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Honda tests solar strategy for next generation electric vehicles

posted 20 Dec 2010, 07:44 by Mpelembe   [ updated 20 Dec 2010, 07:46 ]

Japanese car manufacturer Honda Motors says it hopes to go a deeper shade of green with its next generation of electric vehicles (EVs) and solar rechargeable stations. The company gave news media a preview of the new technology on Monday (December 20) with a demonstration at its research facility on the outskirts of Tokyo.

Honda Motor says it's looking to create a solar-energy based transportation system to support its two and four-wheeled Electric Vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids, a line up the company calls "personal mobility".

In a series of tests to be conducted in cooperation with Saitama local government, Honda hopes to establish the viability of its elecric vehicles and solar-powered recharging stations for everyday use on a national scale.

The slick 10-kilowatt solar-panel-roofed station, which can power four EVs simultaneously for a day of use, was designed by Honda for its EV line up. Even the solar panels are made by Honda.

"This is a solar-powered station, a part of our experiments, that recharges EVs with the electricity generated here. It takes less than six hours to fully charge an EV using 220-volts, enabling the vehicle to run up to 100 miles or 160 kilometers," said Senior Chief Engineer of Honda R&D Sachito Fujimoto.

Fujimoto said a smart-phone application that monitors the vehicle's power capacity also adds convenience to drivers.

Among other things, the phone can display a map which will show a driver how far the vehicle can drive on its remaining battery charge and will search for the nearest recharging station. The phone will then forward the information to the vehicle's onboard computer which will then guide the driver to the station.

"Using the smart-phone, drivers can check the remaining power in the batteries or reachable distance with it," said Fujimoto.

A new plug-in two-wheeler "EV-neo" and motorcart "MONPAL ML200" that are aimed at China's potentially massive electric bicycle market were also unveiled. They too will be rechargeable using the same system.

Honda CEO Takanobu Ito at a new conference following the demonstation said he hoped the test project would secure Honda's green credentials.

"Based on the result of this experiment, putting together with Honda's two-wheel, four-wheel and motorcart technologies, and enabling households to be able to generate and store electricity to recharge vehicles with high efficiency, Honda will pursue its 'total power management' scheme," said Ito.

Honda said early in July that it planned to launch a plug-in hybrid and battery electric model in Japan and the United States in 2012 as part of its strategy to push to the front of a race by global automakers to develop more fuel-efficient cars.

Honda lost a few years in the green-car race after deciding in late 2008 to drop the development of clean diesel engines to power its bigger cars, opting instead for a new, more powerful hybrid system that could be mounted on larger models.

As Japan's No.2 automaker, Honda was one of the world's only car makers to offer gasoline-electric cars during the past decade but has begun looking like a laggard within the industry without a "strong" hybrid or concrete plans to mass-produce pure electric cars.

Honda will take its experiments to the U.S. and China as a part of its scheme early in the new year.