Honda has confirmed that the upcoming Urban EV electric city car will make its production prototype debut at the upcoming Geneva motor show.
The Urban EV will be Honda’s first mass-produced battery electric vehicle sold in Europe, but electric vehicles have been around for over 100 years in various shapes and forms. The idea isn’t new, but the technology is. Throughout creating the Urban EV Concept, our designers and engineers looked at new ways of expressing these ideas and found that simplicity was key. The number of moving parts is dramatically reduced; only a fraction of what you’ll find in a conventional vehicle. That means much greater energy efficiency and less maintenance.
Honda's all-electric car was originally revealed as a design concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2017. It was a huge hit with both fans and critics, prompting the company to green light a production model. The Urban EV concept proved so popular that Honda has made very few changes to the final car’s design. Inside, the major changes will be the switch from four seats to five and the adoption of more conventional switchgear.
The compact EV, which has recently been spotted testing on public roads ahead of going on sale later this year, was previewed by an official sketch of the prototype. The heavily camouflaged prototypes seen ahead of launch show a strong resemblance to the original concept, with similar dimensions and round headlights, although many of the car's lines are still obscured. However, we can make out that it now has five doors instead of the concept's three, while a curvier front-end design is likely due to pedestrian crash safety regulations. Like the concept, the test car also swaps out conventional wing mirrors for tiny cameras, which send video footage to two small monitors for drivers to see. Interior images of the development car have yet to materialise, but if the Urban EV concept is anything to go by, it will be equipped with a large digital display that spans the width of the cockpit.
The First Concept Version
A concept version that hinted at the design of a production model was well received when it was revealed at the Frankfurt motor show last September and subsequently displayed at the Geneva motor show.
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The concept also had a Honda emblem backlit in blue, previewing a new styling feature for future EVs from the brand. At the front, between the headlights, interactive messages can be displayed including greetings, advice for other drivers or charging status updates.
Inside, Honda has intended to create maximum visibility for drivers thanks to slim A-pillars and a wide windscreen. Entry and exit from the concept is via rear-hinged coach doors. A so-called floating dashboard console houses the steering wheel column, a set of simple control buttons and a panoramic screen. The wrap-around screen goes beyond the dashboard and extends into the doors, a feature that works as the car’s wing mirrors through digital camera display.
No powertrain or range details were given for the concept, but Honda said the car would include a high-density lightweight battery pack, integrated heat management and energy transfer functions both to and from the vehicle. A source at Honda suggested a short-to-middling range, so around 155 miles (250km) is expected.
Speaking about opening order books in Britain, Honda UK boss Dave Hodgetts said the company expected the model to do “very well”. He added that it will “test people’s real attitude towards the car” beyond just liking the look of it.
However, few details about the car have been revealed, and Hodgetts said he “will push hard to get meaningful information” so that potential buyers know what they are committing to. While it’s too early for pricing, Hodgetts recognised it would not be a cheap car despite being a supermini, and that Honda would position it as a premium model.
He added that he hoped electric vehicle pricing would start to come in line with combustion-engined models in two or three years’ time. The electric car, the brand’s first for Europe (Honda already sells an electric Clarity hatchback in Japan and the US), is built on a new dedicated electric platform and “sets the direction for the technology and design” of its future EVs. The Urban EV has low and wide proportions and is 100mm shorter than the Jazz, making it 3895mm long. When on sale, the car will not steal sales from other models, which helped its case for production, according to a senior Honda source.
“Our Urban EV Concept is the true representation of Honda’s ‘We make it simple’ design idea, which aims to make cars closer to people’s hearts.” says Makoto Iwaki, Honda R&D Executive Creative Director.
The firm unveiled its Honda Power Manager Concept last year, an integrated energy transfer system that can distribute electricity to and from the main grid, as well as directing power flow from renewable sources and managing an electric vehicle battery connected to the home. Philip Ross, senior vice president for Honda Europe, said: “When appropriate, Power Manager can draw on energy from the EV battery to power the home and minimise the demand from the main grid. It even allows the energy stored in the EV to be sold back to the grid to generate an income for the owner.” The technology is undergoing a trial in western France, as part of the development of a regional ‘smart grid’ that's due to be completed in 2020.