Honda and LG Energy plan to build a $4.4 billion lithium-ion plant in the US

Honda is the latest car company with plans to manufacture lithium-ion batteries in the U.S.

The automaker said Monday it is forming a joint venture with LG Energy Solutions to supply the North American market with “pouch type” batteries to power electric vehicles from its Honda and Acura brands. A location for the $4.4 billion factory has not been announced.

The joint venture, which is scheduled to begin by the end of the year subject to regulatory approval, aims to start construction in early 2023 and the mass production of advanced lithium-ion battery cells by the end of 2025.

“Honda is committed to the local procurement of EV batteries which is a critical component of EVs,” Honda CEO and President Toshihiro Mibe said in a statement. “This initiative in the U.S. with LGES, the leading global battery manufacturer, will be part of such a Honda approach.”

The $40 billion in tax credits included in the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress this month seems to have accelerated the automotive industry’s dash to bring battery manufacturing onshore. Establishing a robust domestic supply chain will ultimately help electric vehicle manufacturers control costs and reduce dependence on foreign infrastructure and materials.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Panasonic is eyeing Oklahoma as the site for a lithium-ion battery plant that would supply Tesla with high-capacity batteries. That’s in addition to plans the Japanese electronics maker unveiled last month for a $4 billion plant in Kansas. Officials said it will be one of the largest lithium-ion battery factories in the world and the largest-ever economic development project in Kansas.

Georgia has been especially aggressive in recruitment efforts to establish a battery ecosystem. The State awarded Rivian $1.5 billion in incentives – its largest-ever package – to build a 2,000-acre plant east of Atlanta. Hyundai’s $5.5 billion new EV plant and battery manufacturing facility outside of Savannah represents the largest economic development deal recruited by Georgia.

Toyota plans to open its first U.S. battery factory — a $1.3 billion plant near Greensboro, North Carolina ­—in 2025. Canoo, which moved its headquarters to Bentonville, Arkansas, has plans to build an EV factory in Oklahoma.


Acura’s vision for EVs is an SUV concept inspired by F1 and luxury Italian power boats

Acura is preparing for the EV future in the same way most other automakers are planning out their transition to electric car manufacturers, with an SUV.

The awkwardly named Acura Precision EV Concept will make its debut at the annual Monterey Car Week festivities with a nod towards the boating and F1 world. It’s an odd combination, but the automaker seems to have pulled it off.

Acura and its parent company Honda haven’t embraced the coming EV evolution as quickly as other brands, especially in the United States. But it’s a marathon, not a sprint to replace gas-powered vehicles. While it’s only a concept, the design language of the Acura Precision EV Concept does give us a good glimpse of what to expect in 2024 when Acura begins building its production electric SUV. 

The concept itself is a sleek SUV with a long hood line that dwarfs what we see on the automaker’s current MDX and RDX vehicles. As with most vehicles that’ll never be sold, the concept has an impressive front fascia light signature (called Particle Glitch) that illuminates the automaker’s Diamond Pentagon grille. 

Without sharing range or battery capacity details, the Acura Precision EV Concept does slightly resemble the Honda Prologue electric EV. Both vehicles are scheduled to appear in 2024. The Prologue will be built using GM’s Ultium EV platform and its extremely likely that the Acura will also roll on General Motors batteries. 

That said, Acura hasn’t disclosed the range or battery capacity of the concept or the upcoming production vehicle. 

Inside, the concept has the usual minimalistic design layout. A sleek interior filled with eco-friendly materials including marbled plastic trim, biomass leather, and milled FSC certified wood that’s been responsibly harvested. 

A curved infotainment screen with a driver-focused tilt sits alongside a yoke steering control. Acura says this along with the low-slung sitting position are a nod to F1 racing. Tesla has famously put its own yoke controls in its Model S and it’s been polarizing to say the least. Acura, while a performance brand will likely replace the concept control with a more traditional steering wheel. 

For those moments when driving isn’t ideal (Traffic), Acura’s concept will drive itself and transform the interior of a race-inspired cockpit into what it calls a Spiritual Lounge. Red ambient lighting will make way for a soothing and warming interior with “soothing scents” and an “under water” projected animation to help relax the passengers.

While the more outlandish portions of the vehicle will not be included in Acura’s electric SUV coming in 2024, the overall design of the concept will be the blueprint of what we can expect from the performance brand.

