• Restoration of first US-market Honda begins

    March 20, 2016

    Honda has begun restoration of its first US-market passenger car, a 1967 Honda N600. The car was discovered by a long-time restorer of the model, who had it in his possession for years before he discovered it was serial number 000001.

    The N600 was a front-wheel-drive hatchback based on Japan’s supercompact class called kei cars in its home country. While Japanese versions were powered by a 360cc motor in line with kei requirements at the time, US-bound markets did not have such displacement limitations, allowing Honda to install a 600cc air-cooled two-cylinder, four-stroke engine good for about 31 horsepower and a top-speed of 77 mph. The car itself weighed less than 1,120 pounds. The N-Series also served as styling inspiration for the N-One.

    This particular car, which Honda is calling Serial One, was discovered by N600 expert Tim Mings of southern California. Mings discovered it at a swap meet nearly 10 years ago and bought it without knowing its significance. It wasn’t until years later when he scraped off the grime covering the serial number that he realized it was the first N600.

    The car is one of 50 from the first batch imported to the US as a pilot program for Honda Automobiles. It’s one of three known to have survived. Mings has been restoring N600s for over 20 years, and calls this the most important project he’ll ever undertake. When it is complete, it will reside at the American Honda collection.

  • Toyota turns to industrial vehicles to spur hydrogen fuel cell development

    March 20, 2016

    In order to spur hydrogen vehicle and infrastructure development, Toyota is turning to a fleet of fuel cell forklifts.

    Though Toyota has been advocating hydrogen-powered vehicles, the technology is still moving too slowly for the company’s tastes. It’s a classic chicken or egg scenario, in which the vehicles can’t proliferate because of the lack of infrastructure, but the infrastructure is too expensive to build because there’s not enough vehicle using them.

    Toyota will attempt to give the alternative energy source another jumpstart by installing small communities of fuel cell workhorses at key locations. Later this year, hydrogen fuel cell forklifts will begin rolling out at the Tokyo Bay waterfront, where they’ll be used to haul bulk food and beverage loads around the wholesale market.

    The hydrogen fuel would be generated by wind to keep carbon emissions at a minimum. Fuel cell forklifts can also be filled up in three minutes, rather than the hours needed for a batter-powered equivalent.

    Toyota sees airports and other industrial areas as venues where small communities of fuel cell vehicles could be beneficial. As reported by Automotive News, Toyota senior manager in charge of the company’s Business Development Group Shigeki Tomoyama estimates that there could be as many as 100,000 fuel cell-powered industrial vehicles in use by 2030, which will lower the cost of fuel cell components. “Fuel cell [passenger] vehicles alone can’t stimulate the market,” Tomoyama said at the forklift program’s launch, “That’s why we need to expand to industrial use.”

    As it happens, Toyota Group is also the world’s largest manufacturer of forklifts.

  • Renault to preview new design language at Paris show

    March 20, 2016

    The Geneva Auto Show closed its doors a few days ago, and the New York show hasn’t even kicked off yet, but automakers are already beginning to talk about this fall’s Paris Auto Show. Renault will introduce a new concept in the French capital that will usher in its next design language.

    The yet-unnamed concept will take the form of a stylish sports car, according to design boss Laurens van den Acker, but it won’t share any components with the long-awaited Alpine A120 that will also debut in Paris. Instead, it will be billed as a follow-up to the DeZir (pictured), which means it will be the first in a series of about five concepts built to show how the company’s next design language will look on a variety of body styles.

    The changes made to Renault’s current design language will be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

    “It took us so long to find a face. I’m not sure we could go through the agony again,” explained the Dutch designer in an interview with trade journal Automotive News.

    The concept most likely won’t spawn a production model because a Renault-badged sports car would compete against the storied Alpine brand that executives are on the verge of re-launching after a 20-year hiatus.