Honda Developing Platform for Midsize EVs With 500km+ Drive Range

Honda Motor will newly develop a platform (PF) dedicated to electric vehicles (EVs).

Though Honda did not disclose the drive range of the PF, it aims at a drive range longer than 500km (approx 311 miles). The PF will be targeted at midsize vehicles and basically RR (rear-motor, rear-wheel-drive) vehicles. The PF will probably be released in about 2022.

“The PF is expected to be used for C- to D-segment vehicles that can travel between cities,” Ayumu Matsuo, operating officer of Honda R&D Co Ltd. “We will offer SUVs (sport utility vehicles) and CUVs (crossover utility vehicles).”

Honda aims to increase the ratio of EVs to all the vehicles that it sells in the global market to about 15% by 2030. The PF is the trump card for achieving that goal.

Honda has been considering EVs as vehicles for traveling short distances and fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs) as the optimal solution for middle-to-long distances. EVs for traveling middle-to-long distances, which are equipped with many large-mass batteries, are inefficient in a sense. And Honda was rather negative about them, saying, “They are vehicles for carrying batteries.”

It seems that the basic thought of Honda has not changed. Nevertheless, the company is developing an EV for traveling middle-to-long distances in earnest in the aim of complying with the policies of China and some states of the US that are strengthening regulations. Honda needs to sell a large number of EVs, and releasing EVs that can travel as long distances as engine vehicles is a realistic solution.

The new PF under development has a motor on its rear side and is basically an RR vehicle that drives rear wheels.

“We will realize a traveling performance peculiar to Honda,” Matsuo said.

By separating (front) steering wheels from (rear) driving wheels, it becomes easier to improve steering stability. To make a four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle, a motor will be added on the front side to have a two-motor structure, and the front and rear wheels will be driven by the front and rear motors, respectively.

Honda separates the PF into a (1) changeable area and (2) unchangeable area. The unchangeable area makes it easy to share parts among all kinds of vehicles. In the changeable area, external appearance, etc are differentiated by using outer panels and interior components.

For example, the unchangeable area includes the width of battery pack and the location of the motor for driving rear wheels. On the other hand, the changeable area includes the width of vehicle, ground clearance, location of driver’s seat, total capacity of batteries, etc.

Differences from VW, ‘Honda e’

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are placed under the floor of the PF. Supporting middle-to-long distances, Honda aims at a drive range longer than 500km. As for the battery capacity, which is in the changeable area, it will be possible to remove battery modules, etc from the battery pack, according to the company. As a result, it becomes easier to offer vehicles that have a relatively short drive range and a low price.

As for procurement of motors and Li-ion batteries, Honda will use optimal products in accordance with region, Matsuo said. The company will use motors manufactured by Honda and a joint venture between Honda and Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd.

As suppliers of Li-ion battery cells, Honda added Panasonic Corp and China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) in addition to Blue Energy Co Ltd, which is invested in by Honda and GS Yuasa Corp. In North America, Honda will procure battery packs from General Motors Co. Expecting that its EVs will be sold mainly in China and the US, which have regulations, Honda focuses on those countries as suppliers.

Volkswagen AG (VW) is ahead of Honda in the development of PF dedicated to midsize EVs. VW’s PF is similar to Honda’s PF in that batteries are located under the floor and an RR structure is used. However, Matsuo claims that Honda can significantly differentiate its PF from VW’s PF.

VW plans to release 50 or more kinds of EVs based on a single PF by 2025. It will shorten development period by diminishing the changeable area of the PF and expanding the unchangeable area.

On the other hand, Honda’s new PF has a larger changeable area than VW’s PF, Matsuo said. Though the number of vehicle types will be smaller, compared with VW, the larger changeable area makes it easier to highlight the characteristics of vehicles.

As for the development of a small number of sophisticated vehicles, Matsuo said, “Our strength lies in the fact that we do not increase the number of vehicle types too much.”

Honda will release the “Honda e” compact EV in Europe in the second half of 2019. The capacity of its Li-ion battery is 35.5kWh, and its drive range is about 200km, which is relatively short and suited for commuting.

The new PF, which is for midsize EVs and expected to be used for C/D-segment vehicles, is different from the PF of the Honda e (B-segment vehicle) though they share some parts. It seems inefficient to have two PFs despite the policy of developing a small number of sophisticated vehicles, but it can be said that it is a result of considering the difference between Honda’s optimal solution and realistic solution.

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