Honda’s leaders had long downplayed the viability of producing an electric vehicle, arguing today’s EVs are both impractical and unrealistic. My, how times have changed. In a recent interview, the Japanese automaker’s CEO himself recently admitted consumer demand for electric cars now prevents the automaker from completely ignoring the segment.
“It’s starting to look like there will be a market for electric vehicles,” Takanobu Ito, Honda CEO, told Reuters. “We can’t keep shooting down their potential, and we can’t say there’s no business case for it.” Ito wouldn’t, however, speculate on when his company believes the segment will expand past early adopters, or the annual volume EVs could account for.
Still, this signifies a marked change in Honda’s tone. Previously, the company concentrated its efforts on engineering an affordable hydrogen fuel cell vehicle instead of EVs. Previous leaders and directors saw hydrogen FCVs as a better mode of zero emissions driving, as they offer consumers a range similar to today’s internal combustion cars, virtually eliminating the so-called range anxiety. Honda’s position began to shift in July, when Ito announced the company is developing both a plug-in hybrid, along with a conventional EV. If all goes according to plan, both cars could launch sometime in 2012.
Interestingly, Ito himself isn’t completely sold on the idea of a plug-in hybrid, even though his firm is in the throws of developing one for mass production.
“Plug-in hybrids are essentially for people who drive short distances,” he said, “but it has the handicap of having an engine, a motor, and a stack of batteries. Why wouldn’t you just drive an EV?”
That logic may ring true in congested urban centers, but drivers with longer commutes may beg to differ. Regardless, few drivers may have the chance to actually buy a Honda EV. Reports suggest the automaker may sell its EV only in California in a move to appease the state’s ZEV requirements.