Honda Begins Cautious Introduction of Fit EV and Other Green Cars

By · January 23, 2012

Honda Fit EV Ceremony in Torrance

Honda vice-president Steve Center, second from right, handed the keys of a Honda Fit EV to Torrance, CA mayor Frank Scotto on Jan 20. The city will use the EV for a year to raise customer awareness and test usage patterns. The Fit EV will be available this summer in California and Oregon in limited numbers for consumers to lease.

Honda is finally getting around to marketing its alternative powertrain vehicles. But don’t expect to see lots of TV commercials for the automaker’s Honda Fit EV electric vehicle, its natural gas-fueled Civic, or its FX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. “You don’t need to market them the way you do to sell 300,000 Civics,” Steve Center, vice president of the Environmental Business Development Office for American Honda Motor Co. told PluginCars.com. Instead, Honda will use a lot of online marketing, and get owners of the cars to talk up the vehicles. “They are influencers in their community,” said Center.

Center, the former vice-president of advertising and public relations, assumed his new role at American Honda last August. Initially, the job only involved developing business plans for Honda’s multiple environmental products, including solar panels and the Hydrogen Home Energy Station. Effective December 1, however, Center also was handed responsibility for marketing the FCX Clarity, the Civic Natural Gas, and the Fit EV.

He spoke to PluginCars.com at an event in Torrance, Calif., American Honda’s home base, where Center handed the keys to a Honda Fit EV to Torrance mayor Frank Scotto. Various departments in the city will drive the car for a year to build public awareness of electric vehicles and get an idea of how a pure EV fits into the city’s fleet needs, Scotto told PluginCars.com. Similar ceremonies occurred in Northern California earlier in the week at the Google headquarters and at Stanford University. Each received one Fit EV to try out for a year.

Some Fit EVs will be available for consumer leasing this summer for $399 a month, including maintenance. However, Honda only plans to make a few thousand available over the next few years, starting with California and Oregon. “We will see how acceptance goes” in those two states before deciding to expand to other states, said Center.

Cautious By Nature

Honda is also ramping up availability of its Civic Natural Gas. The car has been on the market for years, but sales have been small and mainly to fleets. That is because natural gas refueling stations were not widely available, said Center. “They are now more prevalent,” he said. So Honda is expanding sales into the retail area, and 240 Honda dealers in 36 states will offer the car, he said. Honda expects sales to double this year compared to 2011 to 2,000 units.

More FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicles will also be available to lease this year, said Center. Interested parties can apply online. “We are looking for people,” he said.

Honda was one of the first automakers to offer a natural gas-powered passenger car and a fuel cell vehicle. The Honda Insight also beat out the Toyota Prius, to become the first hybrid on the US market in December 1999. But Honda did not aggressively promote those models. Why is Honda moving into the pure EV space just as cautiously?

“It’s our nature,” said Center. “We don’t want the customer to be disappointed.” Honda owners expect to use their vehicles for many years, he said. And, “a lot of folks who buy these (alternative fuel) vehicles are early adopters and they move on.”

The City of Torrance is a potential customer for more of Honda’s pure electric vehicles. It aims to replace its entire car fleet of 300 to 500 units with pure electric vehicles over time, said Mayor Scotto. “Hopefully, in the future every car we buy will be a pure electric car,” he said. That doesn’t necessarily mean a Honda, of course. Toyota’s US sales operations are also headquartered in Torrance.

Comments

· Brett Owen (not verified) · 2 years ago

I wouldn't hold out a lot of hope for the NGV Civic. If you haven't seen the trunk, you can check out my photo from the 2011 Sacramento Intl Car Show. I think some Honda rep with a sense of humor left it open for everyone to see. hehe. I want to say that the trunk clearance is equal to or less that the shortest width of a paper grocery bag. Essentially, the same trunk room you would expect from a bicycle. But that's not as troubling as the item that'll get rear-ended into your back passengers in a rear collision. I would far rather have a Fit EV.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/shoulder_rats/6341869918/in/photostream/

· Tom K (not verified) · 2 years ago

In my opinion, Honda is almost as cautious as Toyota with EV deployment (minimum Calif. requirements?) They can keep each othe company at the back of the pack when EVs really takeoff...

