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Honda CEO Confirms Japanese Carmakers Want Solid-State Cells to Go Electric

Toyota is frequently referred to as a company that wants to keep combustion engines alive. It would be against electrification despite selling the first hybrid in 1997. As people say, for every situation, there’s an easy explanation that is entirely wrong. In an interview with Automotive News, Honda’s CEO showed that pretty clearly. Like its rival, Toshihiro Mibe will wait for solid-state cells to start investing in electrification.
Honda Bets on Solid-State Cells, Will Make Do With Ultium Cells While It Waits 7 photos
Ultium Battery PackUltium Platform for the GMC Hummer EVHonda Bets on Solid-State Cells, Will Make Do With Ultium Cells While It WaitsUltium FactoryHonda Bets on Solid-State Cells, Will Make Do With Ultium Cells While It WaitsHonda Bets on Solid-State Cells, Will Make Do With Ultium Cells While It Waits
Nissan suggested almost the same thing when it disclosed its Ambition 2030 strategic plan. It already sells the LEAF, will put the Ariya in its dealership network in 2022, and announced it will invest 2 trillion yen ($17,617 billion) to bring to market 23 electrified models (15 of them pure electric vehicles) by 2030. However, it said that ASSB (all-solid-state batteries) would be critical to that plan: they are the ones that can bring production cost parity with ICE cars at $65/kWh.

Mibe was even more emphatic about that. The executive told Automotive News that Honda would have to invest “billions and billions” in its EV and battery plans. He said that Honda is now evaluating when it “can actually produce and launch all-solid-state batteries,” which would be “a game-changer.”

Investing in EVs right now would demand Honda put a lot of money into the current technology. Mibe fears that “production facilities can't be readily commonized between lithium-ion and solid-state batteries.” In other words, Honda does not want to invest in the wrong technology. Toyota wants to do the same.

A little further ahead in the interview, the Honda CEO said that he has “no intention of launching vehicles that don't provide the values that should come with an EV.” If you ask which those values are, Mibe talked about something that is “software-defined” and counts on “high capacity and highly safe batteries.” Guess which cells fit that description.

The problem is that Honda cannot wait to deliver new EVs. Toyota could – thanks to its much larger scale and funds – but gave up doing that with the bZ4X. To get there, Honda will make a partnership with GM in the U.S. The Prologue and another (still-unnamed) vehicle will be made over the GM’s Ultium platform. The maker of the Honda e expects to sell 70,000 of them in the first production year.

By using GM’s EV platform, Honda reduces the risk of investing in cells that it believes will soon be obsolete and saves all its firepower for when the correct cells are available. This is probably what Jim Hackett wanted to do when he was Ford’s CEO as well.

On World EV Day, we asked if we were doing it right. Japanese carmakers are saying we should wait. They’ll sell electric cars to people, mind you, but only because they have to. If they were a historic character, they’d be William Wallace screaming: “Hold!” Although that was possibly poetic license taken by Hollywood in “Braveheart,” the question that really matters is: will you?

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