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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

The electric version of Honda's new 2013 Honda Fit has received the highest received the highest fuel-efficiency rating ever given by the Environmental Protection Agency, Honda says.

The 2013 Honda Fit EV will get a mile-per-gallon-equivalency rating of 118 miles per gallon equivelent using Environmental Protection Agency methodology. The measure is confusing, since the car doesn't use any gasoline. But the upshot is a whole year's worth of electricity to power the car is estimated to cost less than $500 if the buyer opted for gas instead.

The Fit EV will go 82 miles between charges, more than the 76 miles of a Ford Focus Electric or 73 miles of a Nissan Leaf. The Fit can be recharged in 3 hours on a 240-volt system. Its motor puts out the equivilent of 123 horsepower.

"Just as important as the industry-leading fuel-efficiency and fast recharging time, as a Honda, the 2013 Fit EV will be an absolute kick to drive," said Steve Center, vice president of the American Honda Environmental Business Development Office.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·

Honda Motor Co.'s new electric vehicle comes with an unusual option: collision insurance without any deductible.

It's the latest enticement to move electric cars off showrooms and narrow the cost gap with less expensive gasoline-powered vehicles.

"It is a really interesting marketing tool," said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Automotive.

Detroit automakers have generally shied away from offering insurance for drivers. General Motors Co. experimented with the concept last year, offering a year of free auto insurance for new-car buyers in Oregon and Washington. GM let the offer expire without expanding the program.

Honda officials said they see the offer as a way to remove a barrier to the introduction of their 1st electric car in the U.S. They were concerned that insurers would have trouble rating the financial risk of covering the repairs of such a low-volume vehicle.

Starting with Nissan Motor Co., large automakers began selling electric cars in late 2010. But sales of the vehicles have been slow, hampered by their limited range and higher price compared with gasoline-powered vehicles. They also require homeowners to install charging stations in their garages, an expense that can run $1,500 to $2,500, depending on the home.

Although the amount of insurance savings for Honda's new Fit EV will vary based on a consumer's driving record and address, the option can reduce some of that expense. With Honda picking up the collision insurance on the vehicle, a single man living in a Southern California suburb will save as much as $600 a year, according to some insurance industry estimates.

Honda plans to offer just 1,100 leases for the car, an electric version of Honda's popular subcompact hatchback. It will not be available for outright purchase. It reaches showrooms in July.

The 36-month, 36,000-mile lease will cost $389 a month plus taxes with no down payment. The contract includes roadside assistance, all maintenance as well as the collision insurance. However, consumers leasing the Fit will be required to carry liability insurance at $100,000 per incident and $300,000 overall coverage.

Honda doesn't offer a lease deal for the gasoline version of a Fit, but a similar lease for the slightly larger Civic is $220 a month with Honda picking up the first of the 36 monthly payments. It does not cover the cost of maintenance, roadside assistance and collision insurance.

Based on current gasoline prices, the Civic will cost about $1,000 more to drive 12,000 miles than the Fit at a nighttime charging rate of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Although automakers are selling electric cars in small volumes, the increasing number of models for sale by the major manufacturers has made the market more competitive, and buyers are starting to see incremental improvements with each new model introduction.

Honda says the Fit EV will have faster acceleration and better passing performance than rival electric vehicles from the big automakers, especially when operated in sport mode. But that will use up more electricity and reduce the range of the car.

Honda also says the vehicle will be more agile. That's in part because Honda engineers placed the battery pack in a flat configuration across the bottom of the car, which lowers the center of gravity. That design also opens up space in the passenger cabin, where 4 passengers can travel comfortably.

But what makes the Fit especially interesting to those following the evolution of modern electric vehicles is the small improvements it offers in range, charge time and a new pricing approach.

The Nissan Leaf, the 1st of this new generation of electric vehicles to market, can travel 73 miles on a single charge and takes about 7 hours to charge. The Ford Focus, a recent entrant, can travel 76 miles on a single charge and takes about 4 hours to charge. The Fit can travel 82 miles on a single charge and takes about three hours to charge.

"Every next-generation electric car is going to be a little bit better than the previous 1," said Thilo Koslowski, an automotive analyst at research firm Gartner Inc. "The technology is improving. Every mile counts. This is an area where the industry can gain a lot more expertise, but that puts early adopters at a disadvantage."

