Honda Ready with First North American Crossover EV
Developed in collaboration with longtime partner GM, the 2024 Prologue is aimed at the heart of the U.S. market.
Honda knows what U.S. buyers like: crossovers. So it makes perfect sense that the company chose a crossover SUV configuration for its first “mainstream” U.S.-market EV, the 2024 Prologue. The company’s not postulating about how many Prologues it might sell annually once its new EV, co-developed with GM, goes on sale in early 2024. But Honda sold more than 350,000 CR-V crossovers in 2022, which left little doubt Honda wasn’t going to take any chances regarding the bodystyle for its first EV crossover.
The Prologue’s smooth and rounded sheetmetal is pleasant but cautious (Honda calls it “neo-rugged”) – and like many current EVs from volume automakers such as Hyundai (Ioniq 5) and Volkswagen (ID.4), it’s lowish-roof profile stretches the definition of “SUV,” or even crossover. At an overall height of 64.7 in. (1643 mm), the 2024 Prologue seems noticeably lower, for example, than an all-wheel-drive CR-V’s height of 66.5 in. (1689 mm).
Meanwhile, the Prologue’s rangy 121.8-in. (3094-mm) wheelbase is identical to that listed by Chevrolet for the 2024 Blazer EV and its overall length and width, 192 in. (4877 mm) and 78.3 in. (1989 mm) are almost duplicates of the Blazer EV, cementing the commonality between the Honda and GM products. At 108.9 in. (2766 mm), the VW ID.4’s wheelbase is more than a foot shorter, while the Hyundai Ioniq 5 wheelbase of 118.1 in. (3002 mm) is nearer the Prologue but still nearly 4 in (102 mm) in arrears. Highlighting the comparative sprawl of the Prologue’s footprint, at an overall length of 192 inches (4877 mm), it is longer than Honda’s Passport (189.1 inches/4803 mm).
Although Honda sources at a September, 2023 media backgrounder near Detroit were circumspect about the co-development arrangement with GM – the Prologue’s chief pieces, its architecture, batteries and traction motors, are from GM’s Ultium family – it is not difficult to see similarities in the bodywork and dimensions between the Chevrolet and Honda crossover EVs. Yet “every piece of sheetmetal – except one, I think – is unique to the Prologue,” said John Wong, Honda’s development leader for Prologue.
“It was an incredible collaboration,” enthused Wong, saying the Honda engineers in Japan and Ohio intensively worked with GM engineers, even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said that in creating differentiating characteristics for the Prologue, Honda engineers “refused to compromise on the details in any area.”
Appropriate battery power, driving range
EV competitiveness seems to have coalesced on a handful of key metrics and the 2024 Prologue is carefully positioned, with an announced battery capacity of 85 kWh, which Honda said provides an estimated 300 miles (483 km) of driving range for the single-motor front-wheel drive configuration. Honda said power and torque ratings for the FWD models are yet to be determined, but said the AWD layout, with a permanent-magnet traction motor/single-speed transmission at each axle, offers a fairly modest 288 hp and 333 lb-ft (451 Nm).
For comparison, VW’s ID.4 has its top-capacity battery option rated at a similar 83 kWh, but was upgraded for 2024 with 330 hp for AWD models and 282 hp for rear-drive variants. An AWD Hyundai Ioniq 5 offers 320 hp and 446 lb-ft (605 Nm) from its 77.4-kWh battery pack, but at 260 miles (418 km) driving range is markedly less than the AWD Prologue. Honda said AWD is standard for the top Elite trim and is available for the EX and Touring trims.
Honda may not have to worry too much about performance comparisons, at least when the Prologue, to be priced in the upper-$40,000 range to start, initially is available chiefly in key EV markets, although it can be bought in any U.S. state. “We do expect a lot of customers to come from within the Honda brand,” said Rob Keough, department lead, American Honda Product Planning.
