To electrify, Subaru leans on its friends


Subaru‘s dive into electrification this year with the U.S. launch of a plug-in hybrid, and its offering of a full electric vehicle in 2021, will rely on the help of its friends — one old and several new.

The old friend is Toyota Motor Corp. The new ones are Mazda, Suzuki, Daihatsu and Hino.

Subaru has an in-house electrification project. But it is also drawing heavily from partnerships to engineer the upcoming plug-in hybrid and EV, said the automaker’s chief technical officer, Takeshi Tachimori. Subaru’s plug-in hybrid will pull largely from the Toyota Prius Prime’s system.

“For our plug-in hybrid to be introduced this year, we have used Toyota’s technologies as much as possible,” Tachimori said.

But Subaru is adding a few twists, he said, including a longitudinal Subaru engine, rather than the Prius Prime’s transversely mounted Toyota powerplant.

Subaru has no choice but to lean on the combined expertise of its erstwhile competitors because it is too small, Tachimori said of the push to electrify the lineup.

“We can’t engage in a large-scale development,” he said.

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The rush

The strategy is crucial for Subaru as it rushes to comply with increasingly stringent emissions regulations.

Subaru offers no electrified models, and its last full EV, the Plug-in Stella minicar, was discontinued in 2011 after racking up fleet sales of only 200 units.

Subaru’s modest rd budget, a tenth the size of Toyota’s, is traditionally focused on projects such as improving its boxer engine or its EyeSight safety system.

Subaru has a long-standing partnership with Toyota Motor, which owns 17 percent of the smaller Tokyo carmaker. But at the end of last year, Subaru decided to also join a new EV venture formed by Toyota and other affiliated manufacturers.

That venture, EV Common Architecture Spirit Co., was formed in September with Mazda Motor Corp. and supplier Denso Corp. to co-develop an architecture for EVs.

Since then, Suzuki Motor Corp., minicar specialist Daihatsu and truckmaker Hino have climbed aboard.

Tachimori said Subaru has sent five engineers to work at the venture.

Subaru is still nailing down its role in the group and working out details such as the shareholding structure.

But Tachimori said Subaru’s participation will streamline EV development.

“If there is a basic technological foundation, that would help carmakers not waste resources,” he said.

Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid is discontinued for 2017

Pulling from Prius

Tachimori said Subaru’s plug-in hybrid initially will be sold only in U.S. states that have adopted California’s zero-emission vehicle regulations.

He declined to say what model the plug-in hybrid will be based on.

But he said the vehicle will be exported to the U.S. from Japan.

Regarding the EV due in 2021, Subaru has begun independent development.

But Tachimori said Subaru now plans to also tap advances coming out of the new EV venture.

Japan’s automakers are well-versed in internal combustion technologies. But when it comes to the new world of electrification, they can learn a lot from each other, he said.

“Every carmaker has a sense of urgency,” Tachimori said. “We don’t know how battery technology will evolve or how we should handle it or what would be the best way to use it as an energy source. Carmakers are still trying to figure out what a basic EV structure will look like.”


To electrify, Subaru leans on its friends” originally appeared in Automotive News on 2/5/2018

By Hans Greimel and Naoto Okamura at Automotive News

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