Honda Motor Company has announced its intentions to hotly contest the sustainable future of two wheel transport by showing several new prototype model developments surrounding fuel cell, electric and hybrid (petrol/electric) scooters. Building on its success with fuel cell automobile technology, the most significant announcement was a scooter powered by its light, compact fuel cell system, the Honda FC Stack.
Honda's main rival in the race to put a fuel cell motorcycle on the market is Yamaha, which surprised everyone at the most recent Tokyo Motor Show by showing a range of clean and silent two wheelers, some with very forward-thinking and advanced design. One in particular, the Dolsa Wind, is worth checking out!
Honda has responded by showing a prototype powered by the Honda FC Stack which has been made lighter and smaller, optimizing it for application to scooters. Space has been conserved by placing the electric drive system on the rear-wheel swing arm, and by placing the Honda FC Stack fuel cell in the centre of the scooter, with auxiliary systems compactly arranged around it. The result is a prototype scooter which Honda claims is comparable in size to a 125cc class scooter, though the photos suggest something more the size of a Maxi-Scooter. Not surprisingly, Honda also noted its intention to continue refining the new vehicle's design with a view to achieving the same range and storage space as a normal motorcycle.
Honda Fuel Cell History
Honda has long been involved in the development of fuel cell systems as next-generation powerplants, since they emit no noxious emissions and can help reduce the demand for fossil fuels and slow global warming.
In December 2002, Honda delivered FCX fuel cell vehicles to customers in Japan and the United States-a world's first.
In October 2003, Honda announced the development of the Honda FC Stack, a next-generation fuel cell capable of starting at subfreezing temperatures. Honda plans to deliver the Honda FC Stack-equipped FCX cars in Q4 2004 to customers in the United States, and in 2005 to customers in Japan.
Honda Develops Hybrid Scooter Prototype
Honda covered all the bases in its show and tell, with the first prototype of a 50cc hybrid scooter.
This is the first two-wheeled prototype for a motorcycle directly comparable to Honda's Civic Hybrid and Toyota's 2004 Prius - incredibly efficient vehicles that offer reduced emissions and exceptional fuel economy.
Employing both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, the new prototype takes Honda one step closer to a mass-market hybrid scooter. The new prototype features an alternating current generator (ACG) with an idle stop function and the Honda PGM-FI electronic fuel injection system.
In addition to an electronically controlled belt converter and a range of Honda environmental technologies, the new scooter features a dual series and parallel hybrid powertrain with a direct rear-wheel drive electric motor.
Thanks to a compact power system and a rechargeable nickel hydrogen battery located under the front cowl, the hybrid scooter is about the same size as Honda's standard-size 50cc scooter (the Dio Z4) and is only 10 kg heavier. The hybrid scooter's internal combustion engine and direct rear-wheel-drive electric motor function in two distinct modes. In series mode, when riding on flat ground and when high output is not required, the engine alone powers the electric motor.
In parallel mode, used during acceleration and when high output is required, the electric motor assists the engine. In parallel mode, an electronically controlled belt converter automatically selects the optimum assist ratio.
To make the most efficient use of energy, the hybrid system charges the battery during deceleration and whenever possible and utilises this power when higher output is required.
In addition, the scooter enters idle stop mode, when the scooter is stopped, and whenever power is not needed, during deceleration.
These advanced features allow the hybrid scooter to achieve 1.6 times the fuel economy of the Dio Z4 - a scooter that will consistently offer better than 100 mpg.
Electric Moped Prototype
Last on Honda's announcement list was an environmentally-friendly electric moped prototype designed for inner-city commuting. It is only a matter of time before Yamaha and Honda start producing really good electric motorcycles - this prototype indicates they are one step closer to the production of a mass-market electric bike.
With a length of 1,290 mm and weighing 44 kg, the Moped-EV is compact and light. Its nickel hydrogen battery, located inside an aluminum frame, is extremely light, dissipates heat efficiently, and, at 360 watt-hours, offers exceptionally long life.
Powerful enough to climb a twelve-degree incline, the electric moped offers performance comparable to that of an internal combustion engine bike of the same class.
Unlike most other bikes, which employ a grip throttle, the Moped-EV features a two-stage lever throttle located beneath the right handlebar. Worked easily by the thumb, the lever throttle helps make riding easy even for less-experienced riders.
The Moped-EV features a unified module in the rear swing arm that integrates the motor with a controller, which regulates the driving functions and the discharge and recharging of electricity.
Honda has long conducted research into the development of next-generation power sources that reduce noxious emissions and help slow global warming. In 1994, Honda developed the CUV ES, an electric scooter leased to government institutions. Following in the tracks of that revolutionary vehicle, the Moped-EV is designed to offer quiet, clean riding both for commuting and recreational use.