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2013 Honda Fit EV

2013 Honda Fit EV
2013 Honda Fit EV Wieck

Swapping fossil fuel for electrical energy is a lot more palatable when opting for Honda’s lean and clean Fit EV to handle your urban transportation needs.

The electrified version of Honda’s highly ranked sub-compact runabout is the latest science project in the automaker’s quest to explore the viability of eco-friendly powertrains. Currently both natural gas and gasoline-electric hybrid Civics are for sale as well as hybrid-only CR-Z and Insight models. A plug-in hybrid version of the 2013 Accord will also arrive later this year. Honda has even dabbled with hydrogen-fuel-cell electric propulsion with its low-volume FCX Clarity.

To get the Fit in shape for its more environmentally responsible mission involved more than simply removing its 117-horsepower 1.5-liter engine. Noticeable changes include a more aerodynamic nose filling in grille area plus a chrome trim piece stretched between the headlights. The driver’s-side fender charging port is also a dead giveaway. Further reducing wind resistance is a reshaped rear bumper and a new spoiler as well as new rocker panels.

Less obvious is the EV’s slightly higher ride height, made necessary by positioning the car’s lithium-ion battery system beneath the floor. Furthermore, the area consumed by batteries necessitated a more compact suspension. The good news is that the battery location keeps the EV’s center of gravity as low as possible. The bad news is there’s an extra 750 pounds to lug around, an issue common to all electrics.

The interior doesn’t look too terribly different, although you’ll find some change and compromise. The rear seat has been relocated slightly rearward, resulting in a bit more legroom, but gone is the car’s unique flip-up seat cushion that provided carrying space for tall objects. As well, overall cargo capacity has been reduced somewhat, either with the rear seat in place or folded flat, again due to battery encroachment.

The rest of the cabin is similar to other Fits, except that the dash has a battery charge level and consumption meters in place of a fuel gauge and engine-speed tachometer.

A twist of the key switches on the 92-kilowatt (123-horsepower) electric motor and, with the single-speed controller engaged, the EV instantly whirs off as if you’re piloting the world’s fastest golf cart. Honda had set up a mini autocross course on Pasadena’s Rose Bowl parking lot that allowed for much spirited maneuvering. The EV delivers sufficient low-speed power — 189 pound-feet of torque available the second the accelerator pedal is touched — making it ideal as a short-haul city commuter. The acceleration is less than spectacular from 40 to 60 mph, but the EV still managed to keep up with mainstream traffic when entering freeway on-ramps.

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Fit EV’s range at 82 miles in combined city/highway driving, beating the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric and Mitsubishi I-MiEV’s ranges of 73, 76 and 62 miles, respectively.

Putting the Fit EV’s 3-Mode drive system in the “Sport” setting enhances acceleration at the expense of range, while the “Econ” setting conserves power for maximum range.

The EV can be charged in 15 hours using standard 120-volt power supply, or in less than three hours, according to Honda, with the optional 240-volt charger.

Honda dealers will only lease the first year’s supply of 1,100 fully equipped vehicles for $389/month on a 36-month lease, including collision insurance, roadside assistance and navigation system updates. That works out to a list price of about $36,600.

The initial batch of EVs will be available only in California and Oregon, with expansion into major East Coast cities, including Boston, Mass., New York. N.Y., Baltimore. Md., and Washington, DC, set for 2013.

The slick little Fit EV represents a modest test of Honda’s electric-vehicle capability, but clearly the automaker wants to be prepared should the market become charged up down the road. It’s really up to you to see how much further it goes.