Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe considers “billions and billions” of new investments to make it happen


Q: Why did Honda become the first Japanese automaker to commit to zero emissions?

A: Honda has a long history of dealing with the challenge of social issues. The CVCC engine was one of them, as well as the California SULEV. We were the first to launch such products in the world. Now the thing we need to tackle is global warming. We supply around 30 million units of motor-equipped products to the world market. So this is something Honda absolutely must do. And that’s the first thing that came to mind.

Honda is famous for its engines. How can Is he giving up all that brand equity and expertise?

The question is, can we achieve carbon neutrality just by hanging on to our existing engines? If we could, that would be good. But this is not a realistic solution. What we really want to do is achieve carbon neutrality. The best asset we have are not the engines themselves, but the human resources that built those engines.

This is what we cherish the most. The people who produced the current engines are being reassigned to fuel cells or solid-state batteries, etc. The human resources that have produced the engines will only have to change direction. And with that, we think we’ll definitely be able to lead the world in these technologies as well. This is a necessary decision to ensure that Honda exists in a sustainable way in the future.

What is the neutral carbon footprint and electric vehicle strategy for North America?

In North America, we believe there is a rush for electrification, especially after Mr. Biden came to power. But it will still take time. So we don’t want to put too much effort into it at the moment and exhaust ourselves. We are still at the initial stage.

At this point, I don’t think we should be doing it alone. We should team up with partners like General Motors and then build up to a certain volume to ensure commercial feasibility. This is the strategy we have for the initial period in North America. Once we reach a certain volume, we will consider rolling out Honda Genuine Products. And not just EV products. We will probably expand our investment in areas related to electric vehicles and expand into businesses surrounding electric vehicles. As a first step for North America, you might think it’s not that productive, but for now, teaming up with GM is the best solution.

When will Honda announce more details on the North American plan?

For the first phase, we are working with GM. And from model year 2024, we will be releasing the Honda Prologue and another model under Acura. Beyond that maybe I can say something about it early next year. And that would probably not just be about the products, but also our battery strategies and things like that.

How much will Honda have to invest in its EV and battery plan?

Right now all I can say is billions and billions. We’re still thinking about when we can actually produce and launch all the solid-state batteries, which we hope will be a game-changer. Of course, we already have liquid lithium-ion batteries. If we invest too much, we believe that production facilities cannot be easily shared between lithium-ion batteries and solid-state batteries. You have to think about balance. This will probably happen in the late 2020s, so we have to think long term and figure out when is the best time for this investment of billions and billions.

What is the status of Honda’s solid-state battery development?

We will probably build a pilot line by next year. We will monitor the operation of the pilot line. But we still have to assess when the switch to solid-state batteries might take place. That’s why I still can’t find clear numbers.

It is therefore a question of withholding large expenses until the solid state is ready. and rely on GM in the meantime?

Regarding our material strategy, yes. But when it comes to EVs, it’s not enough to just talk about the product. We have to provide all the values ​​that come with the electric vehicles, as well as the software-defined and connected part. And we have developed and worked on these aspects.

Ultimately, when we can deliver high capacity and highly safe batteries, the batteries and the platform for those cells will be radically different and improve our competitiveness. This is where we should be able to differentiate ourselves. I don’t intend to launch vehicles that don’t deliver the values ​​that should accompany an EV.

How many gigawatt hours of battery power Does Honda need, say, in 2030 or 2040?

If you look at the absolute numbers of our vehicles, for advanced markets we say 40 percent [EV] by 2030. So if you do the math rigorously, you should be able to hit the gigawatt numbers. But I don’t think we can just replace the current internal combustion engines with new technology. This is not what we are aiming for.

We have to change the business model itself. Thus, the values ​​of the new mobility will be at the very top. And these are the values ​​provided by the software. And under it will be a platform which consists of these services provided by software. And then below you will have the hardware to support those platforms.

In general, the absolute number of vehicles can decrease because of the sharing activity and things like that. I don’t think we can maintain the absolute number of vehicles there. If we take the current volume of vehicles as a basis, it is not that we are going to devote all of our efforts to maintaining the absolute number. We absolutely need to change the current automotive business model itself. This is why we do not publish a quantified target.

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