Honda Took Pride in Doing Everything Itself. The Cost of Technology Made That Impossible.

The car maker outsources key tech for electric vehicles and autonomous driving to fight high R&D costs

Honda once used staff technicians to design new technologies ranging from engines to the shape of the suspension arms. Today, Honda believes rapid shifts in technology mean it can no longer afford to keep pace working solely on its own.

That is raising hackles among some within the company who complain about “PowerPoint engineering”—where engineers assemble slides showing how they will patch together others’ technology rather than build it themselves.

.. Car makers around the world are under stress from the huge investments needed to develop new technologies used in electric vehiclesand autonomous driving. To trim costs, most are leaning on megasuppliers such as Bosch, Continental AG and Denso Corp. , as well as smaller companies with cutting-edge technology such as IntelCorp. subsidiary Mobileye.

.. Honda, which prides itself above all on its engines, is farming out the development of an electric motor. Hitachi Ltd.’s auto-parts division has the majority stake in a joint venture with Honda that will make electric motors for Honda cars by March 2021. By 2030, two-thirds of its cars will be partially or fully electric

.. Honda also said it would buy electric-car batteries from General Motors Co.

Want a Car That Goes Crazy Fast? Go Electric

With luxury auto makers—from Porsche to Aston Martin—poised to release electric sports cars that upend earnest eco-clichés, going green will soon entail going startlingly fast

“What is often forgotten is the current drive to EVs was initiated by Nissan, Mitsubishi [the i-MiEV] and Tesla,” said Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer, who championed the Leaf program when he was a vice president of Nissan. “Without all three and VW’s Dieselgate, we would not be seeing this revolution.”

But having been more or less obliged to build such cars, auto makers still face the challenge of making them desirable and status-bearing. It’s comforting somehow that this part of the auto industry, at least, has not changed: You have to sell the sizzle with the steak.

.. With its 800-volt charging technology, the Mission E is targeting more than 300 miles of range and a 15-minute quick-charge good for 250 miles. Also: 600 hp, all-wheel drive, and 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, if that does anything for you.

.. If you are wondering how eco-weenie mobiles got so mega, the simple answer is bigger, badder batteries and the systems that manage, support and cool them. The average specific-energy and power density of lithium-ion batteries has been rising steadily for the past decade. As they do, they allow more energy to be put in the bottle (to go farther) and widen the bottle’s mouth so more energy comes out at once (to go faster).

.. By virtue of a comparatively lower center of gravity, EVs tend to corner flatter and harder without body roll. EVs also put torque to the ground more efficiently. Unlike conventional traction-control systems, an e-motor’s twist can be modulated hundreds of times a second, exploiting all available adhesion between tire and surface without spinning.

.. For driving enthusiasts there is also a little game-changer ahead called independent torque vectoring. By virtue of their compactness, EV motors can be arrayed at all four wheels, allowing each to work independently and cooperatively, speeding up or slowing down to help the car in extreme maneuvering. As the driver heads for a corner, the inside front wheel slows, or even drags, the outside tire pushes harder, the rear wheels do the same, and the directional power actually bends the car’s path through the turn.

.. “I would contest that with or without legislation, we would be investing in EVs,” said Mr. Palmer of Aston Martin. The design opportunity “has got both our engineers and designers excited.”

.. But is faster always better? “The power of an EV powertrain is not in question,” said Mr. Palmer. “The biggest step change is how it feels for the driver (and passengers) versus an internal combustion engine. Although we as a brand are loved for the sound of our engines, we don’t see any issue with the sound of silence.”

..  2018 Audi e-tron Quattro, a mid-size SUV with a 95-kWh battery, nominal range of 310 miles, and 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Porsche has indicated it too will offer an EV crossover, Macan-sized, on the VW Group’s new dedicated architecture.

Electric Cars Are the Future? Not So Fast

Though they’re no longer ugly, impossibly expensive and impractical, electric vehicles need to out-innovate fossil fuels if they are ever to displace the internal combustion engine

at the current battery cost of $270 per kwh, oil would have to cost more than $300 a barrel​ (in 2020 dollars) to make electric and gasoline equally attractive. If battery costs fall to $100, as Tesla Founder Elon Musk has targeted, oil would have to average $90.

..  an optimistic scenario, where battery costs fall 10% a year starting now and gasoline begins at $5 a gallon, electric vehicles will be competitive in five years. If battery costs fall just 5% a year and gasoline starts at $2.25, it will take more than 20.
.. Electric vehicles are meant to be recharged at night. Economists Joshua Graff  Zivin, Matthew Kotchen  and Erin Mansur note in a 2014 article in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization that night is when electricity is most likely to come from burning coal. They estimate electric vehicles account for more carbon dioxide per mile than existing cars in the upper Midwest, where coal-fired plants are more prevalent, and more than comparable hybrids in most of the country.
.. Yet they may not be the most efficient way to combat carbon emissions. A carbon tax, for example, would incentivize conservation and alternative fuels regardless of oil prices.

When Will Electric Cars Go Mainstream? It May Be Sooner Than You Think

Between 2025 and 2030, the group predicts, plug-in vehicles will become cost competitive with traditional petroleum-powered cars, even without subsidies, and even before taking fuel savings into account. Once that happens, mass adoption should quickly follow.

.. Exxon Mobil, which is studying the threat that electric cars could pose to its business model, still expects that plug-in vehicle sales will grow slowly, to just 10 percent of new sales in the United States by 2040, with little impact on global oil use. The federal Energy Information Administration projects a similarly sluggish uptake.

.. The Bloomberg forecast is far more aggressive, projecting that plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles will make up 54 percent of new light-duty sales globally by 2040

.. Since 2010, the average cost of lithium-ion battery packs has plunged by more than one third, to around $300 per kilowatt-hour. The Bloomberg report sees that falling to $73 by 2030 without any significant technological breakthroughs, as companies like Tesla increase battery production in massive factories, optimize the design of battery packs and improve chemistries.

.. Charging infrastructure is another potential barrier. Although cities are starting to build thousands of public charging stations — and Tesla is working on reducing the time it takes to power a depleted battery — it still takes longer to charge an electric vehicle than it does to refuel a conventional car at the pump.

.. Many owners charge their cars overnight in their garages, but that is much harder for people living in cities who park their cars on the street.

As a result, the Bloomberg report warns that plug-in vehicles may have a difficult time making inroads in dense urban areas, and that infrastructure bottlenecks may slow the growth of electric vehicles after 2040.

.. Car dealerships also remain reluctant to display and sell electric models, which often require less maintenance and are less profitable for their service departments. Surveys have found that salespeople are often unprepared to pitch the cars.

.. The International Energy Agency has estimated that electric vehicles would have to account for at least 40 percent of passenger vehicle sales by 2040 for the world to have a chance of meeting the climate goals outlined in the Paris agreement, keeping total global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.