Honda's Midwest manufacturing plants begin EV conversion

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Business News

“Internally at Honda, we talk about the Second Founding of Honda as a reset — a switching of our mind about embracing electric vehicles and making sure every associate has an opportunity to contribute to a fundamental change in Honda from an engine company to an electrified company,” John Hwang, product development leader for the Prologue EV, told The Detroit News this spring.

It’s a significant change for a company synonymous with some of the world’s best internal combustion engines — including the Honda engine in Max Verstappen’s Formula One-dominating Red Bull race car.

As part of its EV Hub, Honda’s Anna, Ohio, plant — which makes internal combustion engines — will convert to producing the Intelligent Power Unit containing the EV battery module serving as the main frame structure for the floor of Honda EVs produced in Maryville and (eventually) East Liberty, Ohio. The East Liberty plant makes the brand’s most popular vehicle, the ICE-powered CR-V.

Anna has been an ICE powerhouse for the company, producing everything from engines to transmissions, camshafts, crankshafts and other components.

While Honda is importing from Mexico its first EV, the Prologue (and sister Acura TDX), built on GM’s battery skateboard platform — the Japanese automaker has made it known it wants a lighter architecture. The Prologue weighs 5,500 pounds on a platform application meant for everything from small SUVs to 9,000-pound GMC Hummer pickups.

To that end, Anna is building a platform Honda calls “thin, light and wise.” It will be made with six, 6,000-ton high-pressure die cast machines standing over 31 feet tall — the biggest die-cast part Honda has ever made. To create space for IPU production, Anna transferred some ICE production to its Alabama Auto Plant.

Honda’s investment comes as the United Auto Workers union is ramping up a campaign to organize Honda workers — and other nonunion foreign transplants across the county. Honda emphasized that its Ohio EV Hub is an investment in American jobs as well at a time when many manufacturers are producing EVs in Mexico and China to cut costs.


"The establishment of our EV Hub is not simply an investment in retooling and equipment, we are investing in the Honda associates who will be taking on new responsibilities to lead us into the electrified future," said Nelson.

Honda’s culture prides itself on meeting engineering challenges and the company says its all-EV goal is not influenced by California government mandates that ban gas car sales by 20235. Indeed, Honda has said the state’s goals are unrealistic and has stayed firm about its internal 2040 goal.

“Honda philosophically has always been about protecting the environment … with the products we make,” Hwang told The News. “Our timeline is 2040 in North America to be fully zero carbon.”

Governments may press that commitment, with Simon Stiell, chief of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, emphasizing this week that the world has only two years to meet zero-carbon emissions goals and "save the world." With Honda EV production not ramping up until 2026, that goal is a challenge.

In addition to retooling Honda plants, the company with LG began construction this winter on the new, joint-venture, 2 million-square feet EV battery facility. That facility is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, with an annual capacity of about 40 GWh.

About two-thirds of Honda/Acuras sold in the United States are made here. The company employs 23,000 people across a dozen manufacturing plants.

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