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Honda to launch first mass-produced electric car in October

Nissan and Toyota also plan new EV rollouts, anticipating market growth

The Honda e is less than 4 meters long and can travel 300 km on a single charge.

TOKYO -- Honda Motor will roll out in October its first mass-produced electric vehicle in Japan, the Honda e, the company said on Thursday.

The EV will go on sale on October 30 at a retail price of about 4.5 million yen ($42,000). Honda aims to sell the compact car, which is fitted with cameras instead of door mirrors, mainly to urban consumers.

Honda e can travel 300 km on a single charge. It is shorter compared to competitors' EVs, as the automaker prioritized compactness, forcing it to reduce the size and capacity of the battery. The car is less than 4 meters long.

The compact EV is also equipped with a new parking system designed for use in narrow spaces. Tomofumi Ichinose, Honda's senior chief engineer, says that "Its smallness is a big attraction," noting that it will be easy to use in crowded urban areas.

Door mirrors on both sides of the car have been removed so that the rear of the car can be seen on a screen inside through a camera. Honda claims that the display images will be clear even in the rain. The car has a digital dashboard, comprised of five screens arranged horizontally, to ensure natural vision for the driver.

Other big Japanese carmakers are accelerating their EV rollouts. Nissan Motor has unveiled a new electric car, the Ariya, in July as part of an overhaul of its lineup and strategy. It is the first all-electric crossover SUV from the automaker and will go on sale next year.

Toyota Motor launched its first EV from its Lexus luxury brand in China this spring. The car will hit showrooms in Europe in summer and in Japan in the first half of 2021. Mazda will also introduce its first mass-produced EV in Europe by the end of the year, followed by a launch in Japan.

According to U.K.-based research company LMC Automotive, total global sales of EVs reached 1.67 million units in 2019. As Europe and other countries tighten environmental regulations, sales of EVs are expected to grow nine times the amount over last year to about 15.3 million units in 2030. Japanese carmakers have taken note of the EV market's expected growth.

Honda e's domestic price is lower than that of rivals. Nissan's Ariya EV priced at about 5 million yen, while Tesla's Model 3 is about the same price.

The car will be marketed as an eco-friendly vehicle, including in Europe, which already began selling the Honda e this summer. In Japan, Honda plans to sell 1,000 units in the first year, with a combined domestic and European sales target of 10,000 units.

Honda aims to have EVs and hybrids comprise two-thirds of its vehicles sold worldwide by 2030. It has already sold EVs in China but Honda e is considered the company's first EV to be deployed globally.

How well Honda e can fare against other rivals such as Tesla will likely influence the company's future in the EV market.

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