Frankfurt - Honda Urban EV on sale in two years

Takahiro Hachigo

In a world where auto manufacturers are torn between designing their electric vehicles to look like futuristic spaceships or regular 2017 cars, Honda has thrown out the rule book and gone for something thoroughly retro.

Honda has confirmed that a production version of the Urban EV Concept will be made in 2019.

But if that sounds as though this is one of those design exercises that never makes it anywhere near a production line, it's not. Honda says this vehicle will be launched within two years - "This is not some vision of the distant future", says president and CEO Takahiro Hachigo, suggesting that the concept is pretty close to the finished auto.

The exterior design of the vehicle is unlike anything else Honda offers at the moment. Its low and wide proportions give the vehicle a planted, muscular stance that hint at sporty driving performance.

The tiny concept is even smaller - by 100 mm - than the diminutive Jazz supermini. A notable styling touch is the blue backlighting of the Honda emblem on the front, which will be on all future Honda EVs. The space between the headlights displays interactive messages from greetings and driver advice (for other cars) to battery level updates.

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A great deal of time and effort has been put into the design elements of the exterior and especially the interior.

Honda's Urban EV Concept can accommodate four occupants, across two bench seats finished in different materials. What we don't know yet are things like how far it will go on a single charge or how long it will take to recharge, so we'll have to wait and see.

Also appearing in the Urban EV Concept is what Honda calls its "Automated Network Assistant", which can learn from the driver by detecting the emotions behind their judgements to make new choices and recommendations. The dashboard itself is completed by a wrap-around screen that runs behind the console and extends into the doors. The front row is upholstered with natural grey fabric, with the seat backs, squabs and arm rests embellished with the same wood as the dash. The dashboard is dominated by a huge computer screen which "floats" above wood details. This behaviour is then considered when the auto offers new choices and recommendations.

The Japanese manufacturer is also developing its Power Manager Concept, an energy transfer system that can efficiently store and release energy either back into the home or by selling it back to the grid.

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