The gas-electric powered two-seater will go on sale in late 1999 for less than $20,000.

DETROIT, Mich. Honda says its new two-seater will take the driver from Detroit to New York on one tank of fuel.

The gas-electric hybrid prototype, unveiled Monday, will go on sale nationwide late this year for less than $20,000, said Tom Elliott, executive vice President of Honda American Motor Co. Inc.

He conceded that demand for the fuel-efficient vehicle is likely to be low - about 5,000 a year or fewer worldwide - but said it's time to test the technology on the road.

"It's not just another concept vehicle that will never see the light of day in the market place," Elliott said."But there comes a point when you can only do so much research.

"Eventually you have to have the vehicle driven by the consumer and get real world experience."

Code-named VV, the Honda hybrid is powered by a 1.0 liter, 3-cylinder engine which gets a boost from an electric motor on acceleration.

"It's kind of like a supercharger," Elliott said.

The battery pack is recharged automacitcally by the engine and by regenerating power when the car's brakes are applied.

Augmenting the engine with electric power enables the VV to meet California's stringent, ultra-low emission standards, he said.

And its lightweight, aerodynamic construction keeps the gross weight of the vehicle at less than 2,000 pounds, further reducing fuel consumption.

TheVV's top speed will be about 100 miles per hour, and it will travel about 80 highway miles on a gallon of gasoline. Combined city/highway fuel mileage is about 70 miles per gallon.

Honda also allowed a peek at its S2000 roadster Monday.

The sporty two-seater will feature a 240 horsepower engine that takes it from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than 6 seconds, while also meeting California's emission standards.

The company withheld further details pending the S2000 launch later this year.

Gannett News Service.