Concept Feature: the Honda of the Future
Honda has big plans for the future. The Frankfurt and Tokyo Motorshows closed off 2017, with Honda grabbing headlines with stand-out concepts, not only for electric vehicles, but further innovations outside of their traditional automotive offerings. Honda’s view of the future, is cute, quirky, with a decidedly Japanese feel, and we’re excited.
We love a powerful car, and we get hypnotised by videos of a car winding through a long (usually European) landscape, or zipping through a cityscape, handling tight corners and looking like it just owns the road. We love a car that exudes performance, screams luxury (even at an affordable price tag), and promises excitement. Then these concepts came along and offered something new, something a little different, something a bit less serious, and a lot more… fun.
Let’s jump into the Honda Urban EV Concept – somehow marrying the delightful nostalgia of Honda’s 1970’s hatchbacks, with a cute quirky futuristic EV. What is EV? Electric Vehicle. It’s about time that Honda jumps into the pure EV game, with the Nissan Leaf set to steal market share as an affordable, compact, electric vehicle. The Honda Clarity has been a good stop-gap for the time being, as a hybrid electric vehicle.
Honda has announced plans to launch two EV’s to market in 2018. One will be the Clarity Electric, but this is just an update on it’s existing hybrid. This leaves room for a pure EV, that has been designed as an innovative EV from the ground up, and that’s where we hope the Honda Urban EV Concept steps in.
Immediately you’re going to notice that Holden has forgone a lot of the traditional elements of the front of the car. Say goodbye to a traditional grill, and ‘hello’ to one panel, with a light up emblem, a screen to display messages to drivers (photographed displaying ‘Hello!’) and very unique lights that look like cartoon eyes. Of course this a concept, but surprisingly this car is slated for production, with a European and Asian release in 2019! No word on any release in the Americas, and we are crossing our fingers in the hopes to see an Australian release.
Before we dive into the physical unique qualities of the car, Honda doesn’t just offer innovation in design but also in the software of the car. The Honda Urban EV Concept also features the Honda Automated Network Assistant, unveiled with the NeuV Concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. HANA, the inbuilt engine AI, detects the drivers emotions from their driving and then based on previous experience can then offer the driver recommendations, such as music for their mood, and ‘support the owners daily driving routine’. We can only guess that HANA is not only built in for convenience, but also an attempt to reduce driver distraction, fatigue, and also combat ‘road rage’.
Of course, there is the expectation that between concept and production we will lose some of the quirkiness of this design. As much as we love the idea of finally being able to display messages to fellow drivers (instead of the one-size-fits-all toot of the horn), we don’t expect to see this get through the various levels of regulatory compliance.
You’ll notice an important feature is missing: side view mirrors. These have been replaced by internal side view screen displays built into the door. The screens may remain (though unlikely as it could be distracting to the driver), but we don’t expect to see the car hit the road without physical side mirrors. We also expect that the large internal display will be lost to a smaller version, built lower down into the dash, so it poses as less of a driver distraction and crash hazard.
The bucket/booth seats, though beautiful and nostalgic, are unlikely to make make the cut, instead we expect more traditional seats that have stronger safety designs. We also don’t expect the Rolls Royce-esque rear hinged doors, also commonly referred to as ‘suicide doors’, to hit final production, due to their safety concerns.
This healthy dose of skepticism doesn’t dampen our excitement as the Honda Urban EV Concept wasn’t announced alone. After the Frankfurt show, in Tokyo, Honda unveiled the related Honda Sports EV Concept. The Honda Sports EV Concept comes packed with the same AI featured in the Honda Urban EV Concept, but also features a lower wider design, and is obviously it’s sporty counterpart. You can spot the similar design features between the two models, including the front display, with light up emblem, message display screen, and unique light design.
Unlike the Honda Urban EV Concept, the Sports EV Concept it isn’t slated for production.
These two cars aren’t the only concepts Honda unveiled with this cute futuristic design. Honda also revealed a slew of innovative product concepts outside of automotive design. You’ll notice a familiar face in the RoboCas, a ‘communication robot’, that can operate as a mobile cooler/kiosk, play music, and mind children. RoboCas is just one of the 3E Robotics Concept robots unveiled at CES 2018 alongside the NeuV and HANA. The rest of the 3E Robotics Concept robots included a companion robot to show compassion, a mobility chair and an autonomous off-road vehicle.
So, what does this mean for what Honda has in store for 2019?
Well, from what has been confirmed, the Honda Urban EV Concept it set to be released to market in 2019, with ‘relatively little’ changes to the design. What that entails remains to be seen, but we can expect the design to adopt more traditional safety features and lose some of the eccentricity of the design, hopefully not too much. We are excited to see some fun quirky designs to challenge the current market and add a bit more variation into car design. As cars get smarter, it’s going to be interesting to see what advancements in EV and AI technology (electric vehicle and artificial technology) mean for the future of driving, or not driving at all, as we move further into self driving cars.