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Honda has announced that it plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) to the U.S. market by 2012.

“Japan’s No.2 automaker was one of the world’s only car makers to offer gasoline-electric cars during the past decade but has begun looking like a laggard without a ‘strong’ hybrid or concrete plans to mass-produce pure electric cars,” writes Reuters. The introduction of two new fuel-efficient models will allow Honda to keep pace with the Earth-friendly innovations of competing automakers.

According to, “There are no specifications on the Honda EV, but it will likely compete with the upcoming Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i MiEV.” Meanwhile, a plug-in hybrid system is being developed for midsize and large vehicles.

Honda also announced that the next-generation Honda Civic Hybrid will feature a lithium-ion battery. “Civic’s new lithium-ion battery will likely be smaller, lighter and far more powerful than today’s nickel-metal hydrides, which power most hybrids,” writes USA Today. “It should give the Civic far better range, and possibly the ability to run for miles on electric-only power, a capability it lacks now.”

Honda makes its announcement at a time when competition among automakers to produce alternative-power vehicles is at an all-time high. “Both GM and Nissan will begin selling plug-in vehicles — the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, respectively — in relatively small numbers by the end of this year,” reports CNN Money. “Ford Motor Co. plans to begin selling its Ford Focus BEV plug in car early next year. Fiat, now partnered with the U.S. automaker Chrysler, will begin selling an electric version of its tiny 500 hatchback in the U.S. in 2012.” And, just last week, Toyota announced a partnership with Tesla to develop an all-electric version of its popular RAV-4 SUV.

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