TOKYO—Honda's new CEO wants the company's U.S. lineup to be gasoline-free by 2040 as part of an ambitious new electrification plan that will lean on General Motors and solid-state batteries.
Toshihiro Mibe, who took office April 1, pitched the vision last week as a mission to derive all of Honda Motor Co.'s global auto sales solely from electric and fuel cell vehicles by 2040, just 19 years from now. The timeline makes Honda—a company that currently assembles only one EV model—the first Japanese auto maker to declare its aspiration to completely ditch the internal combustion engine.
Honda wants to achieve the goal in steps, first getting 40 percent of its sales in major markets from full- electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in 2030, then 80 percent in 2035 and all of them by 2040.
"The hurdles are quite high," acknowledged Mibe, who formerly was head of Honda's R&D division. "But I think we can get them. The fact that we have set targets clearly is the first step toward that goal."
The transformation won't be cheap. Honda said it expects to invest more than $46 billion in R&D over the next six years to make it possible.
But Honda's decision comes as competitors worldwide rush to roll out EVs to meet increasingly stringent emissions regulations. Boston Consulting Group forecast in a study released this month that zero-emission technologies will replace internal combustion engines "as the dominant powertrain" for new light-vehicle sales globally just after 2035.
The consultancy said about 92 percent of light vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2020 were powered solely by gasoline or diesel engines. But it projects that number will fall to just 2 percent in 2035.
Honda, a company that helped pioneer gasoline-electric hybrid technology, currently makes just one EV nameplate, the low-volume subcompact E hatchback, and it is available only in Japan and Europe. On the eve of last week's Shanghai auto show, Honda showed its SUV e:Prototype, a full-electric crossover that will go on sale in China next year.
In a previous strategy, Honda had wanted to derive two-thirds of its global volume from standard hybrids, plug-ins, battery-electrics and fuel cell vehicles by 2030. But that target leaned heavily on traditional gasoline-electric hybrids. The new vision aims to have 40 percent of its sales in major markets be full-electric and fuel cell vehicles by that year.
North America figures prominently in Honda's electrification plan, even though today the Honda brand sells only a handful of hybrid vehicles there, including the CR-V, Accord and Insight.