Environment-friendly hybrids

Tokyo, October 18:

Hybrids don’t have to sacrifice looks to be environmentally friendly — they can be muscular and stylish, too.

That’s the message Honda hopes to send at this month’s Tokyo auto show with its new gas-electric hybrid sports car CR-Z. “This is something rivals can’t offer,” Tetsuji Mori-kawa, a Honda Motor Co engineer, said of the CR-Z.

The vehicle has maintained ‘the essence of the sports car’ while still delivering good mileage and less pollution, he said.

Hybrid vehicles tend to be bulky, compared to sleek sports cars, because of the size and complexity of the hybrid systems, which include a battery, motor, engine, converter and other parts. They’re usually not known for their torque, acceleration, handling and innovative design.

The CR-Z comes with a new hybrid system developed by Honda whose breakthroughs allowed designers to get around such restrictions to achieve its lean cutting-edge look, said Morikawa, while declining to give details about the hybrid system and the sportscar.

The model will be on display at the biannual Tokyo Motor Show, which opens to the public on October 27 in the Tokyo suburb of Chiba. Japan’s No 2 automaker already sells the hybrid Civic but discontinued the hybrid Accord and hybrid Insight. It has promised a new hybrid in 2009.

Interest in hybrids is high among the world’s automakers amid concerns about global warming and rising oil prices.

Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp has emerged the leader in the technology, having sold more than a million hybrids globally over the last decade.

Tokyo-based Honda, which has sold about 220,000 hybrids worldwide so far, is eager to make its stamp on hybrids by showing how its reputation for sporty cars will also work for hybrids.