Acura might be a little late to the EV game, but as long as what it is bringing continues to focus on the brand’s performance lineage, its boat (and race)-inspired SUV could be exactly what fans of the brand are looking for. 

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Future EVs and high performance hybrids stole the show at Monterey Car Week

Monterey Car Week wrapped up on Sunday with the return of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. A black 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurrier took top honors at the show, now in its 70th year, held on the golf course overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But it was the electric hypercars and high-performance hybrids, not the historics that stood out this year.

Over the years, the glitz and glam of Pebble Beach has ballooned into a week of activities around racing, displaying, parading and selling cars throughout the picturesque Monterey Peninsula. Last year, car week was canceled. This year, despite ongoing concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Champagne was flowing.

When the New York Auto Show was canceled earlier in the month due to concerns over the presence of the delta variant, there was speculation that Pebble would also be canceled. But it snuck through as the de facto show that must go on before the uncertainty of the fall season amid pandemic shutdowns.

Image Credits: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg. The 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier, winner of the Best of Show award at the 2021 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach on Aug. 15, 2021.

On the days leading up to the Concours, the streets of Carmel and Monterey were quieter and less busy, and there seemed to be fewer old cars driving around. There were plenty of modern Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Ferraris revving their engines in parking lots. Many guests slipped masks on and off at gatherings, which were mostly held outside, despite misty rain and cool temperatures. By Sunday, the crowds were back in full force for the Concours, which seemed as packed as ever.

The main event, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, was once dedicated to restored pre-war classic cars. But as generations and tastes shifted, newer cars were featured on the green. The attendees also seemed younger; high-performance sports cars dominated the scene.

A 1995 McLaren F1 was auctioned for a record-breaking $20 million at the Gooding & Company auction on Friday night. Meanwhile, automakers hurriedly pulled together splashy car launches of their limited edition high-dollar supercars for the media and their top customers who milled about at private events.

“Pebble Beach is an important pillar,” said Lamborghini CTO Maurizio Reggiani. “Pebble Beach told us what people love in terms of the aesthetic of the car.”

Most notably, Audi showed the futuristic Skysphere concept on Wednesday. Mercedes-Benz previewed a new California-style convertible SL on Friday, which won’t be officially revealed until September. Aston Martin showed its Valkyrie and Valhalla models on a generous stand overlooking the golf course at Pebble Beach, but only allowed media and serious, vetted customers a close look at its models.

Both Rimac Automobili and Lucid Group showed up at Pebble Beach to connect with potential customers that can afford to invest in the most pricy electric powertrains. Rimac used the podium to debut its blistering fast Nevera sports car. Monterey 2021 seemed to have shifted to where new cars and new player overtook the old on the periphery. 

After a year of pent-up demand for super luxury cars, it was the perfect setting for showing off all of those pandemic purchases on the race track and roads in and around Monterey and Carmel. As auction prices soared and seven-figure sports car sold out, it became clear that performance car enthusiasm hasn’t waned. The new cars shown at Pebble Beach share much in common: All are pricey, packed with sports car technology and manufactured in low volumes. Here are some of the highlights.

Aston Martin

Image Credit: Tamara Warren

After several delays in recent years, the Aston Martin Valkyrie Spider was unveiled as a sold-out car by new CEO Tobias Moers. The Valkyrie has removable roof panels and a top speed of 217 miles per hour. Moers, who took the role over the pandemic, has been making drastic changes to the way Aston produces its cars.

Moers said that adding new in-car technology is essential to the brand’s future, and will pivot away from using last generation Mercedes-Benz tech. Also on display at the Aston stand was the 2024 Valhalla, which will have a hybrid powertrain.

Audi Skysphere

Audi Skysphere

Image Credits: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg. The Audi AG Skysphere electric concept car during The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, in Carmel, California.

The self-driving Skysphere concept looked more like it belonged at the CES show than a vintage car concours. It stuck out as the most interesting car unveiled at Pebble Beach. Audi says it can slim down its wheelbase from a larger car into a small roadster.

Bentley Flying Spur Mulliner

Bentley Flying Spur Mulliner

Image Credits: Bentley. Bentley Flying Spur Mulliner.

While the luxe interior of the Bentley Flying Spur Mulliner drew compliments for its lush leather, news that would include a hybrid powertrain is significant for Bentley.

Bugatti Bolide

Buggati -Winkelmann

Image Credit: Bugatti. Stephan Winkelmann, president of Bugatti Automobiles, stands next to the Bugatti Bolide at The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, in 2021.