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)

The 2013 Honda Fit EV, the Japanese automaker's highly anticipated answer to the Nissan Leaf, is quick, agile and actually quite fun to drive. Its cabin is roomy, outward visibility good and its styling is anything but odd. The platform is impressively safe, it has decent range and Honda says it is the most efficient vehicle the EPA has ever tested.

So, what's the problem? Let's call it a lack of volume.

Honda is only releasing 1,100 of these little blue hatchbacks over the next 2 model years in the States, and all of them will be delivered on contracted 3-year leases. Making matters more frustrating for those who want to forget about internal combustion, only California and Oregon are in the launch plans with 5 other preselected East Coast markets opening shortly thereafter.

Statistically speaking, the Honda Fit EV will initially be scarcer than a Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 (the Italians are estimating a production run of approximately 4,000 worldwide). But thankfully, Honda brought a handful of pre-production Fit EVs to Southern California and offered us a drive. We ran acceleration tests, dodged cones on a slalom course and then did some real-world driving. Dwelling on its pending shortage, it was almost frustrating that we enjoyed ourselves so much.

From a distance, it isn't easy to distinguish a traditional combustion-engine Fit (1.5-liter inline-4 developing 117 horsepower) from its all-electric counterpart. Yet, as it draws near, the lack of a front grille, scripting on the rear doors and its extended rear spoiler will be the subtle indicators. Most obvious, for many, will be the unique Reflection Blue Pearl paint – only offered on the Fit EV.

Even if you are color blind and happen to miss the exterior tweaks, the passenger compartment is a dead giveaway. The steering wheel is nearly identical, but the primary analog instrumentation (tachometer, speedometer and fuel gauge) has given way to an analog power usage meter, digital speedometer and battery state-of-charge meter. The navigation system has been carried forward, but the HVAC system is now fully automatic (single zone) with a large digital display replacing the air distribution dial. In addition to the standard 12-volt power outlet, there are heated seat controls and an auxiliary audio input at the bottom of the center stack. The center console houses twin cupholders, a traditional gear lever (with an unconventional PRNDB arrangement) and a lever-operated parking brake. The cockpit is clean, not cluttered.

Less observed are the physical modifications made to accommodate the batteries stowed beneath the passenger floor. As such, the three rear seat occupants are moved ever so slightly rearward. The floor is raised a bit, too, so the seat cushion logically sits a bit higher as well. We shouldn't fail to mention the bio-fabric material which covers the seats; it is Honda's 1st use of the environmentally friendly upholstery. And much to our chagrin, the imminently useful Magic Seat feature that flips the whole 2nd row up and out of the way to accommodate taller objects has been sacrificed to fit the box of lightning beneath the seats.

While the chassis and suspension is mostly shared with its combustion siblings (MacPherson struts up front), engineers have removed the H-shaped torsion beam in the back of the gasoline-powered Fit and replaced it with an independant multi-link system in the EV – Honda's 1st for a Fit. There are single-piston sliding-caliper disc brakes up front and drum brakes in the rear. The standard wheels are 15-inch alloys, wrapped in low-rolling-resistance all-season Michelin Energy tires (185/60R15 at all four corners). Honda's Electric Power Steering (EPS) is standard.

In terms of powertrain, the Fit EV features a maintenance-free 92-kW AC synchronous electric motor (developing 123 horsepower and 189 pound-feet of torque) driving the front wheels through a high-efficiency single-speed coaxial gearbox. Power is supplied by a Toshiba-produced air-cooled 20-kWh Li-Ion battery, located beneath the passenger compartment completely within the wheelbase.

With its own built-in charger, a 6.6 kW unit, the vehicle may be plugged into any household-type 120- or 240-volt AC power supply (charging times are less than 15 hours on a 120-volt supply, but under 3 hours on a 240-volt AC Level 2 source). As of today, Honda has picked Leviton to supply its preferred Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) charging station. With full batteries, Honda says the Fit EV will go 132 city miles per charge, and it has an EPA-estimated combined driving range of 82 miles.

To assist the owner with the whole charging process, Honda provides an interactive remote control with each vehicle. About the size of an iPod Nano, the digital remote is able to exchange information about charging status and climate control settings when the car is connected to a charging supply – check on your Fit EV from the comfort of your family room sofa, or from inside a restaurant, so long as you have a WiFi connection. An available smartphone application does the same, plus it allows scheduling of specific charging times (only draw power when electric rates are the lowest) and other features from just about anywhere.

