TOKYO -- Honda Motor is looking to save money on developing and manufacturing green vehicles by having them share the same undercarriage.
The automaker has scheduled a 2018 launch in Japan, the U.S. and Europe for its new electric vehicle and its plug-in hybrid. Both models will use the same undercarriage as the new fuel cell model set to be released next March. Smaller fuel cells enable the powertrain for the hydrogen-powered car to be stored in the front, and it has a cruising range of over 700km on a full tank, beating Toyota Motor's Mirai by at least 50km. The car is expected to sell for 7.66 million yen ($62,807).
The carmaker will first make the three models in small quantities at the Automobile R&D Center run by subsidiary Honda R&D. Starting in 2018, the cars will be mass-produced at the main Sayama Plant near Tokyo. The company will initially make around 400 fuel cell vehicles annually, bumping the number up to roughly 1,500 units in 2020, when Honda will also make upwards of 35,000 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. The company plans to export around 70% of the vehicles to the U.S.
While the three models will have the same chassis, their distinguishing features will be the power source, such as high-capacity batteries for electric vehicles and fuel cells for hydrogen-powered cars. The setup will allow the green vehicles to be made on the same production lines, a boon for both manufacturing and development.
Though the Honda fuel-cell vehicle is set to cost over 400,000 yen more than the Mirai, the Toyota vehicle houses the power generating unit at the bottom of car, which requires a special chassis. By standardizing the undercarriage, Honda can keep down expenses for the different green vehicles and raise cost competitiveness.
The Toyota Prius has already swept the green car market with its reasonable price in the 2 million yen range. Though fuel-cell cars can currently be purchased for around 5 million yen when government subsidies and other incentives are applied, the sticker shock may still prevent their spread. Along with the appropriate infrastructure, lower development and production costs might be necessary before the next-generation green vehicles become the new kings of the road.
Honda already makes an electric version of the Fit and a plug-in hybrid Accord, but only in limited numbers which are sold in selected areas.