TOKYO — Honda Motor Co. this week showed off fuel-efficient scooters using three different engine approaches: fuel cell, gas-electric hybrid and all-electric. Honda didn't say when any of the concept vehicles might come to market, but it did say engineers would continue to improve the designs.
CEO Takeo Fukui personally unveiled the scooters at Honda's test facilities in Tochigi, near Tokyo, on Tuesday.
With the fuel cell scooter, Honda said its engineers redesigned and miniaturized technology developed for cars. No automakers are selling fuel cell vehicles yet, but most are developing them given their potential as non-polluting means of transportation. Fuel cells use hydrogen and air to create electricity that powers a motor.
The fuel cell scooter is based on a 125cc gas-powered version, and holds the fuel cell stack in its midsection. Engineers are still working to reduce the scooter's weight and to offer storage space comparable to gas-powered peers.
The hybrid scooter is based on a standard 50cc model. It weighs 20 pounds more than its gas-powered sibling, Honda's Dio Z4, but the electric motor helping the gas engine means 1.6 times the fuel economy.
Honda said it also produces 37 percent less carbon dioxide, a gas that many scientists tied to global warming.
Like hybrid cars, the hybrid scooter charges the battery during deceleration and temporarily shuts off the engine when the vehicle is stopped in traffic.
Honda already sells two hybrid cars, the two-door Insight and four-door hybrid Civic. It will add a hybrid Accord by year's end.
Honda's all-electric Moped-EV scooter, the only one with a name, uses a long-life battery and can climb hills up to a 12-degree incline, Honda says.
Several all-electric scooters have appeared in recent years, most from China, but none by Honda, the world's largest motorcycle maker.
Night vision feature announced
As part of Tuesday's event, Honda also announced new technology that sends a warning signal to a driver when two sensors under the headlights detect a pedestrian in the dark.
The so-called intelligent night vision system technology, a world first, will be available as an option on the new Honda Legend luxury sedan, to be launched in October.
Other car makers such as rival Toyota Motor Corp. have similar technology that displays objects using night vision sensors, but Honda's is the first to pick out pedestrians, enclosing the image in an orange frame in a heads-up display reflected above the dashboard.
Honda did not say how much the night vision system would cost, but an engineer said it would be "a few thousand dollars".
The technology is far from complete: while it is smart enough to recognize people by the shape of the head and shoulders as well as by detecting body temperature, it won't be able to pick them out on a bicycle or under an opaque umbrella.
The system is also useless in temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Reuters contributed to this report.