Speaking in Tokyo during the annual mid-year state-of-the-company address, Honda Motor Company President and CEO Takanobu Ito, outlined an ambitious program to accelerate development of advanced environmental technologies that Honda will introduce in its vehicles around the world. In addition to wider-spread application of even more efficient forms of current Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system and "greener" internal combustion engines, Ito confirmed that Honda will launch both a new electric-powered (EV) urban commuter vehicle as well as a larger plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model that will go on sale here in 2012. According to Ito, Honda's new PHEV package is being specifically tailored for use in mid-size to larger vehicles but will spawn multiple variations over time.

While the production rollout of these new EV/PHEV cars is still well over a year away, Honda will launch a battery-electric demonstration program in the U.S. by the end of 2010. Among the few details it offered, the automaker stated this program will be done in conjunction with Stanford University, Google Inc. and the City of Torrance, California -- which will receive one of these plug-in hybrid electrics for evaluation purposes.

On the subject of its IMA system, Ito indicated that the next vehicle to receive Honda's gasoline-electric mild-hybrid package will be a domestic version of the Fit -- which will go on sale in Japan this fall and is rumored to be a possibility for the U.S. lineup, as well. He also noted that Honda's first IMA hybrid application using a Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery will happen in 2011, when the next- generation Civic Hybrid debuts. This new Li-ion battery was developed by Blue Energy Company, Ltd., a joint-venture operation between Honda and battery maker GS Yuasa.

Although stating that Honda still believes in the ultimate viability of fuel-cell electric power and will continue development of technology used in the FCX Clarity, Ito recognized that the interim solution will require even more aggressive enhancement of its current internal-combustion powertrains. To that end, he indicated Honda is redoubling its efforts to improve the performance, economy and CO2 emission levels of new gasoline and diesel engine families (the latter still being European-only) that will be introduced starting in 2012 along with even more advanced transmission designs.

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