Update: ‘New brand’ section updated.
In October 2021, Honda announced the launch of ten ‘e:N Series’ electric cars in China between 2022 and 2026. The company also said that it is planning to launch e:N Series models globally.
So far, Honda has announced two production models and three concept models under the e:N Series range. One of the concept EVs, called Honda e:N SUV, could evolve into a large SUV like the Hyundai Ioniq 7 or VW ID.6. This concept celebrated its world debut at the 2021 Guangzhou Auto Show.
The Honda e:N SUV concept is a design study and feels quite far from production. The concept model has sharp and straight body lines, flat surfaces, thin lights, a concave nose, wedge-shaped DLO, and extremely raked A- and C-pillars. The concave-shaped nose section and the intense front light design lead to a dominating appearance at the front. The combination of low height and huge wheels gives it a robust stance. The sci-fi looks continue at the rear with the bizarre light design and the unusual concave tail section.
It might be ten Honda e:N Series models that make it to the market, but some of them would be duplicates with a different name and a modified design. Honda operates via two joint ventures in China – Dongfeng Honda and Guangqi Honda (GAC Honda) – and it launches the same car under different names, so the JV companies may target different age groups or geographies.
The latest model in the dual-purpose strategy is the Honda HR-V based EV, called Honda e:NS1 at Dongfeng Honda and Honda e:NP1 at Guangqi Honda. Likewise, the Fit, Accord, CR-V, and Odyssey have two versions in China. Similarly, the Honda e:N SUV concept-derived production model could come in different avatars.
The Honda e:N SUV concept’s production vehicle may offer comfortable seating for up to seven people. With China’s new three-child policy, the potential for large electric SUVs with flexible seating looks strong. Honda will likely develop such a model on the new e:N Architecture W platform, which allows single-motor RWD and dual-motor AWD configurations.
Next Honda e:N EVs
While the HR-V-based e:NS1 and e:NP1 will go on sale in China by mid-2022, the next two e:N models will debut in their respective concept versions at Auto China 2022, as per a report from Nikkei. They could be production-oriented vehicles inspired by the Honda e:N SUV, as discussed in this story. Now that Auto China 2022 has been postponed, Honda may wait for the new dates or conduct a private unveil.
Katsushi Inoue has told the Japanese publication that the next five years will be a make or break for Honda in China. Inoue is the company’s chief officer for regional operations. Falling behind in electrification compared to rivals in China could also mean losing the competitive edge globally. Honda’s EVs so far have failed to capture the attention of Chinese customers. In 2021, sales totaled just 10,000 EVs, in the world’s largest EV market. A duo of large electric SUVs could just be what the company needs for a turnaround, offering volumes and decent margin.
Honda has said that both auto joint ventures in China will construct EV production plants and start the rollout in 2024. According to the Nikkei report, the combined annual production capacity of these factories will be 240,000 units. Batteries for the e:N Series models will come from Chinese supplier CATL. The company has said that it “envisions” exporting these models manufactured in China.
Honda announces new dedicated EV plant for China
On January 6, 2022, Honda confirmed that it will establish a 630,000 square-meter production facility dedicated to manufacturing EVs to expand its lineup. It will be located in the Wuhan Economic Development Zone in Hubei Province in China. This facility will be set up by Dongfeng Honda Automobile Co. Ltd., with a basic annual production capacity of 120,000 units. The production is set to commence in 2024. This factory is most likely one of the two EV production sites mentioned above.
Honda claims that the manufacturing unit is designed to be capable of start-to-finish EV production. This includes processes like stamping, welding, painting, assembly and complete vehicle inspection with an industry-leading level of automation. Honda also mentions that this establishment will proactively pursue sustainability initiatives like the use of renewable energy, recycled water and other such methods to ensure low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) emissions resulting in reduced pollution. One possibility is that the large SUV would roll out of the Hubei plant around 2025.
The Guangqi Honda joint venture has announced e:NP as its new sub-brand of electric vehicles. The first model under the sub-brand is the Honda e:NP1, a HR-V-sized small SUV. The large SUV inspired by the e:N SUV concept will get a similar alphanumeric name. Guangqi Honda plans to launch one e:NP EV every year by 2025, and the JV currently offers EVs like the EA6 (compact EV), and VE-1 (small SUV) in China.
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