Lagging well behind rivals in the race to build electric cars, Honda may have now found a life preserver in Sony.
On Friday, the two Japanese giants announced an alliance that would finally offer Honda the chance to launch a competitive electric car in 2025 using the complementary expertise of Sony in consumer entertainment.
Sony, meanwhile, gets a competent automotive partner to help it launch an EV of its own and get a head start on Apple, which is rumored to be developing its own electric car. Ever since Apple’s iPod digital music player crushed Sony’s Discman CD player, Sony has largely lived off selling gaming consoles, led by its popular PlayStation.
In January, Sony announced plans to establish a new company in the spring called Sony Mobility to explore a commercial launch of its Vision-S concept electric cars.“Although Sony and Honda are companies that share many historical and cultural similarities, our areas of technological expertise are very different,” Honda Motor CEO Toshihiro Mibe said in a statement on Friday.
How exactly the partnership will work is uncertain. The two only signed a letter of intent and don’t even have a name for the joint venture—right now they’re going with “New Company.”
It’s also unclear whether the EVs they plan to build would be part of a ride-sharing service or for actual sale to retail customers. Finally it remains to be seen how the planned cars will be branded, although Mibe suggested it would be distinct from Honda’s eponymous brand.
But experts believe the duo need this marriage of convenience to work for their EV aspirations to stand a chance.
“Both are hoping this deal will allow them to rise up from the ashes like phoenixes,” said Matthias Schmidt, an independent auto analyst and publisher of a monthly report about Europe’s fast-growing EV market.
For years Honda has mistakenly preached the benefits of fuel-cell cars, which are powered by chemically converting compressed hydrogen gas into electricity, with water vapor as the only emission.
For more than 20 years, automotive engineers worldwide, and in Japan in particular, have tried to bring such cars to scale, only to fail time and again. Not only has the fueling infrastructure proved even spottier than EV chargers, the maturity of fuel-cell technology has badly lagged advances made in EV batteries.
With companies like Tesla, Volkswagen, GM, and now Ford throwing their collective weight behind EVs, other Japanese incumbents appear to have given up hopes fuel cells will ever find a market outside of replacing heavy-diesel long-haul trucks.
Sony’s Venture To Electric Vehicles
Sony and Honda are working toward the goal of launching their first EVs onto the market in 2025 by establishing a joint venture by the end of this year. While Honda will provide the hardware and safety elements for the vehicle itself, Sony will be responsible for developing the software and entertainment material that can be accessed in the car.
According to Nikkei, Kenichiro Yoshida, the President and CEO of Sony, “We shared the view that it is better to make the joint venture independent, in the long run, rather than putting it under Sony or Honda.”
Sony revealed last year that its long-term objective is to bring in one billion new customers for entertainment and other services directly tied to the corporation. The traditional consumer electronics division of the company is being eclipsed by the expansion of the company’s entertainment division.
In Sony’s most recent fiscal year, games and network services, movies, and music collectively accounted for 51% of the company’s overall sales, marking the first time that percentage exceeded 50%.
Unfortunately, the Sony CEO did not give further details about the current state of the partnership. He did, however, state that “I hope to be able to talk a little about it at some point in the near future.”
Lastly, Yoshida added that the company’s goal is to contribute to the growth of mobility by providing the framework for network functions. He cited the Aibo robotic dog and the PlayStation game console.
Honda’s EV Production
As Honda intensifies its push toward net zero carbon emissions, the company is investing a total of 5 trillion yen, which is equivalent to $40 billion, in the development of its electric vehicle technology over the course of the next decade. Honda’s budget for developing electric vehicle technology is included in the group’s wider budget of 8 trillion yen for research and development.
As reported by Engadget, by the year 2030, the company plans to have introduced a total of 30 different models of electric vehicles and will have produced more than 2 million environmentally friendly vehicles yearly.
It is not yet known how the partnership with Sony fits into those ambitions; nevertheless, Honda is far behind its competitors, and its only pure electric vehicle (EV) that is sold in the west is the specialized Honda E, which is exclusively available in Europe.
The rising demand for less polluting and more sustainable cars comes in response to the growing worries about climate change and has led to a scaling up of production of electric vehicles and hybrid cars by the world’s largest automakers.