2013 Honda Fit EV: First Drive Of Honda's All-Electric Car

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The 2013 Honda Fit EV is a fun and well-executed little all-electric hatchback.

It's quick, handles decently, gets the highest EPA efficiency rating of any vehicle on the market (118 MPGe), and its rated range of 82 miles is longer than that of the somewhat larger Nissan Leaf.

Too bad you have very little chance of buying one.

That's because the Honda Fit EV is a "compliance car," a vehicle built to ensure its maker meets California rules requiring sales of a certain number of zero-emission vehicles.

1,100 cars and no more

Quizzed at the introductory drive event this week about prospects for the Fit EV, Honda executives said repeatedly that 1,100 cars would be the number it will build and sell during 2013 and 2014.

It is a test vehicle that will let Honda learn about how real-world drivers use electric cars, Honda says. It will provide data on how dealers need to prepare for and support plug-in car sales, and whether there is actually a sustainable market for all-electric vehicles.

Honda Fit EV shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011

Honda Fit EV shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011

Enlarge Photo

Would Honda make more Fit EVs if demand exceeds its production total of 1,100? The answer appears to be "no."

The 2013 Honda Fit EV goes on sale next month in selected California markets and Portland, Oregon, and will be extended next spring into such East Coast markets as Boston, New York, Hartford, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. (That's a tentative list, Honda said.)

The Fit EV can be leased for $389 a month for 36 months (down from the $399 announced last fall).

It cannot be bought outright, however, meaning that Honda can (and likely will) take back the cars at the end of the lease period to avoid the cost of ongoing service and spare parts supplies.

Motor from FCX Clarity

The Honda Fit EV Concept made its world debut at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, and Honda displayed the production 2013 Fit EV at last year's LA Show.

The production 2013 Honda Fit EV uses the electric motor from the Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, a much larger car, which develops a peak power of 92 kilowatts (123 horsepower).

Honda Fit EV shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011

Honda Fit EV shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011

Enlarge Photo

Developing peak torque of 189 lb-ft (256 Nm), the motor gives the subcompact Fit EV punchy performance--especially in Sport mode (more on that later). Maximum speed is limited to 90 mph.

The 20-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, using lithium-titanate oxide cells provided by Toshiba, is mounted in the floor and under the rear seat, cooled via fans that force air through the pack itself.

A recharging port door on the left front fender is outlined in blue LEDs that light up while charging takes place.

Honda has built in a 6.6-kilowatt charger, meaning that a full pack recharge can take 3 hours or less. Honda offers a Leviton Level 2 home charging station to Fit EV lessees, while its Fit EV-authorized dealers can recommend local inspection and installation partners.

Lower drag of a compact sedan

In adapting the current Fit, launched in 2009, to electric drive, Honda focused both on drivetrain efficiency and improving the aerodynamics of the subcompact five-door hatchback.

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Comments (18)
  1. Looks like they're just putting this out for the publicity that it generates. Maybe the media shouldn't cover "compliance vehicles" to deny this, however, they may be just trying to gauge demand without committing to production.

  2. I, for one, am interested in what is being produced whether it is prototype, production, or compliance.

  3. A tough choice; support the 'compliance car' or deny them publicity. For me, it comes down to this. No publicity, no progress. If we all swoon over Honda's car there is at least some chance that they'll realize the potential and move forwards. If nothing, its success is a snub to their silly antics with hydrogen power.

  4. By not allowing the vehicle to be purchased and by having such a small number of cars available they are pretty much going to guarantee a poor response and low demand for the car. How is this a valid test of demand for a product? One might almost suspect they want to "prove" there is no demand for the technology.

  5. The Fit EV is the most enigmatic EV offering to hit the market. If it's just a compliance car why is it so darn good? And from a company that's basically the ICE king, it's ICEs powering anything from lawnmowers, motorcycles, outboard engines etc. My guess is it's a loaded gun pointed straight at Big Oil. Remember it has the Toshiba SCiB battery, the one that could be recharged in 10 minutes, the one that oil interests fear more than any other current chemistry, because ultra fast recharging batteries is what will make oil obsolete eventually. Honda doesn't offer that capability but the message to the oil interests is clear: a fast charging EV could be a lot closer than you think so keep those gasoline prices under control or else...

  6. I am really curious about the Fit EV. I wonder if Honda is taking it extra cautious this time. It probably wants to learn about the battery and peformance trade off as much as it can before it fully dives into the EV world. Its hybrid has been fairly disappointing, so I assume Honda would make sure its EV won't be a lot better.

    Also, I am curious on how the fan based cooling system would work in extreme heat (now with all the Leaf battery issue).

  7. Honda better hurry it up. The Germans are coming, the Germans are coming (BMW, VW) with their own versions.

  8. Car manufacturers should not be given credit for "compliance" unless the vehicles are actually SOLD. To lease only is just playing games.

  9. One must first crawl before you walk and walk before you run. Testing cars is critical to rolling out new technology. At least the lease is 3 years and is very inexpensive. No excuse to not get one if you live in the test market.

  10. Wow. Too bad it's not for real. Sounds like what I want, but I'm in ATL.

  11. I saw one of these in Hermosa Beach, CA, a few weeks ago. It already had white HOV stickers. I was a bit shocked and did a major double-take. Very nice car. I hope it does well in its limited production run.

  12. Great job John. Good to finally meet you this event.

    Yes, We are back to the 90's. This is Honda EV Plus all over again!
    Or GM EV1 all over again.

    I had an EV1 and I have been there, done this already. I don't know how many times an OEM gets to game the system like this under the excuse that they are "learning how people use a car".

    But this time it's a huge car sin as this little EV is so great and fun to drive.

    Shame on them. This is simple a great car product. I would hope carmakers were still in the business of bring us new and innovative products the move auto technology forward.

    They need to put this car out to the public and stand behind it.
    Just as Apple would with a tot new product. The public will get it.
    It just take time.

  13. Sorry for the quick typing. ;)

  14. I'd love to test their fan cooling on the battery here in Phoenix. That's all they do on the prius line and it seems to work fine but a real life test is always best wit each design.

    Too bad it's just a lease and not for sale.

  15. I wonder if the impact of temperature on NiMH is less than with Li-Ion?

  16. Hello John,

    I'm glad you enjoyed the Fit EV -- I'd love to be able to drive one! I have two questions:

    Is there less front headroom than in the standard Fit? I'm fairly sure that the rear headroom is reduced because of the battery pack requiring the space.

    And did you try the Eco(nomy) mode long enough to try the free-wheel coasting? I am hoping that the free-wheel coasting when you lift your right foot off of the accelerator pedal is implemented by all other EV's, and I would like to hear how it worked for you.


  17. a few points to consider.
    The BMW Mini-E program began as a one year lease 3rd party retrofit with no commitment to anything else from BMW. That limited effort blossomed into a two year lease extension for the Mini-E , then a phase two car which is the ActiveE, Then a whole division of BMW, BMW i to join BMW and BMW M, and then production plans with billions invested,under way for the BMW i3 and i8 coming late next year. So that's great progress for BMW and for electric cars.

    Honda, by setting the bar very low in a similar manor, sets itself up for success in future years. They could very well walk away in three years and crush the cars.

    My guess is that this program will also lead to other EV efforts similar to BMW's path.

  18. there is no putting the genie back in the bottle this time around :)
    I'm looking forward to being a driver of the Honda Fit EV

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