Two quick notes. I mentioned that BMW was known for their engine prowess, and is not taking electrification lightly. I also mentioned that North American dryer plugs can actually give more power (5.7-7.2 kW) than many car chargers can intake (often just 3.3 kW). Well, what does Honda have to say? Here, Honda is usually known for sensible, well-built cars in the “bread-and-butter” segments. In its home market, though, Toyota and Nissan are the big boys, while Honda is the stepchild. Its reputation is largely based on advanced technologies; Toyota is considered the quality leader.
For its electrification efforts, Honda is a little behind, but far from out. First is the Fit EV, an electrified compact in the manner of the Ford Focus EV. Like that conversion, the Fit EV is aimed squarely at the Nissan Leaf… at least, in California only. Only a few hundred EVs will be offered, and as leases, not outright sales. It’s pretty clear that Honda is putting in a baseline effort to meet California pollution laws- i. e., the Fit EV is a “compliance car.” And yet, the car has a 6.6 kW charger. With a similar pack size to the Leaf and Focus, that 6.6 kW will fully charge a Fit in about four hours. When you have no backup engine, nor swappable batteries, chargers are your only lifeline. The Fit, unlike most Leafs, does not have a Level 3 (Fast DC) charging capability. So that one onboard, AC charger is 6.6 kW, to reduce the situations where it’s the bottleneck.
More recently, the Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid has gone on sale. This looks serious by comparison: not that many people buy Fits in this market, but Honda North America lives or dies on the Accord. Also, it’s for sale in both California and New York/New Jersey. Not as serious: the drivetrain is complicated, even boggling one auto journalist. It sounds comparable to GM’s “Two-Mode” system, which is more complex than the solution Toyota and Ford reached independently. A battery pack of 6.7 total kWh is significantly larger than the Toyota Prius Plug-In, which would be its natural competitor. This Accord gets only a few miles of all-electric range, like the Prius (13-17 miles) and Ford Fusion Plug-In (TBC, around 20 mi) but unlike the Chevrolet Volt (35-40 mi). And yet, the Accord has a 6.6 kW charger, which will fill a depleted battery in just under an hour (you don’t actually consume all 6.7 kWh in the pack). The Prius, Volt, and Fusion only have 3.3 kW chargers, and no Level 3 capability, either. One hour: that’s a good lunch, a professional appointment, maybe a single store visit.
Neither Honda really impresses me, as far as EV designs and use cases are concerned. There are equal or better options out there; the company seems to be wading in to electric drive, not blazing the trail. And yet, Honda wants to wring out the power from available home outlets; it’s as if their cars are meant to be driven, not parked. It seems to have made an impression on Nissan, which will offer 6.6 kW chargers in the 2013 Leafs.