commands Rp. 13 Million more than the baseline Jazz, so added to the baseline Jazz hybrid, the Jazz hybrid RS will still worth Rp. 229 Million… And that my friends are something totally purchasable.

If, and this is just another silly if from me… If Honda wanted to play “screw you all, this is the first commercially affordable hybrid in ASEAN, I’m putting price premium to you suckers!”, the Jazz hybrid will still be below Freed’s price  or at the very least, the same. Still, I’m buying one if I don’t have any car by that time. The Jazz hybrid reported fuel consumption is 26 Km/L or 61 MPG (US), but I suspect it’s just highway number. For inner city driving, I expect that number to drop to half at 13 Km/L or 30,5 MPG (US)… Again, that number is already phenomenal, my 1.5L SX4 automatic only manages an average of 8,4 Km/L or 19,7 MPG (US) for pure inner city driving.

Personally, I’m betting that the Jazz hybrid price range will be around Rp. 220 Million to Rp. 230 Million. It will be priced at Jazz RS level, and complement each other. One you pay premium for exhilarating drive and the other if you are down with the earth and stuff. Tax wise, the car wouldn’t be a luxury import because it is based on an existing car… So if there’s any different tax imposed, I’m really speechless.

Update: 26 August 2010 – more info from other online media

Source: Honda launches new Jazz hybrid

The car connection: Honda Jazz hybrid will start a price war

Electric vehicles: Forward to the past

Honda Insight is Hout!

EGMcarTech: Jazz Hybrid Unveiled, No US Plans

Honda Fit/Jazz Hybrid Will Get Insane Mileage

Hot off the oven, real life be damn, this is one news too awesome to skip (as awesome as the Expendables movie cast announcement). Temple of VTEC forum member Kiwi VTEC just post this great awesome news from about a semi official word from Honda of Australia official on Fit/Jazz hybrid mileage… And hoo boy, that car got mileage.

According to Honda Australia spokesman Mark Higgins, the Fit/Jazz hybrid will net 26 Kilometer per Liter of fuel or 61 MPG (US) estimated using Japan’s new stricter government measurement standard. If anything the figure would be a highway figure rather than inner city (hell) driving. Still, with hybrid charge cycle/stop go characteristic, inner city driving would net better mileage than regular internal combustion engine anytime.

Another amazing point (two to be exact) is the weight and type of battery used in the next Fit/Jazz hybrid. The car is going to weigh in at 1100 KG and it will use a Nickel Hydrogen battery. Nothing so special if you think about it for a second right? Well think about it for a minute, and bing/google current generation Fit/Jazz weight and what is Nickel Hydrogen and you’ll see it’s very special.

Current Fit/Jazz weighs in at 1100 KG (FIT RS, CVT, Japan domestic market) and the next Fit/Jazz hybrid weighs in about the same. It’s special because hybrid cars has two extra component on top of regular cars and it’s the battery and electric motor. The battery alone take considerable space, that’s why most hybrids doesn’t have spare tire, and the electric motor puts extra weight on the engine bay. So it’s quite amazing that Honda can match the old Fit/Jazz weight with the extra gizmos on the new Fit/Jazz hybrid. Then, there’s the battery.

Toyota and GM with its Prius and Chevrolet Volt will usher in the new generation of hybrid and electric car using Lithium Ion battery. Said to be smaller yet has the capacity to hold more charge than the outgoing Nickel Metal Hydride battery used in many hybrids nowadays. Now, Australia Honda spokesman hinted that Honda is still using a Nickel based battery, but a Nickel based battery that is currently used in outer space.

I won’t try to act that I know about Nickel Hydrogen, so let me shamelessly quote a short article about it from which offers the simplest explanation about the battery.

According to the Florida State University website, “The nickel-hydrogen battery has a nickel oxide positive electrode similar to the nickel-cadmium cell, and is like the hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell since it has a hydrogen negative electrode. This hybrid battery has a long cycle life, high specific energy, high power density, and also exhibits tolerance for overcharge, and is therefore the choice battery in many aerospace applications, especially geo-synchronous (GEO) and low earth-orbit (LEO) satellites. In addition, the battery’s hydrogen pressure is a good indicator of the charge state of the battery.” The nickel-hydrogen battery from the FSU website is pictured above.

