Honda this week unveiled what they are calling a “Micro Commuter Prototype”. It represents a step forward from the original all-electric concept shown at last year's Tokyo Motor Show and, given the unexpected success of Renault's little Twizy, it's not particularly hard to see why Honda are moving the program on faster than they might otherwise have. Testing of the 'micro-sized short distance EV commuter' will commence next year to try and discover the vehicle's potential for families with small children as well as home delivery services, senior citizens and car sharing schemes.
The tiny EV has a range of 50 miles and a top speed of 50mph
The automotive industry is full of what are called 'direct rivals', but the term has never been truer than in the case of this prototype and the Renault. Both have a top speed of 50mph, and although you can travel a not inconsiderable 40km further in the Twizy, both cars generate 15kW output and are proportionally within millimetres of each other; the Honda being ever so slightly the larger. The Honda will also class as a quadricycle, too.
The kei car-inspired prototype has a trick up its sleeve, however, that distinguishes it from its would-be rival. The lithium-ion battery, motor and control unit are all located tidily under the floor, and together comprise what's known as a 'Variable Design Platform'. This consolidated platform allows Honda to develop and manufacture different body and interior trims fit for different purposes. A delivery-type vehicle might feature a basic interior and a flat pickup-style rear loading area, for example, whereas a small family might require two smaller seats designed for children in the back and a more protected interior. Different bodies would presumably be exchangeable.
Honda intend users to use their own tablet devices to control a variety of the car's functions
The prototype's design features some nice touches, such as the razor-sharp rear light signature that bisects the C-pillar and concept-inspired wheels, and it's not hard to imagine that a production variant would look near identical. On the whole it's far more grown-up than the Twizy, too, but somehow not as well resolved, exhibiting an awkwardness from front-on and fussy surface entertainment. Should cars of this nature even be mature or should they appeal to our puerility in a way that larger, more conventional car cannot? It's open to debate, of course, but part of the Twizy's great appeal is its joie de vivre character that stems from a deliberately playful design.
Once inside, users will integrate their own tablet device with the car, displaying navigation, audio, a rear-view camera and various readouts. The tablet can also be charged via photovoltaic cells mounted on the roof – something that Honda are keen to exploit for the car's battery in the future.
The prinicipal design cues from the 2011 concept have been caried over to this latest, seemingly production-spec, car
There's no word on when we might see a release date, or even a full production model. But if Honda decide to go ahead with this urban commuter, expect no time to be lost. With this contender from Honda, Toyota's Ha:mo scheme, and the Nissan PIVO (OK, maybe not), the micro-EV market seems set to become a major battleground.
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