Does it seem that Honda suffers from a bit of schizophrenia when it comes to electric cars? It was one of the first companies to introduced a hybrid vehicle when it brought the original Insight to market in 1999. That car was a three passenger hatchback that was optimized for aerodynamic efficiency and it introduced America to the word “hybrid.” Toyota followed soon with the first Prius.
While the Prius has been very successful for Toyota, the Insight was just too goofy for mainstream drivers. It looked weird and it drove weird. Honda then went on to stumble its way forward with a Civic Hybrid that started off full of promise but crashed after issues with battery life surfaced. The company had to re-tune the car to save the battery, but that made it no more efficient than an ordinary Civic, even though it cost $5,000 more. Sales plummeted to near zero.
Next, Honda brought out an all new Insight. This one didn’t look so strange, but it did look exactly like a Prius. It sold in the dozens. Next up was the CR-Z, billed as the world’s first hybrid sports car. It had the looks, but its leisurely performance to 60 mph was measured in furlongs per fortnight rather than miles per hour. It too evoked only the most tepid response from shoppers.
Honda finally wised up and brought a very good Accord Hybrid to market. As soon as customers realized what a good car it was and started demanding more, the company stopped selling them. What’s up with that?
But now, Honda says it has gotten religion when it comes to hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric cars, and hydrogen fuel cell cars. During the annual State of the Company speech in Japan recently, CEO Takahiro Hachigo told the audience that two thirds of all Honda cars will have an electric motor by the year 2030, according to AutoBlog. “We will make a plug-in hybrid type available for our major models and increase the number of models sequentially.”
The Clarity fuel cell sedan goes on sale in Japan this spring. It should be available in the US about 12 months later. Honda says it will use the same chassis to manufacture a plug-in hybrid car for 2o18. Is Honda really ready to get off the schneid when it comes to electrified cars? It better be, if it expects to remain in business very long.