So in a way, this Nickel Hydrogen battery is essentially a hydrogen cell packed inside a battery, that’s why it’s called a hybrid battery… And what do you know? Honda will use a SPACE AGE technology battery that is a HYBRID by itself for its hybrid car… (sorry, couldn’t resist).

There’s no real life comparison  between Nickel Hydrogen and Lithium Ion in term of effectiveness, power holding capability and shelf life. But think about it this way, Nickel Hydrogen battery is the battery of choice for satellites, something that’s when launched is usually left for its own for years even decades. So each components must be redundant enough to withstand environmental hazard like the extreme cold or the extreme heat of outer space.

Well, this news could be a hoax after all. I never imagined that this groundbreaking news would be told first by Honda Australia official. But if it’s real… Honda will have its factory workers works double time over the Fit/Jazz hybrid lifetime, especially if the persistent rumor that the company will bet everything in hybrids and making it go mainstream came true. Sub 200 Million Rupiah /US$20K hybrid in Indonesia? Hell YEAH!

Source: Honda Jazz Hybrid More Efficient Than Prius Nickel Hydrogen battery explained

Honda Tokyo Motor Show Summary: All Hail Electric Cars!

Honda just announced an overview of their display on the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, and what an overview it is. Like any all Japanese automaker in the show, hybrid and electric cars are making a strong showing… Too strong for my taste actually, but thank goodness Honda have some traditional gas burning ass kicking cars in the show as well.

Honda does bring out a slew of motorbikes, but for this entry I’m just going to cover the four wheel aspect of Honda TMS booth (I’m already ditching my lunch break to write this)… So why I’m writing a news that’s been reported to death by any online news media? Because I put in my usual witty comments and explanatory behind the news, so enjoy!

Strong Hybrid Front

Leading the charge on the hybrid front is the long waited CR-Z. Finally Honda unveils in the flesh, a near production ready CR-Z to the masses. It looks very much like the concept, albeit with toned down styling. Still though, it’s a striking model for a hybrid.

Here I am baby!

Honda dubs the car as the “fun hybrid” (actually, it’s me who dubbed it). It supposedly brings Honda “fun to drive” trait, offering driving responsiveness of a sport car to a hybrid… Honda 2007 showing of CR-Z mentions about the meaning of the term CR-Z… Compact Renaissance Zero… So is this car going to revolutionize the compact scene? It’s hard to imagine how. Honda explicitly mentions light weight on the car’s press release back in 2007, something that can be attributed to good power to weight ratio. However, with Honda most powerful compact hybrid engine producing only 115ps (Civic Hybrid)… It’s… Hard to say… Let’s just wait for its drivetrain info. Interior wise, it’s as ready as waiting the sun at 4 in the morning. You know it’s coming soon, and you know how bright the sun would be a couple hours down the road… For pictures of the interior, click the Temple of VTEC link down below.

Hot on the heels of hybrid cars, Honda unveils a 6 seater hybrid concept. Dubbed the Skydeck, the CR-Z front end look alikeness is uncanny, indicating that the car will share the same platform. Still a concept though, this car brings sensibility and load factor to a hybrid. The car features scissor front doors and below the chassis sliding door mechanism, but it will definitely be gone if the Skydeck hits the production. But seriously… Honda will definitely made this.

Call me CR-L for Long

On the electric side of anything four wheel, Honda isn’t making any ground breaking car like Nissan Leaf. Instead, Honda is bringing back the original 1986 Honda City concept, complete with a mini runabout like the legendary Motocompo. Dubbed the EV-N, this is Honda second full electric car after the EV+ that went on special lease in the United State back in 1997. The EV-N is a two door electric car that takes retro design cue to the extreme…. Extremely extreme. Now wait… Before you guys said “The car looks like an old Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper crashed together and the guy in the repair shop use too much sanding” The car is actually a homage to Honda very first compact back in the late 60’s, the N360. You can see its distinctive raised headlights and the boxy design. The original mini is more roundish than the N360.