Honda has chosen a 3-mode operator-selected drive system for the Fit EV. When the transmission shifter is in Drive, the system defaults to "Normal" mode to deliver a proper balance between system power and regenerative braking (75 kW of electrical power is available during acceleration). Press the dash-mounted "Econ" button and power delivery is cut back (47 kW of electrical power available during acceleration), as is the use of the air conditioning compressor in this most efficient setting. Lastly, those who are seeking a more spirited driving experience will need to choose "Sport" mode (delivering upwards of 92 kW of electrical power during acceleration), which sacrifices range for quick acceleration and motor responsiveness. The driver won't ever question which setting the drive system is in, as the ambient meter and mode indicator within the instrument cluster illuminates in green for Econ mode, white for Normal mode and red when in Sport mode.

But there is more to the story; the transmission also has a "B" range ("Braking"), which optimizes regenerative braking to provide maximum charge back to the battery. It may be used with any of the 3 drive modes to effectively offer six unique driving modes for the Fit EV. Consider it a custom setup.

We spent the morning with a Fit EV prototype in Southern California's Rose Bowl parking lot and surrounding community. A slalom was 1st on the list, followed by some acceleration runs and then a few loops around a city/highway driving cycle.

With rare exceptions, the words "sporty" and "electric vehicles" are rarely combined in the same sentence (especially when the vehicle costs less than $40,000). Yet the Honda Fit EV, tipping the scales at 3,252 pounds (weight distribution 55% front/45% rear), happily dragged itself around the basic cone-laden course with confidence. There was plenty of tire squeal and noticeable understeer, but it wasn't sloppy or misbehaved like the Nissan Leaf – yes, Honda thoughtfully brought its closest competitor along for our subjective comparison. Back to back, we found that the Leaf (more than one hundred pounds heavier at 3,385 pounds) demonstrated more body roll and softer suspension tuning. The electric steering feel was rather numb in both, but the Fit felt more comfortable and controllable running the loop.

Honda also set up a short straight with a radar gun at the end. We took turns drag racing to the flags to see which of the 2 was faster. The Leaf hit 36 mph in ECO mode and 42 mph in Drive. The Fit EV hit 43 mph in Econ mode, 44 in Normal mode and 47 mph in Sport. Both cars were traction limited at the start, but the Honda pulled much more strongly during the acceleration run once the tires hooked up. (Note: The Leaf and Fit were both running on near full charges for the acceleration test.)

Lastly, we left the parking lot for a brief city/highway loop, as that is how most Fits will wear down their tires (our suspicion is that few owners will slalom or drag race with their EV, considering how detrimental it is to range). Acceleration off the line wasn't bad in any of the drive modes (as our previous acceleration numbers show), but the Econ mode was much more lethargic when reacting to accelerator input at speeds above 30 mph. Normal mode is more than adequate, acting like any other low-displacement 4-cylinder engine around town (yet without the annoying need to downshift, thanks to the single-speed gearbox). The Sport mode is almost zippy, especially at slower urban speeds.

Around town, we found Normal mode with the transmission in "B" to be our favorite setting. The aggressive regenerative braking in this configuration helps to preserve battery life while dramatically slowing the vehicle when the accelerator is lifted. It took only minutes to become comfortable with its almost single-pedal operation, and we soon began to enjoy its natural sensation of engine braking.

Merging into 70-mph traffic on a moving highway, the Fit EV held its own. While the output of an electric motor remains constant at speed, torque falls as RPM increases. This means that all EVs accelerate quickly off the line, but slow at higher speeds as torque diminishes and aerodynamic loads increase (even the Tesla Roadster runs out of steam above 100 mph). As we figured, the Fit EV lost most of its zippiness on the highway, but it was never worrisome, and we didn't have any problem jockeying from lane to lane. However, it was perhaps our clearest reminder that the Fit EV is anything but traditional.

Ignoring the urge to drive more slowly than normal to conserve battery power (it seems to subconsciously occur each time we jump behind the wheel of an EV), we headed back to the Rose Bowl parking lot with the transmission lever in "D" while utilizing Normal mode. In this configuration, with only minimal regenerative braking, the Fit EV responds much like a conventional car – eerily reminding us that electric propulsion is becoming less and less of a compromise to its fossil fuel counterparts.

