The transformation won't be cheap. Honda said it expects to invest more than $46 billion in R&D over the next six years to make it possible.
But Honda's announcement comes as competitors worldwide rush to roll out EVs to meet increasingly stringent emissions regulations. Boston Consulting Group forecast in a study released this month that zero-emission technologies will replace internal combustion engines "as the dominant powertrain" for new light-vehicle sales globally just after 2035.
The consultancy said about 92 percent of light vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2020 were powered solely by gasoline or diesel engines. But it projects that number will fall to just 2 percent in 2035.
Honda, a company that helped pioneer gasoline-electric hybrid technology, currently makes just one EV nameplate, the low-volume subcompact E hatchback, and it is available only in Japan and Europe. On the eve of last week's Shanghai auto show, Honda showed its SUV e:Prototype, a full-electric crossover that will go on sale in China next year.
In a previous strategy, Honda had wanted to derive two-thirds of its global volume from standard hybrids, plug-ins, battery-electrics and fuel cell vehicles by 2030. But that target leaned heavily on traditional gasoline-electric hybrids. The new vision aims to have 40 percent of its sales in major markets be full-electric and fuel cell vehicles by that year.
North America figures prominently in Honda's electrification plan, even though today the Honda brand sells only a handful of hybrid vehicles there, including the CR-V, Accord and Insight.
Honda now targets that its North American EV and fuel cell-vehicle sales will mirror its global goals and reach 40 percent in 2030, 80 percent in 2035 and 100 percent by 2040.
A partnership with GM will be one way Honda gets started. The arrangement will supply Honda with two large EVs beginning with the 2024 model year, one for the Honda brand and one for Acura, Mibe said.
Honda is partnering with GM partly for the U.S. company's batteries. EV power packs are heavy and costly, and difficult to transport, making it critical to have local production. For that reason, Mibe said Honda will initially use GM's Ultium batteries for electric cars, which are manufactured in North America.