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Honda hedges its alternative-fuel bets at 2015 Detroit auto show

In addition to a new hydrogen fuel-cell model coming next year, Honda outlines its plans for new battery and hybrid cars by 2018.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET
Antuan Goodwin/CNET

DETROIT -- At the 2015 Detroit auto show, Honda showcased a new fuel-cell electric vehicle concept. It's rather unsurprisingly called the FCV (fuel cell vehicle), and the automaker has officially stated that it previews a production car that will hit the road in 2016, just in time to punch it out with Toyota's Mirai.

The real scoop is what's happening beneath the hood of the FCV and other future vehicle from Honda.

The automaker announced that it has revised its fuel-cell technology to be both more compact and efficient. The new hydrogen fuel stack is now 33 percent smaller than the one it debuted in 2008 in the FCX Clarity and boasts a 60 percent increase in power density. The new fuel stack now fits completely beneath the hood of the FCV, which should free up space elsewhere in the new vehicle.

The FCV boasts a 300-mile range, can refill its hydrogen fuel cell in about 3 minutes, and emits only water vapor from its tailpipe.

Along with this new fuel cell tech, Honda also announced that it's working on a new plug-in hybrid vehicle, a new battery electric vehicle, and even more applications of its two- and three-motor hybrid systems, all hitting the road by 2018. Honda calls this diversification a "portfolio approach to advancing ultra-low carbon technologies," but to me it sounds a bit like Honda's hedging its bets on next-generation powertrain tech. With so many different technologies to chose from, who could blame them?

The FCV's fuel-cell stack is significantly more compact and power dense than the old FCX Clarity's unit. Josh Miller/CNET

In internal combustion engine news, Honda also announced that its new four-cylinder VTEC turbocharged engines will be making their way to the North American market by the end of 2015. The engines will be built at the automaker's Anna, Ohio plant.

Be sure to check out the rest of CNET's coverage of the 2015 Detroit auto show.

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