· · 2 years ago

Steve Center seems the right advocate in Honda for these alt fuel vehicles. Honda has a reputation for quality to protect, all well and good, but they have a reputation for innovation they need to polish as well. Mr. Center’s actions indicate he in not afraid of the new. Hopefully he will trust retail customers to help drive innovation and respond to consumer demand with more product.

· · 2 years ago

Yes, Honda has to fix the trunk in Civic CNG.
One have to design cars dedicated to CNG: Civic Wagon or Hatchback with longer rear end.

· · 2 years ago

It sounds to me as though Honda is not even trying to get a halo effect from their clean car program. They seem to be doing a combonation of what California requires them to do and a little of covering all the bases so that if a competitor takes off with one of these technologies they won't be so far behind.

They seem to be right on target by characterizing their approach as cautious. But sometimes being too catious can lead to missed opportunities...

· · 2 years ago

Yegor: Yeah, some type of a wagon might be better.

alt-e: I thought Alysha was joking with the word 'cautious'. My take of Honda is they're wishing the EVs would just go away. Kind of like Ford. Have you seen any TV ads for the Focus EV lately?

· · 2 years ago

Honda, like all other ICE companies( except Nissan ) is just continuing to drag their feet as they have been for decades with these passive aggressive minimal-effort mini-fleets of EVs.
Even their CNG effort is half-hearted at best although, at least they made an effort.
Unfortunately, with CNG (and hydrogen), a designer is faced with a challenging dilema in storing the fuel. The low energy density (Watt Hours/Liter) of hydrogen (CNG, being mostly Methane or CH4, is mostly hydrogen, 4 parts hydrogen to 1 part carbon) requires a lot of space to store it or else, it must be stored under great pressure. Storing under great pressure requires stronger storage tanks for safety as well as a lot of energy to pressurize the gas. This generally means one needs a large tank that is hard to fit in a vehicle. It is most efficient to make a pressure tank spherical or cylindrical but that is difficult to fit into a car that must carry things, hence the loss of trunk space in most CNG vehicles.
Don't blame Honda too much on this since the Ford CNG Crown Vics for taxi fleets have the same trouble. Nobody else has really tried to use CNG.

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 2 years ago

EV Plus. Part Deux (it seems).

· · 2 years ago

Maybe the message from the major manufacturers is clear. They are happy to keep producing petrol cars until all of the oil runs out. They will adhere to govt regulations when they have to as far a hybrids, fuel efficiency, etc is concerned and will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do the minimum. The only major company commited to electric cars is NISSAN considering the amout of money they are investing. So if anyone is going to buy an electric car buy a NISSAN or a TELSA. Perhaps a MITSUBISHI but don't even consider buying an electric car from anyone else.

· · 2 years ago

@Deckard,
Well put but I'd add that GM is giving a half-hearted nod towards EVs as well. If the Volt meets your needs, I recommend considering it as well.

· · 2 years ago

@ex-EV1 driver

I agree with what you are saying about GM I personally don't have a problem with them as like you say they are giving a half-hearted nod to EV's. I just didn't include them here as the Volt isn't a pure EV. That being said I drive an ICE so I can't criticise anyone who drives any kind of hybrid car. I am saving to buy hopefully a Leaf or an I-Miev in the next couple of years but to be honest my personal circumstances probably point to buying something like the volt. I live in Australia, I regularly drive long interstate trips plus I live 70 km outside a major city. I will need to either buy a car like the Volt or keep my reasonable fuel efficient ICE, buy the electric car and do a lot of juggling ie making sure I can get charging organised at certain addresses in town and swap my car at certain times when I am in town. Australia just has no intention at the moment promoting electric cars so it is so much more difficult to own one here. If they just put a few fast chargers in town it would make all the difference.

· kidashley25 (not verified) · 1 year ago

Though Honda will only lease the Fit EV,it’s been exposed that the transformed power has an MSRP of $36,625.Recalls are not something that we are used to confirming on when it comes to Honda’s subcompact and lightweight section. That said, Honda recalls is remembering some 143,083 2007-2008 Honda Fit designs for a flaw in the front lights. According to our resources, certain designs have a flaw in the cabling funnel for the front lights management change which can cause failing of the low-beam front lights routine.

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