As Honda unveiled its brand new Civic at its UK Swindon headquarters, the company talked of its vision of where the future of motoring is heading – revealing its belief traditional engines will die out and how hydrogen is the Holy Grail.
While demonstrating some of the new technological manufacturing innovations of the 10th generation Civic, project lead Mitsuru Kariya spoke to IBTimes UK about the road ahead. As major manufacturing rivals increasingly roll out electric or hybrid vehicles it comes as a surprise that Honda, being steeped in technological innovation, is chugging behind without one to show off themselves.
That is all changing, of course, with plans in store for a fully electric vehicle touted for a 2017 release, and a Hybrid Accord (and possibly Civic, too) also on the cards for next year. Honda revealed to us that it's not just focusing efforts on electric to keep up with rivals but Kariya-san believes the traditional gas-guzzling engine is on the path to extinction.
"At Honda we see electrification as one of the key aspects for the future of motoring. The conventional power plant, whether it's a petrol or diesel engine it will probably disappear in that classic function," said Kariya-san.
Another nascent technology of motoring is the rise of autonomy – an area Honda is also yet to throw its hat into the ring to. When asked what Honda's plans were for autonomous driving Kariya-san confirmed they "are shifting a lot of resource to the departments for electric production and autonomous driving". The world's seventh-largest car manufacturer certainly has enough resource behind them to compete in the autonomy scene alongside the likes of Mercedes, BMW, Ford, Volvo, Audi and Tesla – however, these have had a massive head start already.
While Honda sees electric vehicles as the future for now, you may remember back in 2008 that it introduced an alternative energy vision in the form of its hydrogen fuel cell, the Clarity. The idea of running a car on nothing but the most abundant element on the planet and emitting nothing but water with a mileage range as long as that of petrol or diesel was like science fiction. But things have gone a little quiet on this potentially planet-changing front, so has hydrogen fuel cell technology been kerbed in favour of electric?
"Electric technology has not yet superseded hydrogen fuel cell technology. Until hydrogen maturates to become the mainstream propulsion system it will still take many, many years to be de facto," said Kariya-san.
Honda acknowledged that hydrogen is the answer; the perfect solution to our depleting fossil fuel reserves, but identified that it's hugely dependent on infrastructure and the energy supplier.
"Electrification is currently the most popular and best solution but it's also short-term. Honda still believes hydrogen and the fuel cell technology will be the ultimate propulsion for the long-term future, but electric is very important to fill that gap until that time for the mass market."
Until that time, the hydrogen Holy Grail will continue to remain behind Honda's garage doors.