Honda May Use New Hybrid System in Lithium Models, R&D Head Says

Nov. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Honda Motor Co., Japan’s second- largest carmaker, may abandon its current hybrid system for future gasoline-electric models that use lithium-ion batteries instead of nickel-metal hydride packs, the company’s head of research and development said.

Honda is exploring hybrid systems other than its current integrated motor assist (IMA) system, which may not be used in its lithium battery-powered hybrids, Tomohiko Kawanabe, president of Honda R&D Co. Ltd., said at the company’s Twin Ring Motegi racetrack in Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo.

The automaker plans to use lithium-ion batteries in all its hybrids starting with larger models such as the Acura-brand sedans and eventually compacts, Kawanabe said.

Honda is exploring improvements to its hybrid cars, whose sales trail market leader Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius, the world’s best-selling gas-electric model. While Honda has said it prioritized affordability in its Fit and Insight hybrids, its system is less fuel efficient than Toyota’s technology.

The Fit hybrid, introduced last month, has fuel economy of 30 kilometers per liter (70.5 miles per gallon) under the Japanese highway test system, Honda said last month. That’s less than the Prius, which gets 38 kilometers per liter.

Honda fell 2.3 percent in Tokyo to 2,725 yen. The stock has fallen 12 percent in 2010.

To contact the reporter on this story: Makiko Kitamura in Tokyo at mkitamura1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kae Inoue at kinoue@bloomberg.net

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