The U.S. won’t get the Honda e, but an EV platform is coming

Honda has given some insight, no pun intended, into its global electrification plans at a briefing given by top executives last week, according to Automotive News. North American and Chinese consumers still won’t be able to buy the cute little Honda e city car currently being rolled out in Europe, but by 2025, Honda plans to sell a range of battery-electric vehicles (BEV) in the world’s two largest automotive markets based on a new modular EV platform the company is developing. The new platform will be able to accommodate a variety of body styles and sizes.

Like the Honda e, the new BEVs will have a rear-mounted traction motor and rear-wheel drive, a bit of a departure for a company that made its bones selling FWD cars. Honda says that moving the powerplant to the rear of the car allows for a front suspension with a tighter turning radius. That, combined with the low center of gravity from the battery pack’s low mounting position, and a target of 50:50 front-rear weight distribution, should give the new cars outstanding cornering and handling. Should Honda decide to add all-wheel drive to the package, there is still room up front for an additional traction motor.

Ayumu Matsuo, who is in charge of powertrain development for the automaker, told AN, “This new architecture is designed to achieve smooth driving and highly efficient packaging. We believe it will meet the needs of customers who like our C-segment and D-segment models.”

Honda joins Toyota in developing a EV-specific platform. In June, Toyota revealed that it will be making six new electric vehicles ranging from a compact sedan to a large SUV based on a new flexible EV architecture.

Honda E Prototype front 3/4

Though Honda is a major player in the U.S. and Europe, it’s not nearly as large as Nissan and Toyota, and must carefully leverage its resources to compete effectively. This past winter, Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo directed a restructuring of the company’s R&D operations said to focus on advanced technology, speed (both vehicular and developmental), and internal innovation while being open to technical partnerships.

“We have introduced a new structure which enables our engineers to take on new challenges,” Hachigo told the briefing. “We have clearly divided areas of our R&D focus into advanced technology for creating new future value and the existing area for developing uniquely Honda products in collaboration with our other business operations.”

Honda is aiming for 100 percent electrification of its European models by 2025 and hopes to electrify two-thirds of its global products by 2030. Most of those goals will be accomplished with hybrids, although Honda says that 15% of its 2030 sales will go to pure electric vehicles.

The new platform will be flexible in a variety of ways, not just market segment and body style. Tetsuya Hasebe, who runs EV development for Honda, said that it will be able to accommodate a variety of battery capacities, including those capable of long-range, intercity travel. The new platform is also being planned to work with battery packs from more than one supplier. Panasonic is currently the exclusive manufacturer of the battery cells used in the Honda e. Lithium-ion batteries are currently in short supply and EV makers are scrambling to source them. Using multiple battery suppliers could alleviate the risks of single-source supply constraints.

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
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