HONDA e Prototype - Urban Car

We got the first look on the Honda EV Concept car back in the end of 2017. It quickly became one of the most talked concept cars. However, how did it last the test of time and car manufacturer regulations?

On the 30 min long cover interview by Fully Charged, Kohei Hitomi (Honda E Prototype Project Leader) mentioned that the concept car was actually built after the initial prototype and it's purpose was just to be used as a prop for showcasing, and further down the line, the prototype borrowed elements from the beloved Concept car.

Bellow you can see the Concept car (top) vs the Prototype (bottom) and of course Jonny Smith.
oldvsnew

You can immediately notice a lot of exterior changes. The prototype seems like a toned down offspring of the concept car, keeping the main aesthetics like the front/rear mask, the basic concept and the interior (more on this later).

But lets get into some specs before we discuss the look and feel.

  • Available for purchase within 2019
  • Possible delivery within the same year (2019)
  • Approximate range of 200 km.
  • Rear wheel drive
  • 4 seater
  • 5 doors
  • Price? To be announced.

Now lets discuss each of these.

Let's be honest, apart from the exterior look, the other important factor is range.
The current mentioned range is around 200 km (multiple factors can alter the final range, like speed, weight, weather conditions etc).

When asked about future plans for longer range, Kohei Hitomi suggested that the current available range is a side-effect or restriction due to the size of the car and when the technology allows for more power in smaller density then of course the output range will increase. So in short, no.

I will not compare this to other cars like the ZOE from Renault in terms of range, because I want to compare it to the best EV Car out there, the Tesla. There is no point in comparing it with anything but the best, because that is what I would expect from Honda to do also.

Tesla cars range from 370 km to 700 km (again all numbers are approximations). This is an insane difference in terms of output but lets compare the size.

We will take the Tesla model 3 vs The Prototype

Tesla: Width 1,930 mm, Length 4,690 mm, Height 1,440 mm
Honda: Width 1,750 mm, Length 3,895 mm, Height 1,495 mm

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Tesla is 20% longer, 10% wider, and 3.8% shorter!

I am not an expert on batteries but if Honda's range problem is the size of the container then would really a 20% wider car including a 10% increase in width result in a battery that would output 150 km more? (75% battery improvement)
It is hard for me to believe that.

Apart from the technical details, 200 km is really short. A trip from Berlin to Prague is ~ 350 km so I would have to stop at least once in the middle of a 3.5 hour trip to re-charge my car.

This introduces us to two important features:
This is an Urban car
Quick Charge
Charge port Placement

Urban Car

It is apparent that Honda's design team is focused around creating a car that is there to replace/enhance transportation within the city, like going to work, groceries, to a friends house that is far and by no means to replace a fossil car that would do cross city trips.

This is a very Japan like mindset. I will mention this later again, but I have a strong feeling that they forgot to include other markets like EU/USA when designing this car. I find it unbelievable that a US citizen would be okay using such a small factor, low range car when they have other alternatives and size is not an issue.

Even European citizens will be greatly limited despite shorter distances within countries or even border cities.

Quick Charge

Although it was not advertised as some form of quick charge technology, the battery is supposed to get an 80% charge within 30 minutes, giving you a total of 160 km in 30 minutes.

If we look back to our trip from Berlin to Prague this would increase our total travel time by 30 minutes resulting in an end time of ~4 hours.

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I personally own an Unu Scooter which has a base range of 50 km and the ability to extend it up to 100 km by adding another battery.

Although this is a strange comparison, as the scooter has way less features than a car, I can't seem to wonder why would I invest in a car that has 2x the range of my scooter?

Furthermore, another Dutch company is creating a scooter with a range of 200 km, so I am practically shocked at how little this car gives in terms of range.

Charge port placement

This topic was heavily discussed on the forums and youtube videos. The charging port is place on the front, top hood. (Where the Tesla frunk is located)

The port and the hatch are facing upwards, which could create issues if you wish to charge during rain or storm, which again reminds me that Honda did not take climate outside of Japan in mind.

Let's go back to the design (interior)

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The interior reminds me that of a desk from a Bond movie villain, and I love it!

They managed to create this retro-tech feel that is reminiscent to old computer commercials showing high tech coming out of a heavy wooden desk or panel.

They actually did mention that the panel is not real wood, but a textured film, giving this premium look without the added weight of wood and ofcourse the cost.

Taking a closer look, we can notice that they opted-in for multiple smaller screens rather than one large and this was a design decision to allow different passengers to navigate different panels without interfering with the driver. This is good in theory but it does add a "cheapness" factor that I am not fond of.

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Another thing about the panel, is that it is too noisy. Yes other sedan type cars from Mercedes and BMW have an even more noisy panel but we should be looking to make things as good as possible not just better than our competitors.

A lot of nobs and dials remain, and as explained by Akinori Myoui (Interior Project Leader) this is a feature. They decided that essential functions like heating control, volume etc would remain as "hardware".

It is an interesting choice, but I see it a bit backwards thinking. The car itself aims to be futuristic but it seems some parts of tech as extra, like the monitors and opts-in for hardware dials while at the same time adds camera only side and rear mirrors!

Camera only mirrors

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Both side and rear mirrors are camera enabled only. The main reason behind it was usability and aerodynamics.

It was mentioned that one of their focus was that normal mirrors are susceptible to other drivers lights and this is true! Driving in rain while in traffic seriously diminishes your visibility through side and rear mirrors.

The digital cameras will be able to adjust to such lighting issues and provide a clearer picture. But I am not convinced, I do not have any numbers on my hands on how many accidents are caused by low visibility due to lighting but if those cameras do not provide equal and more visibility than normal mirrors it will be a huge failure.

As a side note, from the video I could not tell exactly the quality of image that they provide and I would certainly hope that an 1080p video will be available.

Lastly, I do not bite the excuse of aerodynamics. This is an urban car, therefore no high speeds will be reached. I actually see it as a space saver rather than anything else.

Space

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The front 2 seats seem to provide quite a lot of room for the driver and the side-passenger.
I am very fond of the gap that is now free with the absence of a gear box, classic of American muscle cars.
And a bit saddened about that middle kit between the two seats that could have continued from the concept car, maintaining the feel of a sofa living room.

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The back two seats, are a whole different story.
Jonny is definitely quite tall, however the leg space in the back reminds me of the leg room that budget airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair provide. This is a correlation that as a manufacturer would not wish my potential clients to make.

Seat

The seats have a really nice look and feel. As it was mentioned they are covered with a melange texture fabric which is very common as a sofa material. There was no comment whatsoever for how comfortable they are.

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95% complete

What we see currently is described as 95% complete. The manufactured car is theoretically going to look like what we saw today.

A lot of issues/comments have arisen since this reveal came out. Same people mentioned that they love this car and although when I saw the concept car, I told myself that this is a car worth buying, it is no longer the case.

This car does look like a dark smaller brother that was meant for high consumption and mass production without standing out too much.

The concept car was bright, new and old at the same time and I would have been okay with the 200 km range, because during charging I would just sit back and admire it's beauty.

Huge thanks to Jonny Smith and Fully Charged. High quality video for those of us who could not get a close look.