Acura plunges into the EV space with GM as a collaborator

Acura’s first EV, the ZDX, debuted as a concept car almost exactly a year ago. As of last week, the ZDX is a reality, with deliveries expected for early next year. Acura plans to boost adoption as quickly as possible to support the ZDX and the rest of its EV dreams, and it has some ambitious plans to make it happen, with billions of dollars invested in the future. 

Starting at $60,000, the 2024 Acura ZDX includes an estimated 325 miles of range for the single-motor rear-wheel-drive version. ZDXs with all-wheel drive are expected to have a range of 315 miles, and the Type S should have 288 miles of all-electric range and 500 horsepower to boot. Acura says the new SUV can tow up to 3,500 pounds with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. 

As Honda’s luxury arm, Acura will likely produce a vehicle with high-quality materials and an elegant layout inside the cabin, including a space below the console for storage since the ZDX doesn’t require a transmission tunnel. Beyond just the ZDX, take a look at the automaker’s multi-faceted plan for the battery development, charging infrastructure, and more. 

Betting on batteries—and more

Acura’s new ZDX is built on GM’s Ultium battery platform, a flexible and modular system used for GMC’s Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq SUV (in fact, the exterior dimensions of the ZDX mirror the Lyriq’s). As such, Acura’s near future is tied closely to GM’s for charging protocols. 

When GM switches to Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS), the ZDX will as well, between 2025 and 2026, executive vice president of Honda Motor Company Shinji Aoyama said during an interview along with Jay Joseph, American Honda’s vice president of sustainability and business development, and American Honda Motor Company president and CEO, Noriya Kaihara.

Honda is investing heavily in battery infrastructure, development, and manufacturing with its new EV battery facility, a joint venture with LG Energy Solutions. This $3.5 million collaboration in Jeffersonville, Ohio is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

In the meantime, Aoyama says Acura will start a pilot production of solid-state batteries. Touted as safer, denser, and less susceptible to temperature changes, these types of batteries can pack more power into a smaller footprint. In turn, that will affect the size and shape of future vehicles as well as overall range. However, battery size alone doesn’t help the overall adoption rate, Joseph asserted during the sit-down with PopSci.

“The antidote to range anxiety isn’t bigger batteries. It’s improving the charging infrastructure,” Joseph says.

Acura recognizes that the typically-heavy nature of EVs is a crucial area to research. Currently, EVs weigh a minimum of 4,000 pounds, Aoyama says, but he sees change going forward. That could be addressed through the use of different materials, disparate structures, denser batteries, or all of the above. 

Improving the charging infrastructure

In July, Acura announced it would join Honda, BMW Group, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis (the automaker behind Dodge, Ram, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, and others) to create a new charging network joint venture. Together, the consortium plans to build 30,000 EV fast-charging stations across the United States and Canada, using both Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) and Combined Charging System (CCS).

“A whole bunch of [battery-electric vehicles] have come to the market in a very short time,” says Joseph. “The trend is quite clear: people are moving to BEVs in the same way that people have moved to SUVs over passenger cars.”

This is on the heels of Ford’s surprise proclamation in May that it had entered an agreement with Tesla to allow current Ford EV owners to use Tesla Superchargers across the US and Canada starting in 2024. Also, Ford CEO Jim Farley promised the automaker’s next generation of EVs will include Tesla’s charging plug. GM, Rivian, and Volvo quickly followed suit.

Acura says it’s going much further. It’s not enough to just build charging stations; they must be the high-speed type to allay range anxiety, brand representatives say. Plus, EV drivers need to know that if their map (or app) points them toward a charge point, it will be secure, reliable, and accessible. One of the current challenges for EV drivers is that CCS charging stations are often located behind buildings in poorly-lit areas, and broken chargers stay down for extended periods of time. As a result, drivers don’t feel comfortable, which contributes to poor adoption rates. Joseph says he recognizes that Tesla does a good job monitoring its equipment and the company fixes issues fast. It makes a big difference. 

The US needs to have about 200,000 DC fast charging charge points to meet EV customer demands, and Acura plans to be part of the solution to pain points in today’s market.

“We think we can make an impact,” Joseph says. “If you drive around Europe, charging is ample. Certain corridors are very well supported; it’s effortless. People need for charging to be easy, and that paves the path to adoption.”

No more hybrids

Meanwhile, Acura is finished with hybrids. The NSX, the last of Acura’s hybrid supercars, rolled off the line in November. Acura’s NSX is equipped with a potent combination of three electric motors with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, good for 600 horsepower and 492 pound-feet of torque. It’s an absolute thrill ride.

For all the Acura NSX fans lamenting the end of this vehicle, there’s hope on the horizon. The brand offered a surprise sneak peek of what it’s calling the Performance Electric Vision Design Study last week at Monterey Car Week, and the sketches point to the emergence of a new supercar. You could bet good money there’s an all-electric version of the NSX just around the corner.

Hydrogen

If hybrids are out of the equation, hydrogen isn’t. There’s a delicate balance between supply and demand, and right now affordability of hydrogen is a challenge, Aoyama says. 

“Retail [hydrogen] in California costs $30 per kilogram, and it needs to be about half that,” he says. 

Overall, Acura recognizes much room for innovation, and Joseph sees this as a “once-in-100-years” transformation.

“We are so used to putting liquid molecules [in our cars] and electrons work totally differently,” he says. “The nature of our relationship with energy is changing. There is an adoption curve, but [driving EVs] is truly better and easier over time.”