Honda Will Launch New Electric, Plug-in Hybrid Models by 2018

2015 Honda Accord Hybrid EX L Badge

DETROIT — Honda has a new plug-in hybrid and a new battery-electric car planned for launch in the U.S. by calendar year 2018. The company will cease production of the current Civic Hybrid by the end of the 2015 model year, and already has stopped production of the compressed natural gas models, John Mendel, executive vice president for American Honda Motor Company, announced Monday. For its compact car lineup, Honda will concentrate on its core gas-powered models, which will be all-new for 2016, including Civics with a base 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine capable of 40 mpg or higher. It also will shift its alternative fuel strategy from CNG to greater emphasis on hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles. “Production of the CNG model is already completed, as we already have sufficient inventory to meet customer needs,” Mendel said. “The discontinuation of those two models will allow greater focus on Civic’s sporty new character,” he added. The new turbo engines also include a 2.0-liter for the Civic Type R that makes 305 hp in European trim.

Honda Civic Type R Side

Mendel gave few details on the new electric vehicle (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), such as whether they would be based on such mainstream models as the Accord, Civic or Fit, or whether they might be dedicated electrified models along the lines of the Chevrolet Bolt. He said the EV and PHEV models will follow Honda’s next hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle coming in 2016 based on a concept that made its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in late 2014. The new EV and PHEV “will become a mainstream volume pillar for the Honda brand,” Mendel said. The company is leaving behind CNG, which now is as costly a fuel as running gasoline, for hydrogen fuel-cell technology because it plans to sell more such vehicles. Honda has invested “close to” $14 million with a company called First Element Fuels to expand hydrogen refueling in California, and Mendel said he expects Toyota’s entry into the U.S. hydrogen fuel cell market to expand interest in the technology.

2015 Honda Accord Hybrid EX L Rear Three Quarter Static

Honda previously announced a hiatus for the Accord Hybrid sedan for the 2016 model year. It will return next year as a 2017 model, with a new powertrain and with production shifting from Ohio to Japan, to allow for higher capacity, Mendel said. As the 2017 model arrives, “we envision a strong increase in Accord hybrid sales.” The new powertrain will significantly increase the car’s fuel efficiency, he said, which already is best in class. The 2015 Accord Hybrid is rated 50 mpg city, 45 mpg highway, and 47 mpg combined, by the EPA. Honda also will expand its use of three-motor hybrid systems, Mendel said, beyond the upcoming 2016 Acura NSX, though there may be no further connection between the hybrid sports car and other models. “The three-motor hybrid in the Acura NSX certainly is a precursor to the technology you’ll see in other vehicles, to the degree that it has three motors,” he said.

2016 Acura NSX Front Three Quarter

Asked about leaked patent plans for a “baby NSX,” Mendel gave a sort of tacit acknowledgement that such a program exists. “No, I can’t tell you anything about the baby NSX,” he said. “I could, but I’d probably be fired.”

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