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Honda to begin selling mini-commercial electric vans in spring 2024

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Honda Motor is pictured at at the 37th Bangkok International Motor Show in Bangkok

TOKYO (Reuters) -Honda Motor Co said on Wednesday it would begin selling micro-sized commercial electric vans in spring 2024, as part of its effort to electrify its vehicle lineups.

Japanese automakers are turning to small commercial trucks as one way to make battery electric vehicles (BEVs) popular in the country, tapping into car size unique to the country amid pressure to slash its carbon footprint.

Honda's electric van has a target cruising range of 200km (125 miles) and is seeking to set the price at around 1 million yen ($7,270).

Gasoline-electric hybrid models remain far more popular in Japan and BEVs accounted for just 1% of the passenger cars sold in Japan last year.

Still, automakers believe small commercial vehicles are key to popularise BEVs in the country, saying 40% of cars on the road are micro "kei" cars and businesses are under pressure from investors to reduce their carbon footprint.

"We believe that the fastest way to spread the use of electric vehicles in Japan is to first capture the commercial market, especially in the area of light vehicles, which are the mainstay of the Japanese market," said Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe back in April.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp last month re-launched its commercial truck, Minicab-MiEV, which has a cruising range of 133 km (83 miles) and costs about 2.4 million yen without a subsidy.

Commercial vehicle coalition CJPT, led by Toyota Motor Corp, said in July it would develop small electric commercial vans with minivehicle specialists Daihatsu and Suzuki Motor Corp.

Honda in April laid out goals of producing some 2 million electric vehicles a year and 30 electric vehicle models globally by 2030.

($1 = 137.5600 yen)

(Reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama; Editing by Tom Hogue and Lincoln Feast)