Honda is rolling out a battery-powered version of the Fit hatchback with deliveries to Google and Stanford University. As part of the “Honda Electric Vehicle Demonstration Program,” the two groups, along with the city of Torrance, California, will collect data on their Fits and provide feedback to Honda.
“Honda’s experience and the unique feedback that Google, Stanford University and the city of Torrance will provide will be valuable to the future introduction of battery-electric technology,” said Steve Center, vice president of the Environmental Business Development Office of American Honda. Google will use its Fit EV in an employee car-sharing program, which will analyze how the cars are used in everyday driving and to measure their energy consumption.
At Stanford, the Fit EV will be used to study the psychological and physical reactions of drivers switching from a gasoline-powered vehicle to an electric vehicle. The Fit EV will be paired with a regular Fit for the tests.
Potentially, this could provide some valuable insight into the “range anxiety” that is associated with electric cars. Because their shorter ranges leave less of a margin for error, and because they take hours, not minutes, to refuel, driving an electric car everyday might be a little more stressful than it appears.
The Fit EV is powered by a 123-hp electric motor and a 20-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that should be good for a 76-mile average range, according to the EPA. A full recharge will take three hours from a 240-volt charger.
The Fit has a slightly smaller footprint than a Nissan Leaf, but thanks to its bulbous design, has more usable cargo space. The petrol Fit’s sporty character seems to have carried over too. “Compared with the [Nissan] Leaf, the Fit EV feels like a Mazda Miata,” said Eric Tingwall of Automobile.
Since the Fit was designed to have an internal combustion engine, it is unclear how retrofitting it with an electric one will affect cabin noise, or whether tweaks will be needed to make the body more aerodynamic to increase range, as in the Leaf.
After Google and Stanford get their turn, Honda will lease 1,100 Fit EVs in California and Oregon this summer, and the East Coast beginning in spring 2013. The price will be $399 a month for a three-year lease. This is a similar approach to the one Honda took with the FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell car, and BMW with the electric Mini E. The cars will be mobile data points, allowing Honda to continue the testing started by Google and Stanford with regular customers.