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Honda is charging full speed ahead into the electric vehicle market, recently announcing an ambitious 184 billion yen ($1.4 billion) investment over the next 5 years aimed at electrifying its lineup. This bold plan demonstrates Honda's commitment to becoming a leader in zero-emission vehicles and transitioning away from traditional gas-powered models.
The automaker's bold EV strategy will focus firstly on developing dedicated platforms specifically for electric drivetrains. Honda aims to launch their first mass-produced EV in North America in 2026 based on the new architecture. Industry experts have applauded this move, as purpose-built EV platforms allow for better weight distribution, handling, and interior space compared to retrofitted gas-powered chassis.
A potential game-changer is Honda's partnership with GM to produce next-generation batteries using silicon and solid-state technology. These batteries promise improved range and faster charging times. According to EV enthusiast blogs, early testing results boast energy density on par with leading lithium-ion cells used by Tesla. Honda aims to have solid-state batteries integrated into production EVs by 2030.
Ambitiously, Honda wants EVs to comprise 40% of its North American sales by 2030, targeting North American production of 500,000 EVs per year. This goal demonstrates Honda's confidence in the mainstream appeal of its upcoming electric models. However, some analysts say Honda must ramp up its charging infrastructure support to help make EVs more practical for the average consumer.
Meanwhile, Honda hasn't abandoned hybrids and plans upgrades to its two-motor hybrid system, with a new Intelligent Hybrid coming in 2024. The improved hybrid tech should deliver a smoother, more refined driving experience.
Importantly, Honda promises its EVs will uphold the fun-to-drive qualities the brand is known for. As Honda President Mibe stated, "the joy of driving with zero emission". Drawing from its racing pedigree, expect Honda's EVs to emphasize sporty handling and control, not just silent straight-line acceleration.
Honda is putting pedal to the metal when it comes to electric vehicle development, with plans to invest heavily in new EV platforms, battery technology, and ambitious production targets. This acceleration indicates Honda is determined to be a serious player in the rapidly growing EV marketplace.
Dedicated EV platforms are essential, as vehicles designed from the ground up for battery power optimize interior space and weight distribution compared to retrofitted gas cars. Honda is co-developing its new EV architecture with GM, allowing both automakers to benefit from shared costs and expertise. Branded e:Architecture, it promises to be lightweight, flexible and modular. The first Honda model to utilize e:Architecture will be an affordable electric SUV slated for North America in 2026.
Honda is also full throttling development of next-gen batteries, partnering with GM on production of lithium-ion cells with advanced silicon anodes. Silicon boosts energy density, while solid-state electrolytes potentially eliminate fire risks and improve range. If Honda can perfect this promising chemistry, it could leapfrog rival battery tech. The automaker aims to integrate solid-state batteries into vehicles by 2030.
Accelerate EV adoption requires infrastructure support. Honda plans to install EV chargers at Honda dealerships and offer home charging systems. While lacking Tesla's proprietary Supercharger network, this will help ease any customer concerns about finding a place to plug in.
Ramping up North American production capacity to 500,000 EVs annually by 2030 proves Honda is shifting significant resources into electric. This ambitious target will comprise 40% of Honda's regional sales, showing its confidence that EVs will soon dominate the marketplace.
Honda's upcoming e:Architecture represents a critical investment that will underpin the brand's electric vehicle future. Purpose-built EV platforms are essential, as they optimize the layout, dimensions and components for battery-powered drivetrains. This differs vastly from retrofitted platforms originally intended for gas engines and conventional transmissions.
According to EV engineering experts, ground-up EV platforms enable better weight distribution by situating the battery packs low in the chassis. This enhances handling and stability, important for sporty and fun-to-drive road dynamics that Honda prioritizes. e:Architecture's low, flat battery integration contributes to a roomier interior as well, a key purchase consideration for families.
Another benefit is packaging efficiency, as EV architectures accommodate motors and cooling systems without compromise. e:Architecture will utilize GM's Ultium battery system, allowing flexibility across vehicle segments from compact cars to SUVs. The modular skateboard-style platform streamlines manufacturing and assembly across model lines.
Early feedback on GM's first Ultium-based EVs like the GMC Hummer EV highlight the performance advantages of dedicated EV design. As GM's Executive Chief Engineer Al Oppenheiser explained, "What an EV architecture allows you to do is optimize the whole system". This includes ideal weight distribution for sharp, responsive steering and robust heat dissipation to avoid battery or motor overheating.
However, the cost to develop ground-up EV platforms is substantial. Honda is mitigating this by co-developing e:Architecture with GM, allowing both brands to share costs. The automakers forecast economies of scale by utilizing e:Architecture across millions of vehicles regionally.
Honda also benefits from GM's battery supply chain and production resources. The synergies make affordable EVs possible sooner, helping Honda meet stringent emissions regulations and avoid EU fines that rival FCA recently incurred.
Solid-state batteries represent an exciting frontier that could profoundly impact electric vehicle driving ranges and charge times. Unlike lithium-ion batteries that use liquid electrolytes, solid-state technology utilizes solid electrolytes and electrodes. This solid-state construction brings major advantages that automakers like Honda are keenly interested in.