We found much to like with the new Fit EV. We were impressed by its cabin space, driving dynamics and advanced electronics designed to ease the ownership experience. Its physical appearance is unique, but it doesn't scream out like many other "green" oddities on the road. Its human interface is friendly, and overall, it is exceptionally easy to drive.

Yet regardless of its expected rave reviews, Honda has no plans to sell its Fit EV to the public. Instead, the company has concocted an aggressive 3-year Fit EV lease program of $389/month with 0 out of pocket (the program is based on an MSRP of about $36,000 and buyers are still responsible for local applicable taxes). The deal not only includes roadside assistance, routine maintenance and navigation updates, but insurance too (customers will need to secure liability insurance on their own). There is no purchase option at the end of the lease.

But the attractive lease program isn't really a hurdle – low production volume is. To ensure a very positive experience for all Fit EV customers, Honda will only allocate about 1,100 units to the States over the next 2 model years (that works out to about 45 per month, a pitiful amount considering that Honda sold 4,227 Fits in February of this year alone). Therein lies our frustration.

Our initial impressions suggest that Honda has engineered the best EV in its segment. But with a volume limited to just 11 hundred copies, it's disheartening to realize that you may need your congressman to write a letter on your behalf to secure 1.

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·

For tangential reasons, we've had a pristine 1997 Acura NSX (yes, red) in our garage, and it sparked a conversation between big gun Angus McKenzie, photographer Mike Shaffer, and me about Honda's increasingly erratic direction since that car. What modern Honda, we asked ourselves, has the NSX's clarity of vision and sheer technical sparkle? After a moment, I said "the Fit." And after another moment of furrowed brows, we agreed that indeed it is the best example.

So I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that the Fit's EV version, which Honda showed the press at the Rose Bowl's parking lot in Pasadena, provides another flash of that masterful engineering. Frankly, when I walked into the technical presentation, I was expecting to find a Fit disemboweled of its combustion organs and crammed with batteries. And maybe a few excuses.

Well, it's crammed with batteries, alright. But this is Honda in rare form, re-engineering the car so thoroughly it's clear the automaker is thinking -- at least technologically -- beyond the logistical necessities of California's looming 0-emissions mandate. And I say that despite the appearance of Honda's current plan, which is to lease a mere 1100 of EV Fits in select markets (the usual suspects -- L.A., San Francisco, Sacramento, Portland, and later, a few big cities in the east). But before driving it, let's slowly walk by it from front to back, and consider what Honda's done.

Here we are at the front. Hmmm, does that smile on the nose ring a visual bell? It's a riff on the face of Honda's remarkable hydrogen-fueled electric FCX Clarity. But here the grin's been fastened to a completely revised nose, reshaped to ingest less air and reduce drag. The smile's appropriate though, because behind it is 123 hp and 189 lb-ft of torque sourced from the Clarity's very same electric motor. It's the identical hardware, only "detuned" via rewritten software. And if you recall, it's an unusual piece, architecturally speaking, as one of the 2 half-shafts sprouting from the single-speed reduction gearset passes right through the motor's centerline on its way to the wheel on the far side. In other words, the motor's rotor shaft is hollow; the half-shaft can, concentrically, pass right through it. Smart packaging in the Fit style.

Just ahead of the driver's door is the flap concealing the blessed sight of the SAE-standard J1772 charging receptacle, which is backed by a 6.6 kW on-board charger. That's twice the charging rate of Nissan's Leaf, and a nose-to-nose match for the recently introduced Ford Focus EV. How long does charging take? That has plenty to do with the smaller, 20 kW-hr size of the Toshiba SCiB lithium-ion battery, which is more resistant to shorts and degradation and inherently quicker to charge. The Leaf's battery is 24 kW-hrs, the Focus', 23, so the Fit EV's 3-hour charging time (from a "low state-of-charge") from a 240-volt source isn't surprising. What is, though, is the car's 82-mile range. Given that the Leaf's is 73 miles, and the Focus' is 76, how could the Fit beat those 2 with a smaller battery? Remember, Honda has been finessing the super-efficient FCX Clarity for quite awhile, and efficiency is imbedded in Honda's very DNA.

