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Aiming for All-Electric Future, Honda Debuts New EVs

Honda unveiled its new, battery-powered model line Tuesday at Las Vegas’ sprawling Consumer Electronics Show with two futuristic-looking concepts, the Saloon and Space-Hub.

(TNS) — Honda Motor Co., the U.S. market’s sixth best-selling automaker, has made its Civic, Accord and CR-V models household names.

Now, as it embarks on an all-electric future, the Japanese automaker hopes that “0 Series” will resonate as well.

Honda unveiled its new, battery-powered model line Tuesday at Las Vegas’s sprawling Consumer Electronics Show with two futuristic-looking concepts, the Saloon and Space-Hub. In contrast to the internal combustion engines in its existing lineup of cars, trucks and SUVs, the “0” (zero) is meant to represent zero emissions. Sitting on Honda’s in-house, skateboard battery platform, the two models share design elements like illuminated, cube-like front-and-rear fascias and cutting-edge steer-by-wire yoke steering wheels (debuted on the Tesla Cybertruck last year).

The 0 Series line appears to follow the EV offerings from other mainstream auto competitors like Hyundai Motor Co.’s Ioniq models, Kia Motors Corp.’s EV models and Volkswagen AG’s ID lineup of cars. Honda is bullish on an EV future (if not as bullish as General Motors Co.'s promise to sell only EVs by 2035). Come 2040, Honda says its sales will be EV and hydrogen alone. Honda established itself in the U.S. market as an affordable, enthusiasts' brand, but the sustainability-focused 0 Series appears to be an attempt to follow Tesla as an electric brand with a social conscience.

Like its main Japanese competitor, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda has not rushed into EVs as quickly as other automakers in part due to its sale of fuel-efficient models. Hybrids and sales of high-mpg models like Civic have helped it weather strict carbon dioxide emissions regulations that are becoming increasingly expensive for some automakers.

The American Automotive Policy Council, an industry trade group, predicts that U.S. emissions rules through 2032 will cost GM $6.5 billion in government fines, Stellantis $3 billion and Ford $1 billion due in part to their truck-heavy lineups. Volkswagen faces upwards of $1 billion in penalties, the most among foreign carmakers. As its electric lineup of ID.4, ID.7, and ID. Buzz come to the U.S., their sales should help reduce those fines.

While Tesla has dominated the EV market, sales of other electric model lines have been modest. The Ioniq 5 last year sold 33,918 units compared to 209,624 units by its gas-powered ICE counterpart, the Tucson. The electric VW ID.4 sold 28,031 units last year compared to 76,227 by its ICE Tiguan doppelganger. As regulatory agencies from D.C. to California increase penalties on gas car sales over the next decade, manufacturers expect EV sales numbers to increase.

Honda’s first EV, the Prologue, hits showrooms this spring and is a departure for a brand that has traditionally targeted budget conscious buyers with $25,000 Civics and $30,000 Accords. The Prologue is a $50k SUV aimed at upscale EV customers.

The Prologue is also a departure in that it is built on another automaker’s architecture — GM’s Ultium battery platform. The 0 Series will be built on all-new Honda battery platform that that Japanese automaker calls “thin, light and wise.” That mantra runs counter to the industry trend of heavy EVs. The GMC Hummer, for example, weighs nearly five tons, while the Chevy Blazer EV — with which the Prologue (and its sister Acura ZDX EV) shares its chassis — tips the scales at a porky 5,500 pounds.

“The mobility we dream of is not an extension of the trend of ‘thick, heavy, but smart’ EVs,” said Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe. “We will create a completely new value from zero based on thin, light and wise as the foundation for our new Honda 0 EV series to further advance the joy and freedom of mobility to the next level.”

The first 0 Series model will launch in the U.S. in 2026 and will be based on the Saloon concept, which looks like a Lamborghini supercar married a vehicle from the movie “Tron.” A global model line, 0 Series will also be sold in Japan, other Asian countries, Africa and the Middle East. The vehicle will also bear a new Honda logo which the brand calls its “H mark” and signals its U-turn to an all-electric future.

“We have gone back to basics and formulated the Honda 0 Series with a design for the new era,” said Global Executive Vice President Shinji Aoyama. “A bold and pure proportion that from the first glance is overwhelmingly different from other EVs to evoke a new perspective for people.”

For all the 0 Series’ newness, Honda says it wants EVs that carry on the brand’s tradition of nimble, fun-to-drive vehicles — a tradition rooted in its successful motorsports history. That principle will endure in a dedicated “thin” EV platform that creates a low center of gravity for aerodynamic performance, and in powerful, lightweight “e-Axles.”

Sensitive to Americans’ resistance to EVs due to their inferior range, refueling time and long-term battery degradation, Honda promises battery advancements on all fronts. It asserts its 0 Series cars will have high-density, long-range batteries able to fast-charge from 15% to 80% of battery capacity in 15 minutes while minimizing battery degradation to 10% after a decade of use.

The Saloon flagship aims to be sporty to drive while also sporting a roomy interior with its battery stored below the cabin. The Saloon appeals to green customers with environmentally-friendly materials while a video of the Saloon indicates rocket-like acceleration.

The Space-Hub appears to be a different animal designed for an autonomous age. Developed under the theme of “augmenting people's daily lives,” Space-Hub looks like a living room on wheels with bench seats facing each other in the second row. Thus the “hub” name, as the boxy vehicle accommodates multiple passengers similar to GM’s Origin autonomous vehicle.

The new Honda logo — which symbolizes two outstretched hands — is meant to represent the brand’s historic transition to a self-driving, electric future realizing “the possibilities of mobility.”

Similar to autonomous systems like Tesla's Autopilot and GM’s Super Cruise, Honda’s next-gen autonomous system will integrate artificial intelligence software, sensors and driver-monitoring cameras with a goal of safe, hands-free driving on both highways and city streets.

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