Originally published on Gas2.
Can you believe that people get paid bazillions of dollars to take perfectly good companies and run them into the ground? Ford’s recently departed CEO, Mark Fields, refused to wake up and smell the EV coffee percolating right under his nose. Honda, once a beacon of innovation, has been off chasing hydrogen-tinged rainbows for the past 10 years or so and paid little attention to the battery-electric market market.
Honda’s green car cred has been severely damaged by such automotive disasters as the Civic Hybrid, the second-generation Insight, and the godawful CR-Z. Yes, it’s latest Accord plug-in hybrid is a pretty good car, but in general, Honda has allowed the EV market to pass right by its door with hardly a sniff of serious interest.
All that is about to change, according to Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo, who announced the company’s Vision 2030 strategy on June 7. “We’re going to place utmost priority on electrification and advanced safety technologies going forward.”
The plan involves improving coordination between its research and development department, procurement team, and manufacturing facilities to reduce costs. Honda has budgeted nearly $7 billion for R&D this fiscal year. Hachigo claims his company will have a vehicle capable of driving itself on the highway (Level 3) by 2020 and in city traffic (Level 4).
Hachigo says the company’s focus is now on the EV market, with the emphasis on electric and self-driving cars. New driving technologies, AI, and new energy systems will all be part of the Vision 2030 program. But the hydrogen bubble has not burst completely at Honda. When Hachigo talks about electric cars, he is including plug-in hybrids, fully electric cars, and fuel cell–powered cars like the Honda Clarity.
There are reports that Honda is working on translating the 1000 horsepower four-motor electric powertrain used in last year’s NSX Pikes Peak challenger for use in a production car. A source tells Auto Express, “We are developing new technologies, we want to apply the system to electric vehicles — high power and high response motors, we are researching and developing.”
So Honda may in fact have its head in the EV game after all. Let’s hope it has not let itself get too far behind. Some legacy carmakers are definitely going to fall by the wayside as the world transitions to electric cars. It’s weird to think that once mighty Honda could be one of them.
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