As with Tesla's Model S, the Fit EV's battery resides in a slab beneath the floor. But instead of impinging on interior room, the entire chassis has been elevated above it by 1.6 inches (reminiscent of the 1997 EV Plus, if you recall). That's right: The Fit EV is noticeably taller. To keep its underwear from showing, there are added rocker panels plus plastic eyebrows above the wheel wells. It looks a lot better than it sounds.

Before going any further, let's pause at the driver's seat. On the left edge of the dash are a trio of buttons for selecting performance modes, normal being 75 kW; econ, 47 (providing perfectly acceptable acceleration) i; and sport, 92 kW. But what's more interesting is below the dash: the brake pedal.

What your foot feels when it presses the Fit EV's brake pedal is actually a simulation of stopping feel. Yes, a simulation. During anything short of emergency braking (when valves open for old-fashioned friction stopping via pedal-activated hydraulic lines) the Fit EV attempts to halt itself by pure regenerative resistance from the traction motor. Here and there, it's still supplemented by doses of friction braking (particularly at the end), but even that's derived from a fast-reacting electric motor that locally pressurizes the caliper's hydraulics. The key point is that this really is brake by wire, and it's computer orchestrated. And what it eliminates is the slight bit of friction drag that current EVs (Leaf) suffer during what we think of as pure regen braking. Remember that mysteriously greater driving range? Here's part of the answer. (Another is that the car weighs 130 pounds less than the Leaf.)

The battery pack extends sternward enough that it would have intruded on the twist beam rear suspension had it not been replaced by a more compact multi-link affair. And this is exactly what I mean by Honda being in rare form. Recently, I drove the Ford Focus EV, and, while I'm impressed by it, the battery packaging is a mess -- part of it is in a clumsy box in the cargo area. Moreover, as the Fit EV's battery fills the void normally exploited as the wonderfully reconfigurable "magic seat," Honda has made the best of the situation by completely redesigning and repositioning the second row. It's 3.3-inches more rearward, creating a span between the front and rear seat's H-points comparable to the Accords. Its seatback is also reclined 4 degrees more, and it's way more comfortable. True, there's less cargo space, because when the 60/40 split rear seatback is folded forward it creates a load-floor step. But this isn't much different than many other hatchbacks. The Fit's rear cap and roof extension are as re-imagined as the nose's to accommodate its taller height and create better-controlled air separation lines. Finally, if you get on your hands and knees and peek underneath, you'll see great spans of plastic underbody fairing, also to smooth the airflow.

Now let's climb in. In addition to the now de rigueur phone app that provides real-time battery status, climate control, and charge timing, those interactions are conveniently mirrored on a giant remote-control key fob containing its own little display.

In addition to a brief lap around the Pasadena streets and freeway, where the Fit EV exhibited very reasonable wind and suspension impact and noise levels, we were able to let loose around a couple of cone courses in the Rose Bowl parking. Given the car's taller profile, you'd expect prodigious tipping. But actually, the Honda's center of gravity is lower than the gas cars, so the Fit's handling feel just as flat and nimble. The Fit has always had knife-sharp handling; now, with an electric drivetrain, the car's "throttle" response is just as immediate and precise. In addition to a D slot, the shifter adds a B option for greater lift-throttle regen, and that simulated brake feel felt pretty good without a trace of regen-to-friction fishiness. Within a lap I was giddily drifting it -- electric golf cart, my arse. It's a hoot, and I'd reckon it's even more fun than the gas version.

The 3-year lease price of $389 per month (including collision insurance) brings it to an equivalent price of $36,625; the fully loaded Fit EV isn't cheap. (The Leaf can be had for $28,550; the Focus EV, for $32,495 after available federal tax credits for both.) Nevertheless, with only 1100 of them available, you'd better get with it if you're interested.

Lastly, let's step back and put this car into perspective. When the Leaf appeared, it was pretty cutting-edge for an EV: 73 miles of range, a 7-hour 240-volt charge time, and the electrical equivalent of 99 mpg. The Focus EV raised the range to 76, cut its charge time to between 3 and 4 hours, and raised the mpge bar to 105. Now we have the Fit EV, able to travel 82 miles, charge in as little as 3 hours, and deliver 118 mpge, making it the most efficient car available in America. This is rapid progress, and darn fun to watch from the car journalist bleachers. And particularly now that Honda has broadened its EV interest from purely fuel cell vehicles, and finally fully embraced the battery EV. That NSX sparkle just might be returning.