Seriously, I want to bite this car, it’s just too cute

From the look of it, the EV-N is a Keii car with dimension similar to Toyota IQ. The rear seat seems useless for an adult, and when the front seat slides backward, there’s no legroom for the rear seats (just like the IQ). EV-N electric theme goes up to its roof where Honda installed a solar panel… I wonder if the panels is usable if at all…

Hello grandpa: The original Honda N360

The coolest thing of all is the addition of U3-X on the EV-N. Like the 1986 Honda City, the EV-N has a “mini bike” stowed on its left passenger door. Honda City own Motocompo was already a marvel in engineering, and the U3-X tops the Motocompo and bring the term mini bike to the next level. The U3-X, unveiled before Tokyo Motor Show (which I didn’t have time to write on the blog) was a marvel of engineering. Imagine segway, and now imagine a unicycle… Now what if Segway made love to a unicycle and had an offspring? You got the U3-X.

U3-X snug comfortably on the door

Like the segway, you tilt your body to move, whether it’s forward, backward, sideways… Whaaa? Sideways? Yes, sideways. Albeit it looks like the U3-X has only one wheel, it actually comprises of small diameter wheels making up a bigger wheel. When the person shifts their weight sideways, the small wheels turns towards that direction. When the person shifts their weight forward or backward, the small wheel stops and rolls around its bigger wheel. When the person wants to make a turn, all the wheels turn… All thanks to Asimo. Weird eh, how a bipedal robot contributes to a self balancing unicycle… Psych! That’s that… Asimo self balancing gyro technology is installed on the U3-X (and you call yourself a gadget website).

The U3-X and EV-N are both a comeback from 1986 Honda City. The concept is that you park your car in a public parking building and use the compact bike stowed in the car to reach your final destination.

Civic Euro Returns Home

On the fuel burning front, Honda brings back FN2 Civic Euro hatch back home to Japan, and not to mess around with Civic heritage, it’s bringing the Civic Euro Type R. It’s going to be a pretty interesting battle between the type Rs… The FN2 Euro Civic was built using the Fit/Jazz platform, meaning pedestrian level suspension (McPherson strut & torsion beam) and hangar size cabin. Suspension wise, the Euro Civic is no match for the FD2 Civic. Power wise… It’s going to be an embarrassment as the Euro Civic Type R only produces 201ps while the FD2 Civic produces 225ps at full throttle.

Still though, the FN2 Euro Civic was built not with performance in mind. It’s bringing sensibility into a performance oriented car. The Fit/Jazz platform means ULTRA seat, the amazing fold up/down mechanism of the rear passenger seating. Loading a tall or wide objects are a cinch for the Civic Euro. The engine is also tuned to deliver better midrange, rather than the high strung spine tingling limit of the FD Civic… Me? I’m choosing Euro Civic Type R…

Then we have the StepWGN… and no, there’s no vowel there after the “e”. StepWGN is Honda mid-high model of people mover above Freed and below the Elysion. It’s size rivals the Elysion, but with more utilitarian design and features. The model shown on the show will be the third generation of StepWGN ever since the car introduction in 1996. The car has gone a loooong way from its initial “commercial van” history. Well, it’s not a commercial van per se, but it looks like one, tall, dinky, and had an overly long rear overhang, the design looks forced… Maksa deh…

Looks a lot like Nissan Serena

StepWGN came with flat floor running from front to back, and the first car (ever I think) to have wood panel as a floor… Wood panel for God sakes! And a funky sunroof that runs the spine of the car’s roof from front to back (optional off course). The car truly is a fresh take on an MPV. However, the usual Honda move, the third generation StepWGN brings something better.

The third generation design though was a shocker to many. The second generation StepWGN was applauded for not looking like any MPV on Japanese road with its angular design which translated well to Honda Freed. The new StepWGN now look indistinguishable compared to Nissan Serena and/or Toyota Voxy/Noah. The boxy design is simplistic in nature like canned corned beef. It looks the same from the outside, it’s not until you brace yourself for change and try the new brand on the next shelf… Sigh… Still though, expect some surprises on the car.

There’s a third row seat there, can you find it?

