There’s a hot new segment of vehicles in town, and Japanese automakers everywhere are clamoring for their piece of the pie. According to Autocar, Honda is the latest competitor in the super-urban EV race with the now official testing of their Honda Micro Commuter prototype.
For those of you completely lost when I say “super-urban EV”, I will refer you to the car that deserves credit for starting the craze – the Renault Twizy. Admittedly, it would be a stretch to call the Twizy a car, but Renault’s moped-quadricycle-Leaf Frankenstein has been a huge success since it hit European streets in 2012. It’s been so successful, in fact, that Nissan has since adopted the Twizy for their own super-urban vehicle, the Nissan Mobility Concept or NMC. Meanwhile, Toyota recently showed us their own take with the i-Road Concept, and finally we’re back to where we started with the latest addition of Honda’s Micro Commuter prototype.
But, even though it appears that Honda’s ingenuity is limited to imitation, don’t let the timeline fool you… Honda has had the Micro Commuter in the works for several years now. The public’s first exposure was at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show when it was presented as a weirdly prismatic, Tron-like vehicle (see below). Then, we saw a more refined version of the Micro Commuter at the end of 2012 with promises that production was on the horizon. And, now that we’re about halfway through 2013, like clockwork, Honda is moving forward with prototype testing.
Obviously, we still don’t know a whole lot about the Micro Commuter. But, here are the basics that we know for sure:
* The Micro Commuter is a pure EV powered by a surprisingly powerful 15kW lithium-ion battery, compared to the 7kW battery used in the Twizy.
* Just like the Twizy, the NMC and the i-Road Concept, the Micro Commuter features a 1+1 seating arrangement with the driver in the front and a single passenger crammed into the back. But, there’s a twist (more below).
* As of right now, Honda’s super-urban EV has a range of 37 miles, which it can blast through at 50 mph.
Nothing unexpected there. In fact, you might be wondering what the unique selling point is for Honda’s Micro Commuter that sets it apart from the already-well-established EV from Renault. The answer is interesting; Honda plans to separate the Micro Commuter from the competition with a modular design. This would allow the car to be adapted to each driver’s independent needs, as per the photo below:
For example, the rear seat could be switched out with a double-seat that would be perfect for two small children. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, Honda says the Micro Commuter would make a perfect urban delivery vehicle if you remove the back seat altogether.
In addition to the interior, the exterior body will apparently feature modular components as well, although we still don’t know exactly what that means. My guess is that we’ll see a production-ready Micro Commuter either at the end of this year or the beginning of 2014. Either way, you’ll get updates as soon as we do, so stay tuned to Integrity Exports for more Japanese car news coming soon.