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Honda plans fuel cell sedan in 2008

Honda revealed this week fuel cell production plans for its FCX sedan.

  • Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away

Honda revealed this week fuel cell production plans for its FCX sedan.

This comes hard on the heels of GM’s announcement that it will build 100 fuel-cell powered Equinoxes in Oshawa, and after GM allowed journalists to take demonstration drives in its Sequel fuel-cell concept vehicle.

Honda demonstrated the latest version of its FCX Concept fuel-cell vehicle in Tochigi, Japan, and announced that it would begin limited marketing of a totally new fuel-cell vehicle based on the concept in 2008, in both Japan and the U.S.

Honda’s new FCX Concept features a compact, high-efficiency fuel-cell stack that mounts vertically between the seats in a stylish sedan body. With a low floor and a short nose, it looks a lot like an oversized Civic — one about the size of an Acura RL sedan.

Mounting the stack vertically helps maintain a roomy cabin while making significant gains in both environmental and driving performance, Honda says. The new fuel-cell stack is 20 per cent smaller and 30 per cent lighter than that in the current FCX, but its power output is 14 kW greater.

In addition, the overall powerplant is about 180 kg lighter and 40 per cent smaller in volume. Honda says the design enables stable power generation under a broad range of conditions, and higher output from a smaller package.

Low-temperature startup has also been significantly improved, enabling cold-weather starts at temperatures 10 Celsius degrees lower than the current FCX — as low as -30C.

With a 100 kW fuel-cell, a 95 kW motor, and a lithium-ion battery pack for reserve power, Honda projects performance similar to that with a typical 2.0- to 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, and calculates a driving range more than 500 kilometres.


CANADIAN STYLE IN VOLVO C30

As Jim Kenzie pointed out in his Paris auto show report last week, the chief exterior designer for Volvo’s slick C30 coupe, which arrives at Canadian dealerships in February, is Canadian.

Simon Lamarre is a native of Ste-Thérèse, Quebec. He studied pure and applied science at Collège Jean-de-Brebeuf and environmental design at Université du Québec, before joining Volvo as a clay modeler in 1995.

The company was just beginning to adopt computers as an essential design tool at that time, so he got in on the ground floor of that revolution.

Lamarre, who is fluent in French, English and Swedish and has a “working knowledge” of Italian, Spanish and German, says his own views on design mesh well with Volvo’s Scandinavian-influenced form-follows-function philosophy.

With his North American perspective, he feels he was at an advantage while learning that philosophy.

”When I moved to Sweden, I had to learn Scandinavian design and values. That led me to view them with a different eye without taking anything for granted,” he says.

He first stepped into the automotive design spotlight with his role in the interior design of the company’s successful XC90 sport-utility vehicle. The C30 takes him to the opposite extreme, from the company’s largest vehicle to its smallest, and from an SUV to a sports coupe.

”I definitely enjoy working on something that isn’t mainstream,” says Lamarre. “But the C30 was extra fun because it was stepping away from what people would normally perceive as a Volvo.”

Volvo has typically been a family-focused company, he explains, with vehicles designed to accommodate both parents and children. The C30, on the other hand, is designed to appeal to the single crowd or couples.

He says this new direction not only created excitement and high expectations for the car within the company, it also fed his enthusiasm for the project. It was a mandate that required a delicate touch and for that reason he feels it was the ultimate design challenge.

”I wanted to create something that’s different, but would still be perceived as a Volvo,” he recalls.

”Designing a car is all about finding a balance between many different aspects,” he says. “You can quantify engineering, but you can’t quantify design.”

From his perspective, he says, “good design makes a statement without screaming at you. So I try to keep my design work simple with simple shapes, no excessive folds in the sheet metal and no ornamentation.”

Lamarre has launched a blog on which he shares more of his views and talks about his experiences on the C30 project. You can access it at http://www.C30DesignerBlog.com.


NEW HEAD FOR MITSU CANADA

Mitsubishi Canada has a new president and CEO. Koji Soga, an experienced senior executive with a background in product planning, marketing, and corporate strategy, took charge on Oct. 1, following his appointment by the board of directors of Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

A former president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motor Sales Europe, Soga was selected after an extensive search for the right person to continue building and expanding on the strong revitalization orchestrated by Mitsubishi’s Canadian team. He fills a position vacated by Paul Cummings, formerly of Volvo, who resigned to take over leadership of a retail dealer group.

Soga underscored that Mitsubishi Canada is being highlighted within the corporation as one of the company’s most promising markets. Mitsubishi sales in Canada have increased by 9.1 per cent, so far this year, and the brand has gained market share and added dealers as well.


BREAKING UP NOT HARD TO DO

Cancel the shower. There will be no wedding.

Whether the match had a chance is questionable, given GM’s forced march to the altar at the business end of key shareholder Kirk Kerkorian’s shotgun.

But two-thirds of the way through the courtship period — after GM CEO Rick Wagoner and Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn met, for the second time, at the Paris auto show — the two sides agreed to break up.

In a terse statement, the potential bedmates said they recognized that “significant aggregate synergies” (read, cost savings) might result from the alliance, but they did not agree on either the total amount or how they would be distributed.

GM had suggested that Renault-Nissan should provide additional compensation as part of a potential alliance — for all the extra “synergies” N-R would gain, and for potentially precluding GM from entering other alliance opportunities.

Renault and Nissan took umbrage at being asked for such a dowry. “The principle of compensation is contrary to the spirit of any successful alliance,” they said.


wheels@thestar.ca;

mgmalloy@aol.com


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