The first pictures of the car show a disappearing third row seat… Completely inside the floor… It might be an old technique as USDM Honda Odyssey has it for ages, but it’s a good thing to implement on the StepWGN. The second picture that grabs my attention is the size of the car. The car length grew from 4640mm to 4690mm, a healthy 50mm. But what’s a 50mm increase right? Well… The interior space of the car grew to 3095mm from a measly 2775mm that’s 320mm increase in interior length, and that’s crazy… That’s Honda. If you find seating comfortably on the second generation StepWGN, this new third generation will make you feel like seating inside a house… Well, a small house… Okay, a studio apartment, don’t be so antsy…

So that’s that on the four wheel side. Honda also introduce a new bike, the CB1100, a retro take to the CB line. An electric scooter under the legendary Cub name, some power products and Honda walk assistant.


Honda global: Tokyo Motor Show Report

Temple of VTEC: Honda Overview Photos

Freed + Hybrid = 2011!

You read that right, Honda is going to release a hybrid version of Freed in 2011! The news couldn’t be more official than official as current Honda President, Takanobu Ito himself told Nikkei on a newspaper interview.

Here’s an excerpt from which covers the news.

The company intends to add a variety of hybrid models in the near future, including the CR-Z, a sporty hybrid, in February and a hybrid version of its Fit subcompact by the end of 2010. For the hybrid minivan expected as early as 2011, the company plans to launch a hybrid version of its mainstay Freed.

Fuel efficiency has been what matters most in hybrid vehicles, but what is required from now on is a balance among economy, fuel efficiency and price,” Ito said, expressing a desire to offer a wide variety of hybrids to customers. In developing electric cars, Honda must first meet California’s Zero Emission Vehicle regulation, which is considered the toughest in the world, Ito said.

Honda is going full force of introducing hybrid. Beginning with Insight 2.0, Honda is introducing (finally) hybrid technology to sub compacts which should make available these fuel sippers to the masses. Fit hybrid should be a no brainer as it will come in 2010 (an old news actually, I just didn’t have the time to post it), but the news about Freed being hybridized is welcoming news indeed. The Fit hybrid should cater to the newly weds, and the Freed hybrid caters to the new family.

How much fuel efficient the new Freed hybrid? Nobody knows… But according to Civic to Civic Hybrid, fuel efficiency increases up to 20% on highway (according to American Honda Motor EPA rating). Now, off course the price will also get an increase as well, but by how much? 30% should be warranted, and the cost of investment buying the hybrid version should be justified in just 3 years time (I randomly pick a long safe time).

A moment of palm to the face should be warranted because… Hey, Freed uses the same driving system as Fit, right down to the gearbox. So when Fit is going hybrid, why the same driving system shouldn’t fit into the Freed?

Honda also going to officially participate in the off again on again electric car battle inthe United States. Before, it was politic that kills Honda EV+ back in 2000, and now, with a swift slap from lady serendipity… It’s politic again that brings back the electric car war. The Governator has signed California zero emission vehicle regulation that warrants fat tax deduction for zero emission vehicle… Which are electric cars by the way.

So, the million dollar and two cent question is… Will we get it? (as in we + 2009 = South East Asia). Freed, again, as of today is still in high demand in Indonesia. Waiting list has reached November, and for some colors the waiting period has reached December. So, the rest of ASEAN should wait patiently until at the very least demand cools down before Honda starts to make the Freed available in your countries… Wait, that didn’t answer the question… Okay, will we get a hybrid Freed? It depends whether we get a hybrid Fit/Jazz or not. Producing a car is simple. You cast the engine, the chassis, and the sheet metal, assemble the parts and voila, a car. With a hybrid… Not so much.

Producing or even assembling a hybrid needs another level of experience which no SE Asia countries ever met. I’ve read complaint about Hyundai H-1 driver got a mild shock because of improper battery shielding, and that’s while he was opening the driver’s door … Now imagine a shock from a hybrid battery that holds more than 10 times the charge of a regular car battery. Thus, higher care and quality control must be put in place for a hybrid to be produced or even assembled. Off course, if Honda going to make the hybrid Freed affordable, economy in scale must be put in place… And that means having SE Asia a piece of the Freed hybrid.

We’ll see what happened  when the Fit hybrid is released… If we get a Jazz hybrid, then, you know that we will get a Freed hybrid.

