The slow drip of information about the new electric SUVs coming from the Honda and Acura brands continues with this latest droplet from the information faucet: the higher-volume Honda model will bear the name Prologue.
The 2024 Honda Prologue is due to arrive in 2024, and its name signifies its role as the forerunner of a series of new, high-volume, battery electric vehicles from the Japanese brand. This includes a luxury, performance SUV for Acura, which is also slated to go on sale in 2024. No name for the Acura has been revealed yet.
Call the GM
Both the Honda Prologue and its Acura counterpart, as well as the two vehicles’ battery systems, are being developed in partnership with General Motors. The two SUVs will use GM’s flexible BEV3 electric vehicle architecture and Ultium battery management system—the same system used in the likes of the forthcoming 2022 GMC Hummer EV full-size pickup, the 2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV, the Chevrolet Silverado electric pickup truck, the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq SUV, and the Cadillac Celestiq sedan, not to mention a number of other future GM EV models.
The point of all this sharing is to create scale, which brings down the costs of various EV components, including batteries, for both GM and Honda. Co-development also means shared costs, and the Honda and Acura SUVs will be built in a GM plant in North America that’s specifically tooled for EV production. This ought to further spread out and lower manufacturing costs. The Prologue is rumored to be built at GM’s Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico, while the Acura EV will come out of GM’s Spring Hill plant in Tennessee, which is currently being retooled to make EVs such as the Cadillac Lyriq.
Same Bones, Different Looks
Despite sharing many mechanical pieces, both GM’s and Honda’s EVs will look very different. The styling of the bodies and interiors of these vehicles will come from each automakers’ respective design studio. We’ve been told the upcoming Honda Prologue was designed at Honda’s design studio in Los Angeles to meet the expectations of North American customers.
There are few details about these upcoming North American-focused Honda and Acura electric SUVs. Both could be larger, three-row family utility vehicles that are specific to the North American market or the two could be smaller models aimed at tapping into several markets. Gardner only noted that the Prologue is designed to be highly competitive, with the functionality required to meet diverse needs.
Anticipated annual sales volume is expected to fall somewhere between the Honda Passport mid-size SUV, of which 22,000 units have sold through May 2021 in the United States, and the three-row Honda Pilot SUV, of which Honda sold 62,000 such models in the first five months of the year. The Honda and Acura models are being designed to stay true to each brands’ respective DNA: mainstream for Honda, performance for Acura.
Honda Plans to Make Its Own EVs and Batteries
The Honda Prologue and its still-unnamed Acura counterpart will use GM’s flexible EV architecture, but Honda plans to launch a new series of EV models in the second half of the decade based on its own, forthcoming, “e:Architecture”.
To be profitable, Honda knows it also needs to make its own batteries in North America. “Other markets around the world have a more robust battery production industry and that has to happen here in North America to go forward to achieve the goals of hitting the volumes that everybody is looking to do,” Gardner said. He declined to provide a timeframe.
Honda is doing its own independent research on solid-state batteries. The industry is pursuing solid-state batteries for the technology’s ability to provide a greater driving range, as well as its reduced costs. Honda will have a “demonstration line” to begin testing the tech this fiscal year as it aims to make solid-state batteries available by the end of the decade.
Honda’s EV History
Honda is a bit of a laggard in the battery electric vehicle game, choosing to rely on its two-motor hybrid system for electrification instead. The Japanese carmaker lacks a dedicated electric vehicle for the North American market. Past EVs, including the Fit EV, the FCX Clarity fuel cell sedan, and the latest Clarity EV, have all been discontinued in the U.S.
Honda may be a leader in efficient vehicles with internal combustion engines (and its history with electric vehicles dates back decades), but the automaker has not been perceived as an EV leader in recent years, Gardner admitted.
Honda’s New Global Electric Vehicle Targets
Now the automaker is playing catchup with a pledge by Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe to become carbon neutral by 2050. In major markets, including North America, the target is for BEV or fuel cell electric vehicles to account for 40 percent of sales by 2030; 80 percent by 2035; and 100 percent by 2040.
Gardner would not say how much Honda is investing in EVs other than to note R&D spending for the next six years will be 10 percent higher than in previous years.
In the near term, Honda’s strategy is to introduce a higher percentage of gasoline-electric hybrids in its model mix.
“We know people who have a good experience with a hybrid are likely to buy a BEV,” Gardner said. Building more hybrids in North America will help Honda prepare to make EVs in the future. Currently, Honda builds the Accord, CR-V, and Insight hybrids in the U.S. Gardner would not share if Honda will join the electric pickup craze by adding electric motors and a battery pack to the Ridgeline pickup.
Fuel Cell and Autonomous Vehicle Work Continues
Honda’s larger EV strategy includes continuing to work with GM on fuel cells. Honda has also been working in partnership with GM and its autonomous vehicle brand Cruise since 2018. Cruise is preparing to launch the Cruise Origin robotaxi. The Japanese automaker will use the bones of the Origin for its own autonomous vehicle, which will feature a body and interior designed by Honda.
Honda also announced a joint venture with Hitachi to make electric motors. Some Honda and Hitachi suppliers have merged to develop components for EVs and automated vehicles. In China, Honda formed an alliance with Chinese battery maker CATL, and the first CATL batteries will go into a Chinese-market electric vehicle next year.
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