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Honda says new hybrid system for big cars in sight

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Honda says new hybrid system for big cars in sight

February 19, 2010 - 4:31 am ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – Honda Motor Co. has taken a big step towards developing a new hybrid system for larger cars, its head of automobile research and development said today, indicating a finished product could be about three years away.

"We've left the research stage and entered the field of development," Tomohiko Kawanabe, chief operating officer of automobile r&d at Japan's No.2 automaker, told Reuters in an interview.

Honda's gasoline-electric cars such as the Insight and the CR-Z, to be launched next week, use a single electric motor, unlike Toyota Motor Corp.'s two-motor Prius.

Honda's hybrid system has the advantage of being simple and cheaper but trails Toyota's "full" hybrid system in fuel efficiency.

Honda had originally planned to raise fuel efficiency in its bigger cars by using clean diesel technology, but abandoned that strategy in late 2008, instead switching to developing a hybrid system that can be mounted on larger cars such as the Odyssey minivan and Pilot SUV.

Kawanabe declined to specify when the new hybrid system would be ready, but said it would be "roughly the same time frame" as the three years it takes on average to develop a new vehicle.

Kawanabe said Honda is studying development of a small diesel engine for Europe and India.

"If you want to compete in markets like India, and also Europe, (a small diesel engine) is necessary," Kawanabe, said.

Honda only has a 2.2 liter diesel engine mounted on the Accord and other models in Europe.

Diesels are seen as crucial to sell cars in some emerging markets including India, as well as in Europe where about half the vehicles sold are diesel.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100219/COPY01/302199952/1186#ixzz0g1aOeSuZ

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