Honda Announces Plans to Sell Electric Vehicles in the US

Honda Motor Company has announced plans to introduce all- electric vehicles (AEV) in the U.S. market sometime in the early part of next decade.

Up until now, Honda has focused the majority of its research and development on its gas-electric hybrids, but an un-named source within the company has said that Japan’s second largest automaker has begun developing all-electric vehicles. The unidentified Honda spokesman did not provide specific details and asked that he not be identified by name due to company policy.

Earlier this year, Honda debuted its Insight, which was designed to compete with Toyota’s Prius hybrid model line. Honda has advertised the Insight as being the most affordable gas-electric hybrid on the market today.

Honda is also experimenting with hydrogen fuel cell technology and leased a limited number of its FCX Clarity vehicles, primarily in Southern California, earlier this year. Hydrogen fuel cell technology has great promise as an automotive energy source. Scientists have identified hydrogen as the most plentiful gas in the atmosphere, and the hydrogen atom is the simplest of the known elements. Compared to gasoline, hydrogen has three times the energy content by weight.

However, the costs associated with distribution infrastructure and the process of distilling hydrogen gas from water, biomass or natural gas molecules is currently cost prohibitive.

Honda sees its addition of AEVs to its model lineup as a bridge between existing gas-electric hybrids and a potentially hydrogen-powered future. The move is also seen as one of necessity as other automakers are already vying for their shares of the AEV market.

Japan’s number three automaker, Nissan Motor Company, is expected to launch its Leaf AEV hatchback in its home country as well as the European and U.S. markets in 2010. Toyota, whose gas-electric Prius currently dominates the hybrid market, has also signaled its intentions to launch AEV models as early as 2012.

This past June, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation began selling the MiEV all-electric vehicle, and Ford Motor Company plans to launch its TransitConnect AEV commercial minivan in 2010.

Finally, a number of upstart automakers have thrown their hats into the ring in recent months. Most notably, California-based Tesla Motors was awarded funds from the Obama administration to develop its line of AEVs. In just over a year and a half, Tesla has gone from concept to having showrooms in five U.S. cities as well as London, Monaco and Munich.

Ford and Nissan also received a portion of the $25 billion in federal funds for electric vehicle research and development.

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