DETROIT — Honda Motor Co. is phasing out efforts to develop natural-gas powered vehicles and will instead focus on hybrids and electric vehicles.
The automaker is developing a next-generation, two-motor hybrid system that will appear in a new Accord Hybrid due by 2018, and will offer a redesigned hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle next year, John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., said at a news conference today.
A new plug-in hybrid, a new battery-electric car and a three-motor hybrid system also are in the works, Mendel said, without giving details.
Honda is “developing an extensive new generation of electrified vehicles” that should yield significant sales, Mendel said.
The fuel cell vehicle, battery-electric car and plug-in hybrids “will become a mainstream, volume pillar for the Honda brand,” Mendel said.
Honda will stop selling the natural-gas powered version of the Civic and the Civic Hybrid this year, a move that follows the withdrawal of the slow-selling Accord Plug-in Hybrid from the U.S., Mendel said.
Honda is dropping the Civic Hybrid in part because it expects the redesigned 2016 Civic to offer “a few ticks more” than 40 mpg, according to Mendel.
Since 1998, Honda has tried to commercialize natural-gas vehicles, but the lack of a fueling infrastructure posed too great a barrier.
“The infrastructure, while it improved, just wasn’t as convenient as petrol,” Mendel said. “We gave it a pretty long run and we tried and tried and tried.”
The company said it has sold about 16,000 natural-gas vehicles, mainly to taxi and commercial fleets.
Looking at 2015, Mendel said that the combined U.S. light-vehicle sales of the Honda and Acura brands on are track to set a record high. Their previous combined best was 2007, when they sold 1.55 million. Their 2014 sales total was just 1.54 million.
Through May, Honda brand U.S. sales rose 0.6 percent to 547,044 vehicles while Acura sales rose 7.2 percent to 71,560.
The new generation of the Honda Ridgeline is expected to ride on the same unibody platform as the Pilot crossover and Odyssey minivan and could share their 3.5-liter V-6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission.
Mendel also said the new Ridgeline pickup will arrive next year with a more traditional truck look. He said the previous Ridgeline was too polarizing, and the new truck “is not as unique in styling.” A