The Bolide wasn’t at Pebble, but announced at a press conference held at The Quail on Friday. For the ultra-exclusive automaker, a new car is a big deal, especially one that will be its last gasoline-powered car. Bugatti says it will make 40 Bolides priced at $4 million apiece. It will have a top speed of 300 miles per hour.

Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4

Lamborghini SpA Countach

Image Credits: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg. A Lamborghini SpA Countach during The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering.

The Countach paid homage to the iconic model 50 years after the marque debuted. Under the hood, it’s an all-new car with a hybrid powertrain capable of reaching 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds.

Acura NSX Type S

Image Credits: Acura. The 2022 Acura NSX Type S.

Acura introduced a high-end hybrid version of its super car, the NSX, an outgoing variant of the model that will soon cease to exist. It plans to manufacture only 350 cars and price the car starting at roughly $171,000.

Rimac Nevera

Rimac Nevera 2021

A Rimac Nevera luxury electric supercar during The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering in Carmel, California on Aug. 13, 2021. Image credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Rimac stamped its mark on Monterey with its U.S. debut of the Nevera, a $2.44 million electric super car. Rimac says Nevera will run up to 400 miles on full  charge, at a top speed of 258 miles per hour. Rimac’s buzzy presence around town is a reminder that while Pebble Beach was once about the past, there’s a hunger for new EV players that can outrun the competition. 

The Acura NSX: A supercar with a great cell phone holder

The Acura NSX is a fun sports car with a hybrid powertrain that lays out an impressive amount of power. But I’m not here to talk about the car’s performance. One of the car’s best features is its cell phone holder. It’s time for automakers to face the reality that cell phones are a critical part of most people’s lives, and vehicles need better integration.

The adoption of a dedicated cell phone holder follows tracks alongside automaker’s slow adaptation of the cupholder. Once a joke of a feature, it took car makers decades to give consumers a spot to hold their hot McDonald’s coffee.

In the NSX, the cell phone holder keeps the device accessible and yet out of direct view of the driver. The location is molded into the center console and keeps the device vertically oriented. It’s easy to grab the phone and quickly put it back.

Automakers have long treated cell phones as an item only some drivers own. This stance is far from reality, and while it’s illegal in a lot of places to use a cell phone while driving, many drivers still use their phones for navigation, media, and more. At best, automakers install a recessed catch-all pocket under the radio and behind the center-mounted gear shift.

There are a few reasons for the slow adaptation of the cell phone holder. For one, vehicle development often spans years, while cell phones gain new features and form factors at a much quicker rate. Automakers are faced with predicting how consumer electronics like a cell phone will change and need to design vehicles to work with current devices and devices from five years from now.

The new Acura NSX gets the cell phone holder right. At least by today’s standards. My iPhone 11 Pro (with a case) fits neatly in its intended spot and stayed put during spirited driving. The location in the center armrest works well in this sports car, but I don’t think I would like it in a commuter crossover. It’s too hard to see for daily tasks like navigation or media playback — things secondary in a car like the NSX primarily design for going fast.

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As for the NSX’s performance, I can only give a brief overview. I only had the car for 72 hours, and I’m not comfortable landing on conclusions after driving the vehicle for that short of a time. The acceleration is blistering, and the body dynamics are average. I found the steering odd and inconsistent as sometimes it was heavy and other times nimble. The steering is acceptable for daily driving though it could be problematic on a track — I didn’t take it to a track.

The engine noise is disappointing. When the vehicle is in its standard driving mode, Sport, it sounds like a Saturn with a rusted-out exhaust. The tones improve when the NSX is placed in Sport+ and Track but is still a bit lacking raw emotion.

Overall, I’m not sure about the driving dynamics of the NSX. During my short time with the NSX, I took it on winding backroads and long stretches of highway. And yet I can’t land on a conclusion, which, in a way, is a conclusion itself. The NSX is impressive as it should be for $179,000, but does it offer anything extra over a Porsche 911 Turbo, Audi R8, or AMG GT R? In terms of driving dynamics? I’m not sure, but it certainly has a great cell phone holder.

BMW 2019 i8 Review: Driving yesterday’s car of tomorrow, today

The BMW i8 is a lovely vehicle to drive even though it’s lacking. It hugs the road and commands attention. It’s thrilling in a way that few cars can achieve without speed. Sure, it’s quick, but it won’t set track records or quarter mile times. It just feels great to drive.