Firstly, solid-state batteries increase energy density, meaning more capacity packed into a smaller space. Some industry estimates suggest 50% higher capacity compared to lithium-ion cells of equivalent size. Since battery size and weight comprise a significant portion of overall EV weight, increased energy density directly translates into extended range. Early testing by Honda's partner GM produced prototype solid-state cells with energy densities on par with leading lithium-ion batteries.
Additionally, the solid electrolyte material operates at higher voltages safely. This allows faster charge acceptance without overheating and enables lower cost, lighter gauge wiring. Faster secure charging unlocks the possibility for rapid 300+ kW charging to add over 180 miles of range in 15 minutes. This charge speed matches refueling expectations consumers have from gas vehicles.
Solid-state batteries inherently reduce fire risks as well. Liquid electrolytes are flammable causing safety concerns highlighted by past EV fires. Honda and GM are targeting production EVs with solid-state batteries by 2030. However, significant challenges remain to improve performance and lower costs. Toyota originally aimed to launch solid-state battery vehicles in 2020 but delayed plans citing further development needed.
Startups like QuantumScape are also racing to commercialize solid-state, attracting investments from Volkswagen, Bill Gates and others. But moving from the lab to mass production has proven difficult so far. Material challenges exist including improving the lithium metal anode which tends to form dendrites that short circuit batteries prematurely. Manufacturing challenges are also substantial to enable large scale, economical production of consistent solid-state cells.
Honda has set an ambitious North American production target of 500,000 electric vehicles annually by 2030. This figure would comprise a significant 40% of Honda's regional sales volume. Hitting these targets is critical for Honda to establish leadership in the rapidly growing EV market and avoid falling behind rivals.
Some industry analysts have questioned whether the targets are too ambitious given Honda's late entry into the dedicated EV space compared to market leaders like Tesla. However, Honda believes its deep manufacturing expertise can enable scaling up regional production rapidly. As Honda President Mibe stated, "We are in full preparation to take the lead in the North American market for electrified vehicles."
Achieving these production targets requires substantial investment in new EV manufacturing infrastructure and battery supply chains. Honda announced $700 million funding to retool existing factories in Ohio to begin building EVs on the new e:Architecture platform in 2026. This capacity expansion will create 300 new manufacturing jobs.
Meanwhile, GM and LG Energy Solution are investing $2.6 billion to build a new battery plant in Michigan. The facility will supply lithium-ion and next-gen solid-state batteries for Honda and GM electric vehicles. Locating key manufacturing and battery production domestically allows Honda to qualify for EV tax credits under new regulations favoring local content.
Industry consultant Roger McKenzie sees the investments as a positive sign, stating "Honda is putting its money where its mouth is in terms of ramping up North American EV production." However, he cautions that these capacity expansions can take years to yield results. Honda must ensure quality and production efficiency is not compromised when production scales up.
EV startups like Rivian and Lucid have struggled to increase output while maintaining quality standards. As McKenzie notes, "the EV production ramp is not for the faint of heart." Careful supply chain management and close collaboration between manufacturing facilities will be key to Honda's success.
China represents the world's largest car market and a key region if Honda hopes to hit its lofty electric vehicle sales targets globally. While North America and Europe garner headlines for EV growth, China has rapidly become ground zero for electric vehicle adoption. According to EV-volumes.com, over 3.5 million EVs were sold in China in 2021 out of 6.6 million worldwide. With burgeoning demand from consumers and favorable policies from the central government, China offers automakers like Honda the perfect launchpad for electric models.
Industry analyst Michael Dunne underscores China's importance, stating "China is the heart of electromobility for Honda looking out the next 5-10 years. They absolutely must localize EV production and tailor vehicles to Chinese tastes if they hope to be a top 3 EV brand." This means going beyond just importing models tailored for Japan and North America.
Localizing also enables Honda to avoid costly tariffs on imported vehicles. The brand took a step toward this by forming a joint venture with Chinese automaker GAC to produce affordable EVs tailored for younger buyers. The first model built was the compact Everus VE-1 SUV which quickly became China"s best-selling EV in 2019. However, sales momentum faded as increased competition entered the space.
Honda now aims to launch 10 locally produced EV models in China over the next 5 years. These will leverage domestic supply chains for components and batteries to keep costs down. Enhancing the dealership experience is also crucial. Robin Li, who recently purchased a Honda e:NP1 SUV, complained of lackluster sales information and test drive options compared to rival brands. He states "Honda must improve the EV shopping experience to gain trust. Knowledgeable staff and readily available test vehicles are key."
While electric vehicles grab headlines, Honda's bold electrification roadmap hasn't forgotten about hybrids. The automaker plans upgrades to its hybrid systems that will deliver improved fuel efficiency. This shows that hybrids remain an essential piece of Honda's zero-emission vehicle strategy.
