Honda revealed a trio of new battery-electric concept vehicles expected to anchor its shift to an all-electric future in China — and help it accelerate the transition to battery power in other markets, including the U.S.
The announcement marks a major shift for the third-largest Japanese automaker. Until now, Honda had been planning to offer a broad mix of different electrified technologies, from conventional hybrids, to pure-electric models, as well as fuel-cell vehicles. Now, CEO Toshihiro Mibe said, the goal is to shift exclusively to battery and hydrogen power, starting with the Chinese market.
“China is at the forefront of technological innovation, so we will seek to rapidly respond by introducing leading edge technologies and products for our Chinese customers,” Mibe said during an online presentation.
Honda now plans a rapid shift to EVs, FCVs
By 2030, Honda plans to “mainly” introduce battery-electric vehicles and fuel-cell vehicles, or BEVs and FCVs, in China, said Mibe, “no longer launching new internal combustion engine vehicles” there.
The shift will begin almost immediately, with 10 new Honda-branded electric vehicles set to debut in China during the next five years.
The three concepts introduced this weekend offer a preview of what’s to come. All are based on skateboard-like platforms that mount batteries and motors below the load floor, freeing up designers and engineers to develop distinctively different types of vehicles from those it sells today.
From concept to customer
The e:N is a two-door all-electric coupe, the e:N SUV is a battery-powered crossover, and the e:N GT a zero-emissions sports car. Honda plans two versions of its new electric architecture, the e:N F chassis for compact, front-wheel-drive EVs, the e:N W for larger models with rear and all-wheel-drive drivetrains.
The three new models are set to go into production in 2024, with new, dedicated EV assembly plants being built as part of Honda’s joint ventures with local Chinese automakers GAC and Dongfeng.
EVs developed in China will be exported to markets around the world, the CEO said, helping accelerate the automaker’s global shift to battery power.
EV shift will reach “all major markets”
“The ratio of EVs and FCVs within our overall sales in all major markets, including China, will be increased (to) 40% by 2030, to 80% by 2035, and then to 100% globally by 2040,” said Mibe.
The Honda CEO said his company also will add new battery production capabilities along with its Chinese partner CATL.
Honda rapidly shifted its strategy on electrification since Mibe took over as president and CEO earlier this year from Takahiro Hachigo. The prior chief executive had been reluctant to approve a wholesale shift to BEVs and FCVs, preferring to continue with hybrids in the mix.
A little help from my friends
Honda’s shift to battery power won’t be limited to China. The carmaker is getting ready to roll out the first of two BEVs that will be produced in the U.S. market as part of a joint venture with General Motors. They will ride on the same new Ultium platform as GM vehicles like the Cadillac Lyriq, and use the U.S. automaker’s Ultium batteries.
“Leveraging strategic partners to achieve scale and mitigate initial investment requirements” will let Honda bring a competitive battery-car to market sooner than it could on its own, Dave Gardner, American Honda’s executive vice president of national operations acknowledged said during a June briefing.
“Our zero-emission focus has begun,” he added.
Subsequent Honda BEVs sold in the U.S. will use the company’s e:N platforms. But, for now, the automaker has not said when they will debut or where they will be built.