Above: Honda Clarity FCEV.
By Lee Pang Seng
Honda is covering all bases in its vehicle development if the recent slew of cars arranged for the media to glean impressions at Motegi, Japan, is anything to go by.
They were the Jazz EVs (electrical vehicles), Plug-In Hybrids, Clarity Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV), the new Civic, and two Accords with new powertrains - a 2.4-litre direct injection petrol engine and a 1.6-litre diesel.
The latest Civic has just been introduced in Europe; the new engines in the Accord are ready to be included in some models for 2012; the Clarity FCEV is on lease in selected countries; the Jazz EV is expected to be sold from next year; as is the Plug-In Hybrid.
The drives were arranged on three different courses: the Accord with new engines and the Clarity on the high-speed oval; the Jazz EV and Plug-In Hybrid on roads around the Motegi premises; and the new Civic and an Accord with a new active all-wheel drive system on a slalom course with several tight corners.
In short, these are efforts that Honda has categorised as its Earth Dreams Technology.
The Jazz EV (right) features an improved electric powertrain that comprises a high-efficiency co-axial motor, low-friction gearbox and electric servo brake system.
It is said to realise the highest electrical consumption capabilities in the world and meets the required AC consumption rate of 116MPGe set in the US.
It covers 210km on a full-charge high-capacity lithium-ion battery. On a 240V US electric source, it takes three hours to achieve full charge from a low-charge signal. It delivers 125PS (92kW) and 256Nm.
There are three driving modes: Sort, Normal, Econ.
We picked Normal mode for the 5km course that had several junctions and gradients. Quiet mobility was accompanied by a brisk pace as an electric motor offers strong torque.
Sort mode provided a more urgent pace and according to the Honda engineer accompanying me, it would only reduce total distance by about 10-15 per cent.
The Plug-In Hybrid Accord (right) features a two motor-hybrid system and a 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle (high fuel economy cam) i-VTEC engine. It differs from a hybrid in that it uses more electrical power in urban drives and cruising, with the engine being engaged when overtaking or driving at high speeds.
Taking the Plug-In Hybrid over the same course was similar to driving the Jazz EV. The only time the engine kicked in was when we accelerated up a gradient.
For power, there is 163PS (120kW), and the maximum cruising range is rated at more than 800km. Battery regeneration during deceleration is the norm but the Plug-In tag refers to the possibility of charging from a power point.