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Honda Leverages Fuel-Cell Savvy to Extend Fit EV’s Range

Honda Motor Co. (7267), the first automaker to lease fuel-cell cars to retail customers, said advances in hydrogen-vehicle technology helped it create a battery-powered Fit that has the highest efficiency of any car in the U.S.

The company will start leasing the Fit EV hatchback on July 20, for $389 a month, in California and Oregon. The car’s 82 miles (132 kilometers) per charge and 118 mile-per-gallon equivalent ratings top Nissan Motor Co.’s Leaf and Ford Motor Co. (F) (F)’s Focus EV, aided by components adapted from the hydrogen- propelled FCX Clarity, said Sachito Fujimoto, who’s overseeing both projects.

“Motors, motor controllers, braking, the AC system, these components we tried to make as usable as possible for both,” said Fujimoto, a senior chief engineer for Honda, in a June 26 interview in Pasadena, California. “Clarity team members are also involved in our EV development.”

Honda has tried to spark demand for fuel-cell cars, which make electricity for propulsion from hydrogen on board rather than storing it in batteries, since the company began leasing the Clarity sedan in Los Angeles in 2008. That effort has been stymied by the limited number of stations dispensing the fuel.

California emissions rules pushed Honda and other major carmakers to offer battery-electric models starting this year, making the Fit EV program a near-term priority.

“From an R&D standpoint, there’s a lot of common components between battery-electrics and fuel cells,” said John German, a project manager with the International Council on Clean Transportation, an environmental public-policy group in Washington, and a former Honda engineer. “Honda’s got a huge amount of fuel-cell experience that’s applicable.”
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