Honda and General Motors are already working together on hydrogen fuel cell technology. Now, they are prepared to expand their working relationship to focus also on plug-in hybrid cars. While EV enthusiasts decline to recognize plug-ins as real electric cars, most manufacturers see them as the bridge between the conventional cars of today and the zero emissions battery electric cars of the future. The International Energy Agency estimates that plug-in hybrids will account for 5% of new car sales worldwide in 2020. It expects that number to rise to 35% in 2050, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Plug-ins avoid many of the problems restricting the growth of the electric car market at present. Range anxiety is eliminated. If the battery is completely depleted, the onboard engine simply takes over. They have smaller batteries than fully electric vehicles, which means they can sell for thousands less than true electric vehicles. The best example is the Chevy Bolt, which will cost $37,500 and have a maximum range of 200 miles. Chevy’s plug-in hybrid, the Volt, is a larger car that sells for $4,500 less but can travel more than 300 miles before needing to stop for fuel.
According to Japan News, the partnership will help each company bring plug-in hybrid models to market sooner than they could if they worked individually. It will also help them negotiate more favorable prices from suppliers, who will be anxious to sharpen their pencils in order to sell more of their products.
Honda expected to introduce its own plug-in hybrid in America in 2018, but believes by working with GM it can move that project forward a year. There is also the possibility that GM and Honda may decide to build plug-in and fuel cell cars together, much as GM built cars together with Toyota for many years. For its part, General Motors expects the collaboration with Honda will help it compete more effectively with Toyota.
Honda is believed to be ahead of General Motors in fuel cell technology, but GM is thought to be ahead of Honda in plug-in hybrid systems. Let’s hope this joint working relationship turns out better for Honda than its ill-fated collaboration with Ford, which ended badly for Honda.