Honda Needs a Technological 'Breakthrough' To Sell Cheap EVs, CEO Says

Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe wants to make an electric car for the masses—but he believes true affordability won’t be possible without a paradigm-shifting leap in EV tech. 

“If we want to create a car that is $30,000, I think we need something that is breakthrough,” Mibe told InsideEVs during a roundtable interview at CES on Tuesday, through a translator. “Of course I think we need a small car, an EV, in the coming future. We are trying to accelerate our research to that end.”

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America Needs Cheap EVs

The steep entry price for most of today’s electric options is keeping buyers hooked on gasoline. Expensive lithium-ion batteries are largely to blame. 

Honda would like to roll out a $30,000 EV for the U.S. market by “the very late 2020s,” said Shinji Aoyama, the company’s global executive vice president. 

The nagging problem there lies in the high cost of today’s lithium-ion batteries, Mibe said. The only way to make an EV affordable at present is to equip it with fewer batteries, thus reducing its range, he said. He questions what sort of value of that kind of vehicle would offer. 

“When you talk about an affordable EV, it’s very difficult to have a good business,” he said. 

Solid-state batteries, a technology that’s still experimental but that Honda and other companies are looking to bring to market, could be the breakthrough that paves the way for a $30,000 car, Mibe said. That new chemistry could slash battery costs while improving vehicle range and reducing the potential for fires, he said. 

“If we can do a good job with development, the benefit will be huge,” he said. 

Honda on Tuesday announced a new line of battery-powered models coming in 2026 that will rely on brand-new, in-house EV technology, and revealed two concepts that preview those future cars. The company aims to introduce solid-state batteries to that lineup by the late 2020s; it has not yet made announcements around projected costs. 

The high cost of today’s battery-powered models is among the most significant barriers to widespread adoption of cleaner vehicles, alongside worries about charging speed and availability. Although prices have declined over the years, there’s still a distinct lack of accessible EVs in the U.S. This is despite the fact that people clearly want more affordable EVs; Tesla’s two most lowest-priced models, especially after tax incentives, saw record sales globally in 2023. 

The $26,500 Chevrolet Bolt EV is a bright spot, but it’s taking a hiatus in 2024. Tesla, by far the dominant player in America’s electric market, has said it’s working on a $25,000 car, but that project hasn’t seen the light of day. American EV buyers shelled out some $52,000 on average for their cars in November, more than the going price for a combustion vehicle.

Up until late last year, Honda had been working with General Motors on an assortment of low-cost electric SUVs, the first of which were set to hit the market in 2027. In October, the automakers canceled the partnership, with Honda saying at the time that cheap EVs were a “difficult” business to make viable.