The 2013 Honda Fit EV, an electric version of the popular Honda Fit, will shortly be available for lease in California and Oregon. But with a production volume of only 1100 vehicles over the next three years, don't expect to see these cars flooding the roads. By all accounts the Fit EV is an excellent vehicle, and it is refreshing to see Honda returning to building all-electric cars, after canceling the Honda EV Plus over 10 years ago, and years of dabbling with fuel cell vehicles. However, many dismiss the Fit EV as a "compliance car," built primarily for compliance with California's ZEV rules, because of that low production volume.
The lease program is due to begin on July 20, 2012 in California and Oregon. Availability will expand to six, unnamed, east coast markets in early 2013. The three-year lease price of $389 per month computes to a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $36,625.
Honda has a strong commitment to fuel efficiency and low pollution emissions vehicles. Some examples are the Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle, the aforementioned Honda EV Plus (which was canceled and crushed years ago), multiple hybrid cars, and the only production compressed natural gas vehicle, the Honda Civic Natural Gas. Over the years, however, Honda has stressed fuel cells as the way forward, while the rest of the industry is embracing plug-in electric vehicles.
The EPA recently certified the Honda Fit EV with the highest fuel efficiency rating of any automobile, at 118 miles/gallon equivalent.
"No other automaker on the planet is more deeply committed to produce and deliver more energy-efficient and sustainable transportation solutions than Honda," said Steven Center, vice president of the American Honda Environmental Business Development Office. "The 2013 Honda Fit EV is the latest example of this commitment."
The Honda Fit EV is based on the popular five-door, five-passenger Fit and Fit Sport. The all electric drive train features a 20-kilowatt-hour (kWh) Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery and a compact 92-kilowatt (123 horsepower) AC synchronous electric motor that generates 189 ft-lb of torque. The chassis has a fully-independent suspension and a driver-selectable 3-mode drive system (Econ, Normal, Sport) adapted from the CR-Z Sport Hybrid.
The EPA ratings are an amazing 132/105/118 city/highway/combined miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent (MPGe) rating, and a 82 mile combined (city/highway) driving range rating (adjusted).
To provide an 82 mile driving range on only 20 kilowatt-hours of battery capacity indicates the car is very efficient, as evidenced by the high "fuel" efficiency ratings. For comparison the Nissan Leaf gets 73 miles range on 24 kilowatt hours, and the Ford Focus Electric gets 76 miles range on 23 kilowatt-hours of battery capacity.
The on-board 6.6 kilowatt charging system gives a complete recharge in about three hours. A 120 volt charging cord is provided with the car, but of course requires a much longer charging time.
The Honda Fit EV has a few firsts for any car from Honda: First use of next-gen Honda Bio-Fabric seat material; First Honda model to use new HondaLink EV telematics; First Fit model to feature multi-link rear suspension; First Fit model to use lightweight aluminum front subframe.
It comes with a remote control to control charging and operation of the climate control system while plugged in to a charging station. Charging can be scheduled to take advantage of low night-time electricity rates via either the dashboard, or the free smart phone application.
The three-mode drive system works by adjusting the level of regenerative braking. ECON mode uses stronger regenerative braking than NORMAL mode, which in turn is stronger than SPORT mode. SPORT mode also adds more responsiveness to the system, adding to the Fit EV's fun-to-drive nature. A "B" mode is available to further optimize regenerative braking. Econ mode is supposed to increase driving range by up to 17 percent.
"The Fit EV is the next critical step in Honda's portfolio approach to alternative fueled vehicles," said John Mendel, executive vice president of sales, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "There is no other automaker on the planet whose spirit is more deeply invested in the effort to realize a cleaner, more energy-efficient and ultimately more sustainable transportation future than Honda."