Honda did not provide much detail regarding charging times for the 2024 Prologue’s 85-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, other than to say the crossover's onboard charger enables DC fast-charging at up to 155 kW, enough for about 65 miles (105 km) in 10 minutes. It will be charged with the SAE International Standard J1772 Combined Charging System (CCS) charge connector, however. Honda said its next-generation EVs will be fitted with the Tesla-developed North American Charging System (NACS) connector, currently being standardized by SAE.
The platform for ‘now’
In working within the parameters of GM’s vehicle architecture, Wong said considerable engineering effort went into establishing Honda-specific characteristics for steering, ride and aural “signature.” He said the ride from the multilink independent front and rear suspensions is uniquely Honda’s “tune,” as is the calibration for the electric power steering, saying that the Prologue’s handling traits lean perceptibly toward the sporty side of the spectrum.
And “The sound we came up with isn’t just unique – it’s distinctly Honda.” Wong went on to tell SAE Media that the 2024 Prologue’s sounds, particularly from the drive motors, are specifically augmented by the audio system and mapped to accelerator position and the drive mode selected by the driver.
But the 2024 Prologue could be interpreted as a stopgap for Honda until 2025, when vehicles built on its in-house e:Architecture are ready for showrooms. Honda is prepping its “EV Hub” located at and around its current Ohio manufacturing complex. The EV Hub initiative centers on retooling several of the company’s existing vehicle- and powertrain-manufacturing for EV production. In 2026, Honda’s storied Marysville assembly plant, the company’s first U.S. plant when it opened in 1982, is slated to be the initial plant to switch to EV production.
The Prologue’s interior is a clean mix of modern architecture combined with a deliberate bend to avoid space-shippy tech touches. Designers wanted the Prologue’s cabin, controls and technology to be perceived as familiar and inviting. So no tech-for-tech’s-sake: the 11.3-inch (287-mm) central screen appears sizeable but far from overwhelming. The Prologue is the first Honda with Google built in and the Elite trim gets a standard head-up display (HUD). All models can benefit from over-the-air (OTA) software updates.
A thoughtful “finger rest” helps steady the hand at the center screen while on the move. But that’s about as adventurous as it gets. There is a prominent audio-system volume knob and hard buttons for the HVAC system. Cabin architects even re-situated the transmission selector to the steering column (although it won’t be confused with any 1960’s three-on-the-tree arrangement).
The 2024 Prologue’s spacious dimensions create the feel of an almost free-form interior. Although Honda’s media event offered only static impressions, the Prologue’s expansive width was apparent and front and rear legroom seemed abundant. The floor did seem somewhat higher than might be expected, even for an EV, but some of the feeling might be attributed to the Prologue’s ground clearance; the exact figure was not yet given by Honda, but is expected to be on the order of 7.5 inches (191 mm) – highlighting the fact that the Prologue Elite trim on display is fitted with 21-inch wheels as standard – the Honda brand’s biggest ever.
There is at least one casualty of maximizing cabin space on this architecture, however. Despite its long wheelbase and overall length, the Prologue has no front trunk, or “frunk,” storage area under the hood, a feature some have come to expect with EVs that no longer must package an engine and other internal combustion-related components under the hood. A Chevrolet source confirmed that the Prologue's platform-mate, the 2024 Blazer EV, which began shipping to customers at the end of July, 2023, also does not have a frunk.
For the launch of the 2024 Prologue, Honda is attempting to make the charging game at least ostensibly simpler. First, each sale includes one of three charging “packages:” an 11.5-kW Level 2 home-charging station, a $500 installation incentive and a $100 public-charging credit; a 7.6-kW portable-charging “kit” with a $250 installation incentive and a $300 public-charging credit or a simple $750 public-charging credit. The installation credits are with Honda Home Electrification (HHE), which matches vehicle purchasers with local electrical installers.
Coincident with the Prologue’s launch, Honda announced it and its Acura upscale brand formed agreements with the Electrify America and EVgo DC fast-charging infrastructure for access to the networks via the Honda and Acura smartphone apps. Honda also adopted the NACS charging standard, bringing access to the Tesla-developed nationwide Supercharger network.