Honda Fit electric. (Honda)
By Chris Woodyard and Fred Meier, USA TODAY
The electric version of Honda's new 2013 Honda Fit has received the highest fuel-efficiency rating ever given by the Environmental Protection Agency: 118 mpg-e in mixed city-highway driving.
Honda says the miles-per-gallon-equivalent rating using EPA methodology for city driving is 132 mpg-e, highway is 105. The 118 combined driving rating beats by six mpg-e the former top dog, the electric Mitsubishi i-Miev.
The battery Fit uses no gasoline -- the mpg-e measure is intended to compare equal amounts of energy used. But the upshot is that a year's worth (15,000 miles) of electricity to power the car is estimated by the EPA to cost less than $500 at current average electric rates -- $1,300 a year less than for a conventional gasoline Fit with automatic and $650 less than for a Toyota Prius hybrid.
The Fit EV is rated to go 82 miles between full charges, more than the EPA-estimated range of 76 miles for a Ford Focus Electric (rated 105 mpg-e), 73 miles for a Nissan Leaf (rated 99 mpg-e) or 66 miles for the i-Miev.
The Fit, which Honda calls a "battery-electric commuter vehicle," can be recharged in three hours on a 240-volt system. Its motor puts out the equivalent of 123 horsepower.
"Just as important as the industry-leading fuel-efficiency and fast recharging time, as a Honda, the 2013 Fit EV will be an absolute kick to drive," promises Steve Center, vice president of the American Honda Environmental Business Development Office.
But few people -- 1,100 over the next three years to be exact, according to Honda -- will get a chance to find out. And even they will only be able to rent, not buy.
Honda has put an official sticker price of $37,415 including shipping on the Fit EV, but the 1,100 cars will not be offered for sale. Rather Honda will offer them on a 3-year lease "in select California and Oregon markets" this summer and "on the East Coast" next year. And Honda says there is no purchase option at lease-end.
The lease is $389 per month for 12,000 miles per year or $14,004 total, and includes collision coverage, routine maintenance, roadside assistance and navigation system updates. For comparison, a conventional Fit is priced from $16,915 to start with automatic and shipping to $20,480 for the top trim with navigation and shipping.
Explaining the limited availability, Honda says the Fit EV is aimed to perfect the components and that it is a forerunner, says Honda spokeswoman Angie Nucci, of "our mass production EV in a few short years."
Says Nucci: "When Honda sells a vehicle, we need to assure its use and utility no matter where a customer might take the vehicle. All EVs have limitations and we want to make sure we understand how our customers address those limitations."