Honda to Unveil its Redesigned Near-Production CR-Z at Tokyo Motor Show

Honda Motor Company has announced that it will debut a near-production version of its CR-Z sports hybrid at next month’s Tokyo Motor Show. The CR-Z represents Honda’s latest move to snatch the mantle of green-car leader away from Toyota, which has enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the title since its introduction of the popular Prius battery electric hybrid.

The CR-Z, which Honda plans to roll out in the North American market as early as next spring, is wider than Honda’s first concept version which the automaker unveiled at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. It retains the sporty wedge shape of the earlier version and is designed to merge performance with improved fuel economy.

Honda’s lead designer on the CR-Z, Takashi Nagura said, “We want to take sporty cars in a new direction. We want to make the image healthier.”

In the CR-Z, Honda has combined its integrated a 1.5-liter i-VTEC gas engine with its motor assist hybrid system, front-wheel-drive and a manual six-speed transmission. Honda has not yet disclosed fuel efficiency figures for the CR-Z.

Honda also plans to unveil its all new EV-N electric micro-car concept at the auto show. The EV-N is a rather boxy, four seat design that would require substantial redesign work to pass U.S. and Canadian safety regulations. From a design standpoint, the EV-N resembles the N360 micro-car that Honda introduced in 1967, but that’s as far as the similarities go. The EV-N is a true AEV (All Electric Vehicle) and features photovoltaic cells, located on the roof, to assist in recharging the vehicle’s Lithium-ion battery.

Honda has entered the electric vehicle arena relatively late in the game due to skepticism over the practicality of current battery technologies. Honda has patiently waited and watched as major automakers including Toyota, Nissan and Ford as well as a handful of upstart AEV producers (most notably Tesla and Fisker) have grabbed headlines, and in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars in government assistance. Honda now appears to have seen the proverbial “handwriting on the wall” and has joined the fray in an attempt to capture its share of the growing “green” automotive market and comply with increasingly stringent fuel efficiency and emissions standards.

Honda has also announced plans to offer a hybrid version of its popular Fit small car and has set its sights on 2015 to launch an AEV (presumably a version of the EV-N) in the United States. Nissan will begin selling its highly anticipated Leaf AEV in the U.S. next year.

The Honda Skydeck hybrid concept vehicle will also be on display at the Tokyo Motor Show. Obviously year away from production-ready, the Skydeck features minimalist, futuristic styling that includes a glass roof and front and rear seats suspended from a center console that runs three quarters of the length of the vehicle and appear to be floating in mid-air. The vehicle also features scissor-style front doors that swing up and away from the body, sliding rear passenger doors and a conventional SUV-style rear hatch door.

The Tokyo Motor Show runs from October 24 through November 4.

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