Base price (monthly lease equivalent) $36,625
Vehicle layout Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatch
Engine 123-hp/189-lb-ft permanent magnet electric motor
Transmission 1-speed
Curb weight 3250 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 98.4 in
Length x width x height 162.0 x 67.7 x 62.2 in
0-60 mph sub-10 sec (MT est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 132/105 mpge
CO2 emissions NA
Energy Cons., City/Hwy 26/32 kW-hrs/100 miles
For lease in U.S. Currently​


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Discussion Starter · #5 ·

Driving a blue Honda Fit EV down El Segundo Blvd. in Los Angeles, I began to feel a bit guilty. To my left stretched a massive complex, a big stretch of beachfront property devoted to a Chevron oil refinery. As the Fit EV whispered by this facility, which Wikipedia told me later was founded in 1911 and gave the town of El Segundo its name, I thought of all the oil workers the little electric car I was driving would put out of a job.

Lacking a gas tank and exhaust pipes, this Fit EV would never need to sully itself at 1 of the many gas stations I passed on this drive through Los Angeles, except maybe to top off the air in the tires. The Fit EV represents 1 of the new breed of electric cars, which current battery technology is making more practical for daily use. And in my drive I found the Fit EV the best of the bunch.

Honda recently got to crow about the Fit EV's EPA numbers, boasting the car's average fuel economy of 118 miles per gallon equivalent for the combined city and highway number. That makes the Fit EV the most efficient car yet tested by the EPA. However, the mpge number cited for electric cars probably won't mean much to most drivers, and only a power company engineer could truly appreciate the 29 kilowatt-hour-per-100-miles number that Honda includes in its spec sheet for the Fit EV.

Range will be at the top of most drivers' minds, and here the Fit EV only scores 82 miles in the EPA tests. Not a bad number for new electric cars, but nothing revelatory. More in the car's favor is the 3-hour charging time when using a 240-volt source, thanks to its 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger. Of course, charging the Fit EV will be cost a lot less than filling an equivalent car with gasoline. Honda broke down the numbers for me, citing a savings of about $4,000 in 3 years for charging the Fit EV over paying for gasoline.

The other electric cars on the market, the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, and Mitsubishi i-Miev, compare well enough with the Fit EV on various of these specifications, but I found something about the Fit EV that I haven't found with these other cars; it was actually kind of fun to drive. Leaving Tesla aside for the moment, the Fit EV had, along with the de rigueur Eco button, a Sport button. Honda actually included a mode that would tap most of the power train's acceleration potential, whilst also putting a big drain on the battery. Other EV makers focus exclusively on getting the most range out of their cars.

The Fit EV includes a Sport mode, which taps the full 92 kilowatts of its motor.
(Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

When I began my drive in the Fit EV, a little range anxiety had me driving in Eco mode, wanting to preserve the 86 miles displaying on the instrument cluster. This mode reins in the full potential of the battery pack, and also hobbles the air conditioning so as to maximize range.

When the range did not plummet precipitously and the Los Angeles heat began to make me sweat, I relented and pushed the Normal button. As the green accent lighting faded from the instrument cluster, so did the lassitude of the accelerator. The Fit EV assumed a zippier character, ready to pounce off the line as traffic lights turned green. The potential range also dropped about 5 miles, but as the air conditioning stepped up to a more comfortable level, I felt it was a worthwhile sacrifice.

With the more responsive pedal, I was able to appreciate the handling of the Fit EV. It felt lighter and nimbler than both the Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf, and not much heavier than a gasoline-engine Fit. Honda constructed the Fit EV cleverly, raising the chassis about 1.5 inches to accommodate a 20 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack underneath the car's passenger compartment. That positioning makes the extra weight less noticeable. It also raises the passenger seating position to that of a minivan or small SUV, giving the Fit EV driver a more commanding view of the road than in a standard Fit.

Honda also said that, due to some of its efficiency technologies, the Fit EV gets by with a smaller battery pack than some of its competitors, while still getting equivalent range. Certainly the mpge figure it earned shows that efficiency.

1 such technology is the way its regenerative braking handles a downward slope. I found a few good descents to test the car's grade logic. Instead of building speed as I sent it downhill, the car automatically maintained its initial speed without me having to touch the brake pedal. The car applies regenerative braking when going downhill to maintain a steady speed, and also to charge up its batteries. If I wanted more speed, I merely had to touch the accelerator a bit. It was kind of like cruise control.

