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"It Should Be More Green"
Jamais Cascio, 29 Jun 05

Newsweek interviews Honda's chief US engineer, Charlie Baker, this week, and he sounds like exactly the kind of auto designer we need to clone. 7 out of the top 10 most fuel-efficient cars are Hondas, and while the company doesn't get the same kind of green cred often ladled out to Toyota, fuel efficiency is a core Honda philosophy -- the quote used as the title for this piece comes from Honda America's head, Koichi Amemiya.

As you develop future vehicles, what are your assumptions about gas prices?

We don't really care. Why would we?

Well, because it could have an effect on consumers' choices.

We don't spend a lot of time agonizing about fuel consumption. The answer is already clear. You are going to have the best fuel economy in class of any vehicle. Period. Have a nice day. You don't need to do any market research. You don't need to do any fancy negotiations because you are never going to get anything approved by the board of directors without proving you have the best fuel economy in class. That's it.

My Honda Civic Hybrid may not have the Car of Tomorrow look of the Prius -- and I really wish I could retrofit it as a Gas-Optional Hybrid -- but this interview made me feel pretty good about my choice.

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Few things please me more than taking a long road trip in one of my '81 Civics and getting 40 MPG.

I wish Honda would hurry up and get some hyrbid options on their SUVs and trucks, though. The fuel economy on the Element and the Ridgeline are substantially outclassed by the new Highlander Hybrid/RX400h and the Escape Hybrid.

BTW, I recommend getting out and test driving the RX400h - totally sublime.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 29 Jun 05

Good for Honda! That's the right attitude.

I just wish that they'd consider making a full hybrid like Toyota, and that they would work a bit on getting their hybrids to be SULEV instead of ULEV (and selling the lean burn Civic hybrid everywhere instead of keeping it hidden away in favor of its dirtier hybrid brother).

Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 29 Jun 05

"and that they would work a bit on getting their hybrids to be SULEV instead of ULEV (and selling the lean burn Civic hybrid everywhere instead of keeping it hidden away in favor of its dirtier hybrid brother)."

I may be getting this wrong, Mikhail, but I believe the "lean burn" hybrid does worse in air pollution than the "normal" Civic Hybrid. Take a look at and see for yourself.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 29 Jun 05

I drive a California model Civic Hybrid, and it's tagged as a SULEV. Is that the lean-burn?

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 29 Jun 05

Eleven years ago, I traded up from my 40 mpg 81 Accord (gasoline) to a 39 mpg MBZ E300 (diesel). At the point of making that decision, I ran a spreadsheet based on depreciation, insurance, maintenance costs, etc. Knowing that the MBZ beat out Honda on both emissions and safety, it was a comfort to see the (non-green) cost/benefit curves for the two cars cross at about five years out, with MBZ far ahead in the long run.

I like where Honda has positioned itself in the past decade. Another consideration to factor into the equation about Honda is: how much of the car needs to be replaced on a regular basis, after about five years?

Meanwhile, FWIW, I still drive the diesel, but anticipate moving to something like a Tango as soon as they hit production quantities and prices.

Posted by: Paco NATHAN on 29 Jun 05

Jamais, I think this is the CVT version of your vehicle, which isn't a lean burn:

This is the lean burn version, which is what is the for sale in most states:

If you go to the line "Additional Engine Characteristics", you'll see that yours says "HEV" and the latter one says "HEV LB".

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 29 Jun 05

I can't help but read those answers and mentally form a comparitive image between a Honda product development meeting and something similar ain one of the Big Three:

Honda Product Manager: Is it the best value for our customer?


Big Three Product Manager: Does the customer feel really powerful and cool driving down the street in our SUX 6000?

The sad comedy of short-sighted decision making.

Posted by: csven on 30 Jun 05

Thread building to insults deleted, comments closed.

Next time, I ban.

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 3 Jul 05



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