Honda has been tightly guarding the details about its next hybrid, which the company is introducing next year. Even top U.S. engineers have not seen photographs of the vehicle. Until recently, just about the only confirmed information about the vehicle is that Honda expects to sell 200,000 units per year—as part of its larger goal to make hybrids comprise 10 percent of Honda sales by 2012. But details are starting to emerge.

In an interview with Automotive News on Mar. 19, 2008, Honda President Takeo Fukui confirmed these plans:

  • The car will have a global nameplate, like the Accord and Civic
  • The engine will be based on the Civic’s, but will use a newly designed motor and engine control unit, making it lighter and more compact
  • The hybrid car will be priced below the current Civic Hybrid (making it the least expensive hybrid on the U.S. market)
  • The new hybrid will take its design cues from the sleek, wedge-shaped FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle
  • The new hybrid will use nickel metal hydride batteries, the current standard for production hybrids, rather than next-generation lithium ion batteries

Fukui questioned the suitability of lithium ion batteries for mass-produced vehicles. He said, “Lithium ion batteries are still not usable from our perspective.” Other automakers, most notably General Motors, Nissan, and Mitsubishi, are basing their high-profile plans for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles on improvements in lithium ion batteries. The technology has not yet been proven as a safe, reliable and affordable in automotive applications.

Referring to lithium ion batteries, Fukui said, “”There’s a word in Japanese, soukon, for people who decide to get married too soon.”