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Honda CR-V Hybrid racer sports an IndyCar engine and supercapacitor hybrid tech


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In the realm of things we weren't expecting to see, a Honda CR-V Hybrid with 800 horsepower wasn’t on the bingo card this year. Nevertheless, here it stands before us.

Honda Performance Development (HPD), together with the Honda Automotive Development Center, screwed together this rolling experiment, mostly because it could. And while we called this vehicle a CR-V Hybrid off the top, there are few things left to it that make this SUV a CR-V. For one, the engine (behind the driver) is the 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine Honda uses in IndyCar. The electrified portion of the powertrain that makes it a hybrid is a unique setup that consists of Skeleton Supercapacitors — for high power — and an Empel MGU hybrid motor unit. It’s not the same hybrid powertrain that will power IndyCars in the 2024 season, but it’s designed as a preview of sorts for the kind of electrified powertrains we’ll see in the series next year.

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On the same track of this having little to do with the actual CR-V Hybrid, the chassis itself is a Chromoly tube frame and is not based on the CR-V at all. Its front suspension and front brakes are from the Acura NSX GT-3 Evo22, and the rear suspension/rear brakes are from a Dallara IR-18 Indy car. It’s rocking what are likely the biggest tires ever fitted to a CR-V with 305-section-width rears and 285-section-width fronts.

You may be asking at this point, what on this car is from an actual CR-V? Honda says that the bodywork from the beltline and up is off the CR-V Hybrid. Plus, the front windshield and greenhouse are from a CR-V. All of the bodywork below the beltline is custom carbon fiber and looks like something we’d see on Pikes Peak racers from the size of the wings.

Whether Honda plans to race this CR-V racecar was our first question, and the answer isn’t quite ready yet. HPD President David Salters tells us that Honda doesn’t have any solid plans in the making — don’t expect it at Pikes Peak this year — but also not to count it out for racing down the road. As of now, Honda’s plan is to parade it around as an on-track technology demonstration car at IndyCar events this year. The message to folks at the track will be to suggest that Honda can make some rather mad, fun hybrid vehicles. When asked why the CR-V Hybrid, Honda responded that it wanted to use its best-selling hybrid vehicle as the starting point for this wild project.

Honda says the vehicle’s code name while under development was “The Beast,” and it aimed to give it a look that reminds of GT racing and Group B rally cars. The wrap you see in the photos here contains a bunch of “easter eggs” with outlines of tracks and ghosted images of the powertrain hiding under the clamshell rear.

The first time Honda sends this CR-V Hybrid racer out on track in public will be at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla., over the March 3-5 weekend. In total, Honda is planning on bringing it to eight different IndyCar races in 2023. From there on out, Honda says it will be treating the vehicle as a rolling lab to learn more about high-performance hybrid technology. The more Honda learns from this experiment of a vehicle, the more of a success it will be. We just hope to see it turning laps or tackling a hill climb for a real reason one day.

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