Honda Urban EV Preview – New Concept Highlights Retro-Inspired Production Model

By Steve & Tamami Laser

Honda’s latest concept EV tugs at our heartstrings with its retro-inspired design. Yet the car revealed at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show today isn’t a total fantasy. The automaker says it previews the direction for the design and technology that it plans to put into production for a Euro-market battery electric vehicle in 2019.

Honda says its Urban EV Concept showcases the company’s vision for a world where “mobility and daily life are seamlessly linked.” Honda’s onboard Automated Network Assistant is designed to act as a personal concierge, which “learns from the driver by detecting emotions behind their judgments. It can then apply what it has learned from the driver’s past decisions to make new choices and recommendations.”

On the outside, Honda’s Urban EV Concept reminds us of the original Honda N360 that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, as well as the current N-ONE mini-vehicle (Kei car) sold in Japan. Its low and wide stance give the car a sporty look. Honda says the concept’s overall length is 100mm shorter than the current Jazz (aka Honda Fit).

The Honda badge on the concept is backlit in blue, which previews a new styling feature for the automaker’s future EVs. Also up front, interactive multilingual messages can be displayed between the headlights, including greetings, advice for other drivers on the road, or charging status updates.

With slim A-pillars and a wide windshield, outward visibility looks to be excellent reminding us of Honda’s low-cowl cabins of the past. Entry and exit from the vehicle is via rear-hinged coach-style doors. This makes us wonder if a production model could become a four door with conventional front doors and rear-hinged rear doors? Meanwhile, the electric charging cable connection is located on the hood.

Honda says the concept offers room for four inside, with two bench seats finished in different materials. Promoting a lounge look (not disco), the front row is upholstered with natural grey fabric, with seatbacks and armrests trimmed with wood accents. Seatbelts for the rear bench are fixed in the middle of the seat, allowing the belt to retract out-of-the-way before a passenger exits the car.

Wood wraps around a large floating-style dashboard console that houses the steering wheel, a set of simple controls, and a display. On top of the dash is a huge screen (unlikely to reach production) that extends into the doors. The main screen displays vehicle information including battery level while the door screens function as the car’s outside mirrors via digital camera displays.

Honda says its Electric Vision strategy, launched at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, includes the development of a dedicated electric vehicle platform, featuring fully electric powertrain technology. Key parts of the powertrain development include a high-density, lightweight battery pack, integrated heat management and the evolution of energy transfer functions, both to and from the vehicle.

Honda says that new methods for managing energy transfers between the grid, homes and electric vehicles could provide “revenue opportunities” for EV owners in the future. Honda’s Power Manager Concept, revealed alongside the Urban EV Concept in Frankfurt, is a smart system that’s designed to store energy more efficiently, releasing electricity generated by renewable sources back into the home or selling it back to the grid.

News source and photos courtesy of Honda Motor Europe Ltd. Future production models and launch timing are subject to change without notice.

Story (commentary) © 2017