Honda has been something of a laggard in the race for electric cars. It looks like that’s about to change, if recent spy photos are anything to go by.
A shot by spy photographer Brian Williams in Automotive News (subscription required), shows an updated Pilot with both a reconfigured fuel filler door, and a large, square opening on the front left fender, where automakers often put charge ports for electric cars.
No specs for the Honda Pilot plug-in hybrid have been released.
The only other plug-in hybrid Honda sells is the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid.
It also sells the Clarity Electric and has produced two previous electric cars, the Honda Fit EV, and the Honda EV Plus from 1997 to 1999.
The Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid has an EPA-rated range of 48 miles from a 17-kwh battery pack.
If the Pilot plug-in hybrid used the same pack, it could get between 30 and 35 miles of electric range, based on similar sized vehicles. Honda has been expanding installations of its two-motor hybrid system found in the Accord Hybrid, Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, and Insight, and the Pilot would likely use that system, according to Automotive News.
Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo has said to expect an explosive ramp-up in hybrid and electric cars from the company in coming years. He set a goal for more than two-thirds of the company’s sales to come from hybrid and electric vehicles by 2030.
Honda also needs to build up in zero-emission vehicle credits in California, where the largest automakers are required to earn a certain number of credits for selling plug-in or fuel-cell vehicles in order to sell other types of cars in the state. Plug-in hybrids earn partial credits toward the mandate. As a mid-size crossover that sells in large numbers, a Pilot plug-in hybrid could earn Honda significant credits.
CHECK OUT: Two-Thirds Of 2030 Hondas Will Be Electrified Or Zero Emission: CEO (2016)
The Pilot is expected to be updated for 2019, and the plug-in hybrid probably won’t arrive until after that update, or concurrent with it if past practice holds.
The plug-in hybrid Pilot could be the first non-luxury mid-size plug-in crossover SUV once it comes to market.
It would follow in the footsteps of several mid-size luxury plug-in SUVs, including the BMW X5 xDrive 40e, the Volvo XC90 T8, the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350e, and build on the capabilities of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Honda’s luxury division, Acura, also sells a conventional hybrid version of its mid-size MDX crossover. Mitsubishi sells a smaller plug-in hybrid crossover, the Outlander PHEV.
The plug-in hybrid Pilot could be the company’s introduction to the mass market for plug-in hybrids.