Honda has an electrification strategy which is crucial for any carmaker that wants to continue selling its cars in the more developed nations which are saying they will ban vehicles with internal combustion engines before long. Known as the ‘Electric Vision’ and announced at this year’s Geneva Auto Show, it encompasses the development of a dedicated electric vehicle (EV) platform with advanced fully-electric powertrain technology. Key parts of the powertrain development will include a high-density, lightweight battery pack, integrated heat management and the evolution of energy transfer functions – both to and from the vehicle.

Goodyear DuraplusJust talking about a strategy doesn’t give enough of a ‘feel’ of what to expect so carmakers often display concept cars that provide a 3-dimension form of what could be coming. At the Frankfurt Motor Show this week, Honda is displaying the Urban EV Concept, an all-electric concept car built on a completely new platform.

It sets the direction for the technology and design that will appear on a future electric Honda production models that will be powered by battery packs. In the more distant future, perhaps fuel cells will replace the battery packs to provide the energy but that’s still technology that is in its infancy.

According to Honda Motor’s President & CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, the Urban EV Concept is the basis of a production model. “This is not some vision of the distant future; a production version of this car will be here in Europe in 2019,” he said.

The simple design has low and wide proportions give the car a planted, muscular stance that hint at sporty driving performance. To get an idea of just how large it is, the overall length of the body is 100 mm shorter than that of the Jazz.

The Honda emblem on the concept is backlit in blue, which previews a new styling feature for the company‘s future EVs. At the front of the car, interactive multilingual messages can be displayed between the headlights, including greetings, advice for other drivers on the road, or charging status updates.

Visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent, thanks to slim A-pillars and a wide windscreen that appears to sweep around the entire front of the car. Entry and exit from the vehicle is via rear-hinged coach doors. The electric charging cable connection is housed on the bonnet.

The Urban EV Concept can accommodate four occupants, across two bench seats finished in different materials. To create a lounge feeling, the front row is upholstered with natural grey fabric, with the seatbacks, squabs and armrests embellished with contemporary wood finish accents. The 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 finish also wraps around a large ‘floating’ dashboard console. This houses the steering wheel column, a set of simple control buttons, and a panoramic display screen. The dashboard itself is completed by a wrap-around screen that runs behind the console and extends into the doors. The main dashboard screen presents a range of vehicle information including remaining battery level. Whilst the extended door screens function as the car’s wing mirrors through digital camera displays.

The future of motoring will be a connected one and the concept car also showcases the company’s vision for a world where mobility and daily life are seamlessly linked. The on-board advanced Honda Automated Network Assistant (HANA) acts as a personal concierge which learns from the driver by detecting emotions behind their judgments. It can then apply what it has learnt from the driver’s past decisions to make new choices and recommendations. HANA, an emerging technology developed by Honda and SoftBank, made its debut in the Honda NeuV concept car that was presented at this year’s CES in Las Vegas. HANA can also check on the driver’s emotional well-being, make music recommendations based on mood, and support the owner’s daily driving routine.

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, for example, is a smart system that can store energy more efficiently, releasing electricity generated by renewable sources back into the home or selling it back to the grid.

“We will incorporate electrified drivelines in two-thirds of cars sold in the region by 2025. The introduction of our Power Manager system supports and reinforces our commitment. It uses advanced technology to intelligently integrate the electric vehicle into the wider power network, so it is no longer just a consumer but also a contributor to the grid. It underlines our pledge to develop a more sustainable mobility model,” said Philip Ross, Senior Vice-President of Honda Motor Europe.

The company will supply Power Manager units to the SMILE project (Smart Ideas to Link Energies), a smart grid pilot scheme in France. The pilot project will see solar panels and Honda Power Managers installed to create a smart power grid, where energy can be used to charge EVs, power the buildings, and feed electricity back into the grid when required.

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To locate a showroom in Malaysia where you can experience Honda models of today, visit www.honda.com.my.

[Chips Yap]

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