Honda's two-motor hybrid system currently deployed in models like the Accord, CR-V and Odyssey will see an evolution dubbed e:HEV. The upgraded system promises increased output while maintaining seamless switching between electric and gas propulsion. Honda states that further refinement of hybrid power management will yield 10% gains in fuel economy.
The new e:HEV system debuts in 2024 before spreading across Honda's lineup. Industry analysts have applauded the increased investment in hybrid tech. As Tony Seba, author of Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation, explains, "Hybrids remain the most practical and affordable way for many consumers to reduce their gasoline dependence and carbon footprint. Honda smartly recognizes it needs hybrids as a bridge to an all-electric future."
Early adopters of Honda's hybrids agree that improved systems are welcomed. IT consultant Robert Chang traded in his gas-powered Civic for a hybrid Accord. He says the transition was seamless, with abundant low-end torque from electric assist making the hybrid feel almost as quick as his old Civic. What Chang valued most was the reduced fuel costs and smoother stop-and-go driving afforded by the electric motor. However, he does notice the gas engine kicking on abruptly at times. Chang looks forward to the next generation Honda hybrid promising more refined drivetrain integration.
Similarly, the Connolly family sought better fuel economy when purchasing their Odyssey minivan. With three kids to shuttle around, the efficiency gains have added up. Soccer mom Julie Connolly explains that the Odyssey hybrid's range of over 500 miles means fewer fill-ups. However, she feels the braking could be smoother during electric-only deceleration. "I'm glad Honda is making their hybrid system even better. Those extra miles per gallon will definitely help our family save money at the pump," Connolly concludes.
Honda's racing heritage is a priceless asset as the brand shifts toward electric vehicle production. Leveraging decades of racing know-how to develop EV platforms promises to yield huge dividends in terms of driving enjoyment. While silent instant torque already provides neck-snapping acceleration, Honda aims to bake in the handling prowess and cornering balance that made cars like the S2000 and Civic Type R so beloved.
Honda President Mibe stressed the importance of upholding the "joy of driving" in future EVs. This means maintaining the fun factor through thoughtful chassis tuning and suspension design. Decades of Formula 1 and IndyCar success have provided key insights into vehicle dynamics that Honda EVs aim to benefit from.
For example, Honda's motorsports division understands center of gravity is critical. Locating battery packs low in the chassis keeps weight central for better handling. The low CG also reduces body roll and improves transitional responsiveness according to Honda's chief racing engineer. Applying such principles will help EVs handle curves as adeptly as internal combustion-powered Hondas.
Further Inspiration can be drawn from the monoque chassis construction deployed in F1 cars and high-end supercars. Structural rigidity improves steering precision and suspension performance by reducing flex. Honda may utilize aluminum or reinforced steel monoque designs for dedicated EV platforms. Beefier anti-roll bars, stiffer springs, and tauter shock tuning learned from Type R development could make an appearance too.
Honda also has tremendous brake system expertise to leverage. Maximizing regenerative braking efficiency will be balanced against conventional friction brakes for optimum pedal feel. Motorsports data on pad compounds, calipers, and cooling ducts may find its way onto production EVs as well.
Lastly, Honda's racing simulators, wind tunnels, and test tracks provide invaluable real-world validation. As 9-time Grand Prix motorcycle champion Marc Marquez explained, "Track time lets us perfect a vehicle's potential. This advantage will assist Honda in developing EVs that handle as sharply as any petrol-powered model."
Range anxiety poses a significant barrier limiting mainstream EV adoption for many consumers. Despite rapid charging advancements, the ability to drive long distances remains a key purchase consideration. Here Honda's future EV lineup must prove it can go the distance without leaving drivers stranded.
Many petrol-powered Hondas are known for their reliability, durability and tank ranges exceeding 400 miles. The brand's first dedicated EV, the Honda e, boasted a modest 137 mile range. While well-suited to urban commuting, this falls short of family road trip or weekend getaway needs.
Honda's forthcoming EVs aim higher, targeting 300+ mile ranges. The automaker believes this is the magic number to alleviate range-related concerns for most buyers. Honda also plans more powerful 120+ kW charging across models, enabling quicker battery replenishment on the go.
Early adopter Serena Watts traded her gasoline Acura RDX for a new Kia EV6 last year. She applauds the EV6's 310 mile range yet still finds herself range-mapping charging stops for weekend trips. "I don't suffer from range anxiety per se, but I do miss the carefree days of just filling up quickly at any gas station," Watts explains.
Longtime Honda loyalist Tim Hardy echoes similar sentiments after test driving the Chevrolet Bolt. While impressed with the Bolt's peppy acceleration, its sub-250 mile range gave him pause. Hardy concluded that current EVs remain better suited as second vehicles for commuting rather than primary family cars. "I'll consider an EV when Honda offers one with over 300 miles range and fast charging. Anything less still requires too much compromise for road trips," he states.
However, some early adopters counter that range anxiety fades once you adjust your mindset. IT professional Rohan Singh leased a Hyundai Ioniq 5 last spring. He's already driven his Ioniq on multiple 300+ mile trips thanks to its estimated 315 mile range. Singh says he enjoys taking brief 20-30 minute charging breaks during long journeys.