The instrument cluster shows the range, and includes an eco coach.
(Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

The real fun came after I saw the car still had 60 miles of range, and it was getting close to the time to return it to Honda. Engage Sport mode, and the instrument cluster turned an angry red. Suddenly, the full 92 kilowatts of the electric motor was available. I had 189 pound-feet of torque on tap, which made the little Fit EV step off the line in a much livelier manner. Normal drive mode limits the motor to 75 kilowatts output, while Eco keeps it down to 47 kilowatts, although pressing the accelerator hard unleashes its 75-kilowatt potential.

The easy handling and light feeling of the car contributed to the enjoyment. And although I was stripping miles off the range faster than a Las Vegas tourist losing chips at a roulette table, it made driving the Fit EV more than just an exercise in efficiency. Although far from a sports car, the Fit EV felt as responsive and fun as the standard Fit. To accommodate the battery pack, Honda even upgraded the Fit EV's rear suspension, going from a torsion bar to a multilink configuration.

The plant-derivative material covering seats and interior surfaces had a nice, soft feeling. The rear seats are raised even higher than the front seats, creating a stadium seating effect, and there's more rear legroom than in the standard Fit. However, Honda had to use conventional rear seats, rather than the Magic Seat found in the standard Fit. That means the rear cargo area doesn't get a completely flat floor with the rear seats folded down.

The rear seats do not fold flat, as they do in the standard Fit.
(Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

Navigation comes standard in the Fit EV, but the head unit is the same one Honda puts in the standard Fit, with a few modifications. In reviews of other Honda vehicles, such as the CR-V, I have mentioned the chunky look of the maps in the navigation system, and the Fit EV shows no improvement here. For the Fit EV, Honda superimposes the range for a 1-way or 2-way trip over the map, shown as a circle. Although this display does not represent actual road miles, it serves as a useful guideline.

Honda included an EV charging station category in its points-of-interest database, which differentiates between 120-volt and 240-volt stations. From a 240-volt station, the Fit EV can get a full charge from 0 in 3 hours. Honda points out that if a Fit EV driver were to plug in while going shopping for an hour, the car could be charged up by a 3rd.

Along with the navigation system's EV features, Honda offers an app for iPhone and Android that lets drivers schedule charging and turn on the climate control remotely. The app shows the car's state of charge and has its own charging station finder. A key fob for the car also lets the driver initiate charging or start up the air conditioning from about 100 feet away.

Although Honda gives a price of $36,625 for the 2013 Fit EV, the company will not be selling the car. It will only be offered on a lease basis in California and Oregon, initially. The lease cost will be $389 per month, and includes collision insurance. That rate takes into account the Federal tax credit for electric vehicles, but lessees will be able to claim California's tax incentives and an HOV lane sticker.

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That's pretty cool, but looks like Honda isn't really pushing it as hard as Nissan has been with the Leaf. If I didn't have such a high mileage driving day, not having to fuel up and the rate break from power co would be nice.

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·

Tesla may have muddied the waters when it used tortured logic and financing agreements to come up with a $500-per-month price for the Model S, but Honda sets out to clear things up with its own simple lease plan for the Fit EV. The company announced today that it would offer its Fit EV for $259 per month on a 3-year lease with no down payment, unlimited miles, and included insurance coverage.

When Honda introduced the Fit EV last year, it offered similar lease terms at a price of $389 per month. Along with the new, reduced price, Honda is throwing in a Leviton home charging station for the car.

This leasing change comes in the face of new competition, with both the Chevy Spark EV and the Fiat 500E hitting the market with a $199-per-month lease price. However, none of these other cars includes insurance coverage or unlimited miles.

Not that anyone is likely to take the Fit EV on an extended road trip, as its range comes in at 82 miles in EPA estimates, similar to other EVs in its class. Still, in CNET's hands-on with the car, it proved nimble and had excellent acceleration, comparing very favorably with other electric vehicles on the market, such as the Ford Focus Electric and the Nissan Leaf.

Honda also seems intent on making a real business out of the Fit EV, rather than just using it to comply with new CAFE requirements. Honda says it is expanding certified dealers for the Fit EV, sold in 8 states, from the current 36 up to 200 by this summer.

People interested in the Fit EV can check the Honda Web site to see if the car is sold in their area.
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