Source: Freed Hybrid in 2011

Electric Vehicles: Forward To The Past!

We can’t ignore it anymore, alternative fueled cars are in desperate needs in the not so distant future. With mother earth’s limited oil supply, we are going to  see a steep oil price increase again once the economy has recover. Honda and Toyota effort of introducing hybrid technology in cars are still wayward in term of reception by the consumers… Mostly because of the price, but mostly because it’s still uses fuel. Logically speaking, rather than spending a US$20K  (in the United States) to buy a Honda Insight, most people can just do purchasing a Fit for US$5K less, and use that US$5K to fuel the car for years to come.

Let’s look back home here in Indonesia. Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius can be had for… Prepare… Rp. 500 Million or roughly US$50K!!! That’s more than twice the price of Yaris or Fit/Jazz! The Yaris can be had for Rp. 200 Million (US$20K), and the Fit/Jazz can be had for 220 Million (US$22K)… Let’s all relax and make a very simple calculation here…

You want me? Pay me…

My SX4 consumes around 1 Liter for 9 Kilometer (21 US MPG) of full inner city driving. With fuel price (grade 92) is hovering steady at Rp. 6500 (US$ 0.65) per Liter, I pay around Rp 300.000,00 (US$30) per week, and totaling Rp. 1.2 Million (US$ 120) per month. Considering that fuel prices might gone up in the next months because of recovering world economy, I might just bloat the number to 1.5 or Rp 1.8 Million (US$ 180) per month. Then, considering people uses a car up to 4 years (or until their lease is up), I’m  going to multiply my monthly fuel costs by 4 years (given I work somewhere near my old office, even then, 1:9 is already astronomically low)… And voila! I have to pay around Rp 108 Million (US$1008). Do mind I got the car for Rp 169 Million (US$16900), combined with 4 years of fuel, my operational and initial cost of ownership of my car is a measly Rp 277 Million (US$27700), still far less than buying a hybrid in Indonesia. So it goes to say, it’s silly to buy a hybrid, at least in Indonesia. Most people didn’t know this, they just arrogantly purchase the car to say they help the environment or crap… They certainly help made Honda and Toyota wallet grew thicker along the process.

Cheaper to own and fuel for 4 years than a hybrid… Figure it out yourself

Still though, price aside, Hybrids do return insane amount of fuel economy. Then again, it still rely on fuel… So it cannot have the “car of the future” title. One of the most hype alternative energy nowadays is the revival of electric vehicles. You take a hybrid, and lop off the internal combustion engine. Make the car plugable to any existing electrical terminal and voila! Electric cars.

Chevrolet Volt leads the way in this field. Volt is the first full electric vehicle with the biggest twist in the story as any M. Night Shyamalan movies. It is through and through an electric vehicle… But wait! It also has an internal combustion engine… Err… What’s an internal combustion engine doing in an electric vehicle? Ha! Told you it has a twist. The internal combustion engine is not called an engine because it doesn’t the drive the car, instead, it’s a generator that burns fuel to recharge the battery that propels the Volt electric engine. Crazy science! Thus, the car’s battery can be recharged through traditional home outlet, or it can be recharge along the way with its fuel burning generator.

Chevrolet claims 230 MPG or 1 Liter for 97 Kilometers for the car using US EPA estimate. Obscenely fantastic figure. But then, the Internet and automotive in general came with an uproar for the claim. Frankly I find it misleading too. Volt electric engine uses electricity (d’oh) which doesn’t equal to EPA measurement which measures a car’s fuel consumption using fuel. When the Volt is fully charged, it uses no fuel whatsoever, until the battery charge is at 30%, then the generator kicks in and recharge the battery. With that said, Chevrolet should just mention the range of the car using fully charged battery and full tank not the fuel consumption. But still, Chevrolet has the right to call the 230 MPG claim because the car after all consumes fuel (if needed), at least not as preposterous as our next subject…

