Subaru Taps Partnerships for Electrification
Subaru's hand into electrification this 2018 starting with the plug-in hybrid launch in the United States, and its vision of producing all-electric models 2021, is dependent on its old and new partners.
Toyota Motor Corp is the old friend, while Mazda, Daihatsu, Suzuki, and Hino and the new ones.
Takeshi Tachimori, chief technical officer of Subaru, says the company’s in-house electrification pursuits rely greatly from partnerships to manufacture the anticipated plug-in hybrid and EV. The Toyota Prius Prime's system is where the plug-in hybrid from Subaru takes inspiration from.
“For our plug-in hybrid to be introduced this year, we have used Toyota's technologies as much as possible,” Tachimori explained.
But Subaru is making a few tweaks, which includes a longitudinal Subaru engine in place of the transversely mounted powerplant of Prius Prime.
Subaru is given no option but to rely on the combined know-how and technology of its fellow automakers because it is too small, Tachimori explained on the brand’s move on electrification.
“We can't engage in a large-scale development,” he added.
The stringent emissions regulations is what pushes Subaru to make crucial decisions towards EV and plug-in hybrid technology.
There are currently no electrified models from Subaru, and the Plug-in Stella minicar, its last full EV, stopped production after selling just 200 units.
The brand’s budget for research and development is mainly geared towards projects concerning its engine and safety system.
Subaru has had a lengthy partnership with the bigger company Toyota Motor, With which 17 percent of the smaller car brand is owned by the larger one. But at the end of 2017, Subaru decided to dive into the EV venture formed by Toyota along with its other affiliated companies.
This venture, which is dubbed as EV Common Architecture Spirit Co., was created back in September to formulate and co-develop architecture for electric cars. This was initially with supplier Denso Corp and Mazda Motor Corp.
After that, minicar specialist Daihatsu, Suzuki Motor Corp, and truckmaker Hino have joined the bandwagon.
Tachimori stated that Subaru deployed five engineers to take part in the said joint venture.
Subaru is still planning out its function within the cooperation and looking at specifics which includes the shareholding structure.
However, Tachimori explained their participation can aid in giving direction to the development of EVs.
“If there is a basic technological foundation, that would help carmakers not waste resources,” he mentioned.
Pulling from Prius
Tachimori mentioned that the brand’s plug-in hybrid will first be introduced to the US markets where California's zero-emission vehicle regulations have been adopted.
He refused to disclose, however, what the hybrid will take inspiration from, although he stated the export will come from Japan to the US.
Subaru has already commenced independent work on the EV slated for 2021. On that note, Tachimori said the company is going to tap into advancements it obtains from the joint EV venture.
Electrification is something that car makers can learn from each other and grow hand in hand, he added.
“Every carmaker has a sense of urgency,” Tachimori stated. “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.”