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HONDA HAD AN interesting choice when planning an electric vehicle: Design one from scratch or adapt an existing car in the Honda lineup to EV. Wisely, already having the best of urban transports in the Fit, Honda took the latter course—and most successfully. I’ve driven this new EV and believe it’s the best of plug-in fun. First, it’s not simply a converted version of its internal-combustion sibling. Rather, Honda reengineered the lower portion of the Fit’s unibody to optimize battery placement and safety. Second, and important to the likes of us, it kept virtues of the Fit unaffected.
Thus, for instance, the Fit EV is one of relatively few automotive designs today that pass the Simanaitis Bigger-Than-The-Average-Bear Fore-Aft Test; namely, I can “sit behind myself.” The car’s interior dimensions—and ample height of its four doors—mean that even those with long torsos, aged backs or both find surprising easy of entry and room within the car. In fact, owing to the Fit EV’s underbody battery location, its passenger seating is a tad higher than that of its gasoline sibling. The result only enhances Fit agility; this, despite the EV’s 3252-lb. curb weight (not exactly svelte but then who am I to talk?).
The Fit EV’s lithium battery capacity of 20 kWh places it midway between the Mitsubishi i’s 16 kWh and Nissan Leaf’s 24 kWh. Other Honda expertise gives the Fit EV a best-in-class EPA assessment of 118 mpg equivalent, its Fuel Economy label working out to an adjusted 82 miles.
A personal comment on previous EV motoring: Enthusiastic driving in clement climates yields range somewhat better than the latter adjusted value. Careful driving might achieve the mpge figure. More important, though, is Honda’s choice of 6.6-kW charging (twice the capability of several competitors). This translates into less than 3 hours to full charge from a 240-volt supply.
And, most important to the driving enthusiast, the Fit EV really scoots. Like any EV there are gobs of torque at tip-in, regardless of the car’s selected power setting. There are three: Normal (delivering 75 kW of power); Econ (47 kW, +12 percent longer range); and Sport (the full 92 kW, a 10-percent reduction in range).
I experimented with all three in a drive around Pasadena, California, everything from urban traffic to freeways (that were actually relatively free that day). Even in Econ mode, the Fit EV continues to scoot. I’d reserve Sport mode for BMW-trolling. (And, remember, the first one across a broad intersection wins.)
The Fit EV’s regenerative braking is well executed, with nary a distinction between regen and conventional friction operation. Moving the shift lever from D into B (as in “Brake”) invokes more aggressive regen; indeed, almost enough to allow one-pedal driving in heavy-traffic stop-and-go.
Market rollout is modest: Some 1100 Fit EVs will be offered over model years 2013 and 2014. Selected markets in California and Oregon have them since July 20, 2012. The east coast gets them in the spring 2013. It’ll be lease only, $389/month including maintenance, collision coverage, annual Navi update, and roadside assistance.
Were it not for the Fit’s lack of sunroof in North American trim, it would certainly reside on my own personal short list of cars. Put in that sunroof, and I’d be sorely tempted by a Fit EV as the perfect urban transport. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2012