Honda’s CR-V Hybrid Racer Packs Hybrid IndyCar Power

hpd honda cr v hybrid racer exterior shot bridge
Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer Packs Hybrid IndyCar PowerHonda

Following a slew of recent social media teasers, Honda Performance Development is finally ready to share more details about the all-new CR-V Hybrid Racer. This one-off hybrid super SUV, unveiled Tuesday, will serve as a rolling development lab for the automaker as it investigates various EV solutions moving forward. It also happens to be a track-ready monster, thanks in no small part to its IndyCar-sourced 2.2-liter V-6 engine, which works with a supercapacitor system to pump out 800 horsepower.

There aren't a lot of recognizable Honda CR-V components that made their way to the Hybrid Racer. The windshield and greenhouse are shared with the standard CR-V, as is the basic design of the bodywork from the beltline up. Other than that, this thing is a dedicated racing tool. The car itself rides on a flexible tube frame chassis, which Honda says has been designed to accommodate a variety of powertrains for development purposes. The rear end currently houses the Honda HI23TT engine, which can be displayed thanks to some unique clamshell bodywork. The motor is mated to an XTRAC six-speed transmission complete with paddle shifters. A Dallara IR-18 IndyCar rear suspension system is also tucked in back, supported by rear brakes sourced from the open-wheeled series as well. Up front the CR-V Hybrid Racer employs suspension bits borrowed from the NSX GT3 racer, as well as that car’s front brakes. Hybrid power is provided by a·Skelton supercapacitor energy storage system, which feeds a driver-activated Empel electric motor-generator unit.

With hybrid power coming to IndyCar in 2024, pairing the brand’s 2.2-liter with a new hybrid system made sense from a development standpoint. While Honda did design this system while investigating solutions for IndyCar, the automaker was clear to note that this particular hybrid system will not find its way to its IndyCar program. The CR-V Hybrid racer will instead serve as a test bed for various powertrain technologies moving for both racing and road cars moving forwards, including a potential fully-electric variant.

“Our goal is to look at different types of technology,” said president of Honda Performance Development David Salters in an interview. “We’re sort of, especially in racing, technology agnostic. So we just want to try different types of energy sources."

"In this case, the specific reason it has supercapacitors here is power. They’re really good at high power. The company that did it, Skelton, is a world leader and we have a good relationship with them through HPD, a partnership sort of thing. So in this case, the application is done because of the high power of these particular ultracapacitors... Also, in this application, they’re inherently safe. You can’t really do anything bad to them in this application. But it’s really so we can learn.”

Like the IndyCar-powered Ridgeline that Honda and Hoonigan brought to SEMA, the CR-V Hybrid Racer tells you what it's all about with a single glance. The wider lower body panels are constructed from carbon fiber, and come aggressively peppered with aero elements front and rear. The low-and-wide stance transforms the SUV’s proportions into something much more exciting, with clear nods to Group B rally cars. That didn’t come as an accident in the design studio, as Salters explained to R&T.

“Some of us are here because of Group B, me particularly,” Salters said. “I used to stand in a Welsh forest and watch Ari Vatanen and Stig Blomqvist blast past in the middle of the morning. So I guess a number of us sort of come back to our roots, and they [Group B] were and are so cool. And our design guys just took inspiration from that. I think it's just us having passion is where it came from.”

The Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer is slated to make public appearances at a number of IndyCar events in 2023. This includes a public debut at the series opener at St. Petersburg, as well as appearances at Grand Prix in Long Beach, Birmingham, Mid-Ohio, Toronto, Nashville, Portland, and Monterey. Honda will also bring the 800-hp SUV to a number of select events throughout the year, with the goal of getting people excited about the possibilities associated with electrification. The car isn't salted to do any lap time hunting quite yet, but Salters did note that the team won't be able to help themselves once the car's development works comes to a close.

“That’s what Honda does,” said Salters. “We are crazy makers. Fun to drive, car culture, and racing is in all of our DNA.”

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