Well, that was quick. Just one month after it unveiled the electric Fit EV prototype at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Honda is about to put the first of its electric subcompacts into daily use in southern California.
Amusingly, it's in Torrance, where rival automaker and hybrid leader Toyota has its U.S. headquarters.
The city of Torrance will receive a Honda Fit EV to test early next year, and then in 2012, a Honda Accord sedan fitted with Honda's new plug-in hybrid powertrain as well. Stanford University and Google will also receive their own Fit EV test cars.
In Torrance, the cars will be used by various city departments, including the Economic Development office, the Community Development department, and the Public Works office.
The president and CEO of American Honda Motor Co., Tetsuo Iwamura, took part in a ceremony with Torrance mayor Frank Scotto to hand over a symbolic Honda key. Honda's demonstration program will give the company real-world data on how drivers use both electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
The all-electric Honda Fit EV will be launched in 2012 in the U.S. and Japan, probably as a 2013 model. Its lithium-ion battery pack gives it a range of up to 100 miles (70 miles when applying EPA's adjustment factor), and Honda quotes a top speed of 90 miles per hour.
Like the 2011 CR-Z two-seat hybrid sports coupe, the Fit EV will offer drivers a choice of Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes so they can optimize performance for better acceleration or maximum efficiency as their needs change.
The company says recharging time will be up to six hours with a 240-Volt charger, and up to 12 hours using 120-Volt current.
Honda will also introduce its new, more powerful, two-motor hybrid system in a larger production model in 2012, with a plug-in version to follow in 2013. That plug-in version uses a 6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack along with an unusually large 120-kilowatt (151-horsepower) electric drive motor.
Honda says the plug-in hybrid vehicle will give 10 to 15 miles of all-electric range at speeds up to 62 mph. A full battery recharge will take 3 to 4 hours on 120-Volt power, or an hour to an hour and a half with a 240-Volt outlet.
The first plug-in hybrid production model will arrive the year after Toyota launches its 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid in mid-2012.
Unlike the company's current Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) mild hybrid system, the new two-motor hybrid system--in both the standard and plug-in versions--permits all-electric running under certain driving conditions.
The company began development on the two-motor hybrid system after concluding that its longstanding IMA hybrid system could not be scaled up for larger vehicles.
The IMA system is now used in subcompacts (the 2011 Insight hybrid hatchback and 2011 CR-Z two-seat hybrid sports coupe) as well as the 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid compact sedan.