By the numbers, there’s little reason to buy a $164,000 BMW i8 Roadster. Want speed? Buy a Porsche 911 Turbo for $161k or Corvette ZR1 for $123k or Nissan GT-R for $112k. Supercar aesthetics? Get an Acura NSX for $157k. Want all electric? Get a Tesla Model S. All are faster and cheaper than the BMW i8.

The BMW i8 is just a stepping stone in BMW’s history. An oddball. It’s a limited edition vehicle to try out new technology. From what I can tell, BMW never positioned the i8 as a top seller or market leader. It was an engineer’s playground. I love it.

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BMW released the first i8 in 2014 when the automotive scene looked different. Tesla was still a fledgling startup with only the Model S in its lineup. GM was working on the second generation Chevy Volt. Hybrid powertrains seemed to be the answer, and BMW followed suit with the dual-power in the i8.

In 2015 I took the just-launched i8 from Vegas to LA in an epic, one-day adventure that took me through the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park. It was a great way to appreciate the i8, and now that the model is on its way out, I wanted another go in the car.

This time, I had an i8 tester for a week. I took my kids to school in it, I got groceries with it, and in between rain storms, I lived my best life with the top down on in this $164,000 droptop.

It’s a lovely car and garners attention like nothing else in its price range. I noted this several years back when driving the i8 down the Vegas strip. The i8 is stunning and always draws a crowd. For my money, there isn’t a car that gets more attention.

The sheet metal flows as if a master glassmaker made it. It’s beautiful. The front end is aggressive and direct. The sides flow with precision to a back-end with some of the most unique tail lights available. The exhaust — remember, this is a hybrid — exits behind the rear window through a metal grate.

Don’t let its go-fast exterior oversell the capabilities though. The i8 is not as fast as it looks.

The i8 isn’t a quarter mile racer. This is a hybrid sports car with the heart of a grand tourer. This isn’t a car you want to take to a drag strip, but it could be fun at a track day. It’s a carver. Its low center of gravity lets it embrace the road. It’s silky through flowing corners.

Behind the wheel, the i8 is easy to love. The hybrid powertrain is smooth and free of drama. Hit the gas and go. Click the transmission to sport mode and its quick, but not fast. And that’s okay with me.

BMW got the inside of the i8 right. For a two-seat exotic, the i8 is comfortable and functional as long as the driver doesn’t need to transport golf clubs. The scissor doors open with little effort and offer enough room to enter and exit the car. The seats are supportive and comfortable. This 2019 version is equipped with BMW’s latest infotainment system which is among the best offered in the industry. There is very little storage available in the Roadster variant that ditches the back seats for the droptop storage. The trunk can hold four six-packs and nothing else.

When I drove the i8 in 2015, I stated that this was a car someone should buy only after they have their Porsche 911. That’s still true. While the i8 is easy to love, there are other vehicles available that offer more thrills and functionality.

The i8 is easy. Drivers shouldn’t fear to push the powertrain. It won’t bite, but it will provide plenty of excitement in the sport mode. The i8 doesn’t require the skill of other vehicles in its price range. If a Porsche 911 Turbo or Corvette ZR-1 is too much car, look at the i8. Or the Audi R8 — another sports car I found easy to boss around.

After a week of living with the i8, its performance was secondary to the experience. I’m convinced that the i8 doesn’t need raw speed to be enjoyable.

In 2014 BMW proclaimed the i8 to be the car of tomorrow, available today. And in some regards it was. The i8 was one of the first mass-production vehicles to pair an electric powertrain to a gas engine in the name of performance. Since then, nearly every exotic automaker is doing the same in various formats.

The i8 still feels like it’s a different type of vehicle than anything else available. It feels green. It feels healthy. But in the end, the i8 still relies on a dirty internal combustion engine while there are faster, better-equipped vehicles available that run on just electric motors.

Rumor is BMW is not making a direct successor to the i8, but the automaker will likely make an all-electric sports car. Eventually. And that would change everything. With just electric motors, a BMW coupe could offer serious speed while being more friendly to the environment. A pure electric i8 could be a game changer and a legitimate speed demon.

The 2019 i8 is a lovely vehicle and could bring serious enjoyment to the right person with its easy powertrain and stunning looks.

Video Review of BMW i8 (filmed in 2015)