A smirk of truth

Enter Nissan Leaf, a fully deck through and through electric car. It doesn’t have a generator built in like the Volt… And you know what? Nissan claims 367 MPG or 1 Liter for 156 Kilometers… Atrociously misleading for me. The car is an electric car and doesn’t use any fuel whatsoever, so why does there’s a fuel consumption estimate there? It’s just wrong. Some people (probably a Nissan fan) argue that the claim is right. You take into account the KwH to charge the car, convert it into energy equivalent of fuel and other miscellaneous number crunching few knew. Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford motor company even had a say on this fiasco. He say that the rating is meaningless and “this question devolves into madness”. Madness…

Blue madness

I call this whole Electric Vehicle phenomenon as silly. Because before the Internet was a hit in the late 90s, Honda, Toyota , Ford and even GM already had Electric Cars back in 1997 in the States. Honda EV+, Toyota Rav4-EV, Ford Ranger EV and GM EV1 was at that time the pinnacle of electric cars breakthrough. The cars wasn’t made public, rather it’s available as a special lease for very special people (and rich people) in America. The cost of lease ranged from US$399 to US$599 monthly, a very pricey lease indeed. However, like Nissan Leaf, the cars have an average of 100 Miles of range… And that’s 12 years ago (does Nissan improves anything except adding another set of door on the Leaf?).

This dinky car served as Honda advanced future projects

However, America was only graced by the might of electric cars for just a short while… Shorter still than even Honda lease plan of three years. Introduced in 1997, Honda EV+ was canceled by 1999 to be replaced by first generation Insight. But the true story behind it was far more darker.

According to HondaEV website, there’s political force in play shutting down all oil independent cars in production. Back then, the amount of battery needed to solely power electric cars are a lot, and there’s only one specific battery that is capable to power these cars, and it’s called Toyota-Panasonic EV95. General Motors, back in 1994 bought the patent rights to these batteries, and with single low blow in 2000 sell the rights to Texaco, that’s right A FREAKING OIL COMPANYGM sell alternative energy technology to a company that sells mainstream energy… Good work GM. The next move by Texaco for these oil free cars are to off course, SUE Toyota-Panasonic for the batteries, and Honda EV+ is floating around without a battery. A quote from HondaEV site couldn’t be more heartbreaking for electric car fans…

On Oct. 10, 2000, GM sold control of the patent rights needed for the EV-95 batteries to Texaco. On Oct. 16, Texaco announced it would merge into Chevron (Standard Oil). The next year, Chevron funded a lawsuit against Toyota-Panasonic et al., and the battery production line for the EV-95 batteries was halted.

Toyota paid $30,000,000 and received the right to make small batteries for the Prius, too small to plug in. Toyota shamefully made a virtue of its defeat by bragging that the Prius could not be plugged in. In reality, it was a great disgrace for Toyota to have to bow and scrape to Chevron’s unit that controlled the patents.

The HondaEV suddenly had no battery, no more could be made or sold.

Honda EV+ was left without any battery, and Toyota bows down to the pressure, making the Prius without any ability to be powered by the battery alone even after US$30 Million settlement. So folks, this is why your beloved Prius cannot operate in full battery mode, politics, not technological limit.

There’s also another barrier for entry on these electric cars, and that’s price. Back in 1997, Honda EV+ was unofficially priced at US$53900 (based on calculation of lease). Probably because it was a limited production model, as only 300 or so models produced. Still, it’s 1997 and US$53900 is nothing to sneezed at, times inflation, today the EV+ would costs around US$72000 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator). Now, Nissan hasn’t disclosed any price yet for its Leaf electric car… But do they have the technology to mass produce cheap electric technology? The thing is, battery and  high output reliable electric motors are expensive because both didn’t had its spot on the stage yet, so mass production (economy of scale) hasn’t been achieved. Electric cars will be expensive that’s for sure. At the very very very very very very very least, Nissan will have to heavily subsidize the car, and even so, personally I think Nissan would have to sell the car at US$30000… And that’s quite a lot.

Still though, does electric car is our future? If anything goes by… Yes, you can just plug it in at your home and you drive it the next morning… But it does have its own drawbacks. What do you think current electrical power plant uses as fuel? Hydro? Wind? Geo thermal? Anything renewable? Not quite. Developed countries power plants uses nuclear which produces toxic waste, and most developing countries still relies on old fashioned fossil fuel and coal. If your community is powered using renewable power source then it’s fine and dandy if you use electric cars. But what happens when your community is still powered using fossil fuel? You just hide behind all those fancy electric car gimmick and behind that all, you are still contributing to the use of fossil fuel. Nissan account this notion, that’s why they put MPG rating on the Leaf… But how they come it with the number is between Nissan, the fans, mother earth, the hippies and God.

