Sony Honda’s Afeela plans new kinds of EVs

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Sony and Honda partnership says MPV “party car” with level-three or four autonomy is a possibility for the new Afeela EV brand.

An SUV and even an MPV are candidates to follow the Afeela sedan as Sony and Honda flesh out the line-up of their new EV brand, the brand’s CEO has said.

“We’re thinking about the second and third models. We need a line-up. Not only one unit, finish,” said Yasuhide Mizuno, chairman and CEO of Sony Honda Mobility, following the launch of the brand at CES this week.

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Afeela models will be sold in Europe as well as Japan and the US, Mizuno said. An SUV, a second sedan and possibly an MPV are under consideration, Mizuno said.

Sony has previously shown concepts of a sedan and an SUV at previous CES events in advance of hooking up with manufacturing partner Honda. However, an MPV could make sense if the brand manages to advance its plan to roll out widespread hands-free driving, Mizuno revealed.

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“An SUV is the usual [next step], but maybe [an] MPV,” he said. “It depends on autonomous driving development. If we reach level three, level four, then perhaps everybody needs a ‘party car’.”

Follow-up models will arrive fairly quickly after the sedan, a rival to the likes of the BMW i4, Mercedes-Benz EQE and Tesla Model 3.

“If we go for five years with just one model, everyone will forget Sony Honda Mobility. ‘Sony Honda Mobility? Very sad story,’ they will say,” Mizuno joked.

Mizuno explained that the brand will use the Honda’s forthcoming electric e:Architecture platform, due for introduction around the same time as the Afeela sedan in 2026.

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Honda will be responsible for battery sourcing and the ultimate range, charging and power specifications.

The Afeela sedan will be built in the US in an unnamed Honda facility and will be launched there first. Japan will follow in the same year, before European sales begin in late 2026 or early 2027.

The Afeela will be a “high-value” car rather than premium but will be aimed at wealthier buyers to reflect the extra cost of creating a car that Sony and Honda aim to be upgradeable over much of its life via its software.

The car features 45 sensors, including a Sony lidar unit that will help it become more autonomous as regulations and software develops.

The production model will use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Digital Chassis technology, which will include a high-powered chip still in development. Sony and Honda said this provides computing power measuring 800 TOPS (trillion operations per second) to enable extended hands-free driving.

The concept previewing the Afeela sedan features a sleek roofline, no door handles, digital wing mirrors and black 21-inch wheels. A ‘media’ light bar is positioned at the front and can interact with both people and other vehicles, which Sony described as “an interface for a new era”.

Sony and Honda will leverage Sony’s partnership with games designer Epic Games to create augmented-reality features that will add an entertainment function as well as increasing safety for drivers. The company wouldn’t elaborate further on this but hinted at an advanced head-up display.

Nick Gibbs

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