Yuuji Fujiki, chief engineer for Hondaa IMA hybrid system, sat down with Washington Post’s Senior columnist Warren Brown and Lou Ann Hammond, CEO, www.drivingthenation.com.
This is the first time there has been a lithium-ion battery in a Honda Civic Hybrid. This has allowed the 2012 Honda Civic hybrid to increase it’s average EPA fuel economy rating from 41 mpg to 44 mpg. The new model is rated at 44 in both city and highway driving.
The Toyota Prius (50 mpg) and the Lexus CT200 (42 mpg) are the two hybrids that get over 40 miles per gallon. Both are hatchbacks. The 2012 Honda Civic hybrid is the only hybrid sedan that gets over 40 miles per gallon.
Through an interpreter Brown and Hammond talked to Fujiki (or, as we affectionally call him, Mr Hybrid) about Honda’s new battery pack. Fujiki worked on the eco-assist for the previous Insight powerplant. IMA is an inexpensive assist and regeneration with one motor. IMA is in every hybrid, and only hybrids.
The 2012 Honda Civic hybrid is considered a partial hybrid. Previously, the Honda Civic hybrid used Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, but they switched to Lithium-ion to achieve the 44 miles per gallon in city and highway. Fujiki was able to increase the EV-mode from 45 kilometer (28 miles per gallon) was increased to 70 kilometer (44 miles per gallon).
To combat the heat/cold problems of lithium-ion batteries Fujiki explained what they did, “When we used NIMH the electrolyte fluid used to be alkaline solution but when we changed to the lithium-ion battery we started using 4th grade petroleum, a machine type oil.” A material is applied to the positive electrode and negative electrode and even if you stuck a needle in the battery a fire would not break out.
Brown asked if that was a major breakthrough. “(yes) Hai, very safe”, said Fujiki. Impressive, said Brown. The batteries are made in Kyoto, Japan by blue Energy corporation. Blue Energy is the creator of the batteries. Blue Energy is a joint venture between Japan’s GS Yuasa and Honda. The agreement is to manufacture, sell and conduct R&D for high-performance applications with a central focus on hybrid vehicles. Blue Energy is 51% owned by GS Yuasa Power Supply Ltd. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of GS Yuasa Corporation), and 49% owned by Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
Fujiki explained that the reason Honda didn’t use the same lithium-ion battery they used in their fuel cells was because that battery is older and was produced by a different company. The Blue Energy battery is more conducive to hybrid battery operation.
The 2012 Honda Accord plug-in hybrid and the 2012 Honda Fit EV will use the Joint Venture battery. Fujiki does not know about the future use of this battery for fuel cell applications. There are no plans to share this technology with other car manufacturers. Mitsubishi has an agreement with GS Yuuasa for their electric vehicle that is not the battery created by Blue Energy.