One proposed alternative energy is to use Hydrogen, as Honda, Mercedes Benz and countless automotive company has proven with their concept cars, it is the fuel of the future. Yes, hydrogen is converted to electricity, making it somewhat an electric car allover again but still, it’s hydrogen. Any 5th grader would know, hydrogen is two part of molecule that forms water (H2O), that’s right folks, hydrogen can be extracted from water (and the last time I waddled through flooded local roads, we have lots of it). However, producing hydrogen is not easy, and in regular cases it takes more energy to produce usable amount of hydrogen through the act of electrolysis. Advance research is underway to extract hydrogen from water with the help of algae, but still usable amount extracted using this method is still a long way down.

Blue Efficiency? The car is green, get it, green because it emits water vapor exhaust…

Honda, Mercedes Benz and leading automotive makers has interest on hydrogen powered economy. Honda already even made FCX Clarity, world’s first dedicated-designed-commercially available (although only through lease) vehicle to be powered using hydrogen. Dedicated because they built a car specific to the engine, with fancy aerodynamics. Unlike Mercedes Benz ‘s F-Cell line of cars, which is an engine option on top of existing line of cars, primarily the A-Class and the B-Class (future dedicated model is coming based upon the B-Class though).

Honda FCX Clarity named 2009 Green World Car

So electric vehicles… Why forward to the past? Because technically, every known electric vehicle technology is just recycled or just improved upon from its predecessors. Nissan Leaf bull crap MPG comment aside, it has a range of 100 Miles, the same like Honda EV+ 12 years ago. The same technology can be found on FCX Clarity electric motor, taken straight from Honda EV+, although modified.

All in all, fancy terms and whatever, it’s nothing when real world driving experience falls short of the claims. Worse still, claims that are mind boggling to begin with. Nissan, stick to your GoTziRa.


Nissan unveils zero emission “Leaf”

Chevrolet “Volt” & Nissan “Leaf”  MPG claim under fire from Bill Ford

Honda EV+ complete history

US Bureau of Labor Statistic inflation calculator

Honda FCX Clarity Japanese website

Honda FCX Clarity named 2009 World Green Car

CR-Z & Fit Hybrid Confirmed Next Year

Argh, how can I miss this one… It’s official, Honda revival of the CR-X and Insight 1.0 is heading our way *at least in Japan* in February 2010. The CR-Z which was announced late 2007 will be available to Japanese market early next year, claiming “sporty Hybrid” as its tagline. The Fit will also receives a Hybrid trim line, and completes Honda hybrid offering as one of the entry level hybrid model. The Fit hybrid still have no definitive release date, but expect it to be launched by the end of 2010.

Bigger hybrids are in plan, but it’s still up in the air where the engine will head to. Well, considering Honda cancels implementing Diesel engine to their premium Acura line, it’s a safe bet that the bigger hybrids will be found inside Acura’s engine bays in the near future.

On related news, the Insight is fairing very well in Japan. The car manage to get number 3 most selling car for the month of May just behind Honda venerable favorites, the Fit. Despite the overall decrease in automobile demand in Japan, most small and efficient cars still fares the best.


Honda confirms two more hybrids for next year

Insight and Fit leads Honda domestic sales

CR-Z design sheet

Honda OSM, a Very Bad Dejavu?

Honda and sport, two words that dominates the young guns throughout the 90’s. The Integra, the NSX, The S2000, the hot Type R’s… Boy… Those are the days… But currently, Honda wanted the world to see them as a green automaker, and very desperate at it if I might add. The FCX, the FCX clarity, the Insight, the CR-Z, the Civic/Accord Hybrid and the planned new global hybrid that is purposed built to rival Toyota’s hot Prius. Then, out of nowhere, Honda came up with OSM, a coupe sporting hybrid name tag, and one bad dejavu… Remember SSM? More witty comments and what is SSM after the click. Continue reading