2018 Honda Plug-In Hybrid To Offer 40-Mile Range, Use Fuel-Cell Vehicle's Platform


Honda Fuel Cell Preview Drive, Tokyo 2015

Honda Fuel Cell Preview Drive, Tokyo 2015

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Later this week, Honda will unveil the production version of its hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.

And roughly two years after that car goes on sale next Spring, Honda will also launch a dedicated plug-in hybrid car--which it has now confirmed will use underpinnings similar to those of the fuel-cell vehicle.

The company committed at the Detroit Auto Show this past January to introduce both a new plug-in hybrid and a new battery-electric vehicle, but hasn't said anything about those two models in the meantime.

DON'T MISS: Honda's Tokyo Fuel-Cell Vehicle May Be Its Electric Car And Plug-In Hybrid Too

That led to an interesting hypothesis by Autoblog Green: that all three models will in fact be variants of the same car.

Now, after driving the fuel-cell vehicle and a plug-in hybrid test mule at Honda's test track in Utsunomiya, Japan, Honda has confirmed that the two cars will use similar underpinnings.

Honda Accord as development prototype of next-generation plug-in hybrid, Honda Meeting, Oct 2015

Honda Accord as development prototype of next-generation plug-in hybrid, Honda Meeting, Oct 2015

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The fuel-cell vehicle (its full model name will be revealed later this week, but will probably be the FCX Clarity once again) is expected to go on sale in Japan next spring, followed by the U.S.

Honda is estimating a range of 700 kilometers (434 miles) on the optimistic Japanese testing cycle, which could still work out to over 300 miles on the U.S. EPA testing cycle.

Estimated horsepower is 174 and torque is 221 pound-feet. Honda estimates a 0 to 60 mph time of nine seconds.

Honda Fuel Cell Preview Drive, Tokyo 2015

Honda Fuel Cell Preview Drive, Tokyo 2015

Enlarge Photo

As Honda previously stated, the car's fuel-cell stack is small enough to fit under the hood. That's because the stack is 33 percent smaller than the previous one.

There's a lithium-ion battery pack that has moved from the trunk to under the floor, and two hydrogen tanks, one under the rear seat and the other behind the seat at the front of the trunk. A higher trunkline still lets the trunk swallow three golf bags, according to Honda.

But despite decidedly different packaging requirements, Honda will reportedly use the same platform for its upcoming plug-in hybrid.

Honda Fuel Cell Preview Drive, Tokyo 2015

Honda Fuel Cell Preview Drive, Tokyo 2015

Enlarge Photo

This will help Honda realize cost savings across the two models and--potentially--its planned all-electric car too. Honda isn't saying if the platform is related to the Accord, but it is roughly the same size. The next plug-in hybrid will also likely shed the Accord name, though we don't know what it will be called.

Engineers are reportedly aiming for a three-fold increase in electric range over the discontinued Accord Plug-In Hybrid, which had an EPA-rated electric range of 13 miles.

That means a range of around 40 miles for the new plug-in hybrid.

2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid

2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

Another goal is to allow electric-only operation at higher speeds. The Accord Plug-In Hybrid was limited to 80 mph in electric-only mode.

The only things that will carry over from the old Accord Plug-In Hybrid powertrain will be the two-motor configuration and clutch.

MORE: Honda To Offer New Electric Car, Plug-In Hybrid Model By 2018

Honda would not discuss the previously-announced electric car, but if it shares a platform with the fuel-cell vehicle and plug-in hybrid, that could help lower the cost of the model still further.

This would perhaps encourage Honda to sell the new model in greater numbers than the old Fit EV, a "compliance car" built in just enough volume to satisfy California's zero-emission vehicle mandate.

"We would like to leverage previous experience with the Fit EV," Honda president Takahiro Hachigo said in regards to Honda's future U.S. electric-car strategy.

2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid

2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

Meanwhile, Honda is also developing a new 10-speed automatic transmission for use in larger V-6-powered vehicles. That could mean the Pilot, possibly the Accord, and the Acura MDX, RLX, and TLX.

Honda says the 10-speed will boost fuel economy by 6 percent versus the current six-speed, and will offer shifts that are 750 milliseconds quicker.

It could arrive in the U.S. next year, although Honda isn't saying anything officially either way.

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