2014 Earth Aware Vehicle Buyer's Guide
Featuring Top 10 Green SUVs & CUVs
2014 Honda Fit EV Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
Road & Travel Magazine's Top 10 Picks
Driving an all-electric vehicle has to be a test of faith. If you have faith you will reach your destination with enough joy juice left to boost you into your local parking garage or to snuggle up to one of the sporadic recharging stations beginning to dot the landscape. If your EV happens to be a 2014 Honda Fit EV, faith comes with a good helping of help to make sure you stay mobile.
Backtracking for a moment, we've probably all heard the urban legends of the EV owner whose all electric auto was headed for home on a flatbed when a desperate search for a recharging spot failed. Isn't it kind of natural to muse over the "what if" scenarios of living on the electrified edge? That might have been true a few years ago when EVs were mostly anticipated and charging infrastructure was likely to be a 120- or 240-volt outlet on the garage wall. Getting started at the beginning of the day with a night-long guzzle from the outlet made it pretty certain one would arrive at the office unscathed. The latter part of the round trip is where the excitement began (preferably without a traffic jam wedged into the commute).
Click forward past the non-stop R&D that has been fueling a transition to electric. Vehicles now on the market that are highly electrified, from hybrids to plug-in EVs, now incorporate warning systems from blooming foliage as a reward for economical driving habits, to icons of batteries with a descending "water level" as a caution that the expensive, expansive battery pack underneath is approaching empty, like the annoying beep on a cell phone that signals all will go off in a few moments. With the Fit EV, the warning system is downright nurturing, with a moving bulls eye on the dash monitor that indicates like a pool of spotlight how far one can drive on the current charge. Get beyond the concentric circle on the map and you're on your own.
The front-drive Fit by nature has lived all its life off the beaten path. Based on unibody construction, it has the same somewhat bulbous, balloony look of a few other autos designed to maximize interior space for 5, with drop down rear seats for hauling, while keeping intact the kick-into-action fun of driving from its gasoline powered version. The side cladding on the Fit hangs so low it's reminiscent of one of those teenaged boys whose low slung pants waistband rides just inches above the knees. But that gives it a contemporary status and a somewhat irreverent up yours to the staid on wheels (even when they're driving the perpetually vanilla Honda Civic).
The Fit EV balks at being classed as only neutral on pizzazz meters despite its Econ (for economy) mode option. There's also Normal (where it lives at start up and presumably spends much of its time) and Sport mode (need we explain?) all accessed from dashboard buttons. It might seem odd to think of sporty mode with an all-electric vehicle, except when we remember the first modern electric auto (GM's EV1) was actually a sports car in character, look and handling. Because the electric power to the EV is instant with none of the startup lag of a gasoline powered auto, they are some of the fastest, most exhilarating handling ones around (Fit EV in Sport is no exception) and regularly participate in speed contests sponsored by proponents of the technology. Of course they lose some of their green credentials once pedal hits the metal and sportiness eats up some of the expected driving range. But everyone needs to have some fun once in a while.
The ability to morph into different power modes is evident in the power-related stats Honda provides. Depending on mode, it has three horsepower ratings: 63-HP in Econ, 100-HP in Normal, and 123-HP in Sport. Torque rating for the Fit EV is 189 lb. ft. If one doesn't mind a slight sense of drag (as if someone had a cement block on a rope it was pulling along behind the vehicle) the transmission can go into "B" for brake. That's when exaggerated braking friction helps to regenerate the battery the instant one's foot is off the accelerator.
Dissing sport tendencies for the moment, Fit EV's "adjusted" driving range with a 20 kW battery rating is about 82 miles, or an 118-MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) rating, assuming driving conditions are bland and other mileage-robbing factors such as extreme outside temperatures aren't present. Econ mode can point out the impact of those, when air conditioning and fan are muted to save power.
Of course an auto has to offer the expected creature comfort amenities nearly every driver has come to expect. In Honda’s tradition of making its feature components mostly standard the Fit EV is no exception. It has the expected safety and comfort features, including 160-watt, six speaker audio paired with the usual USB and other high tech features, plus speed sensitive volume control.
In the win some, lose some category, it is fitted with 15 inch wheels, but has a tire repair kit instead of spare which was displaced by the weighty Lithium-ion battery pack.
Southern California and Oregon were the first vehicle markets to get the Fit EV plug-in. As calendar 2014 approaches, that has expanded to add additional ecology conscious states along the Eastern seaboard: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and Rhode Island.
And ignoring the NIMBY (not in my back yard) fact that power plants tend to be removed from residential areas, one can rejoice in the ZEV (zero emissions vehicle) status earned by the Fit EV, which has no tailpipe. All that, plus the ability to drive solo in high occupancy vehicle lanes, for a base $36,625 entry fee. And while normal charging time is three hours at 240 volts or 15 hours at 120 volts, an onboard 32-amp quick charger can bring back nearly a fifth of its life in about a half-hour. After all, time is worth money too.
For more information on Honda green vehicles, click here.