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Honda Micro Commuter set to hit the road

Electric dreams: Honda’s Micro Commuter is one step closer to production with the announcement of trials in Japan from 2013.

Prototype demo set for Honda all-electric city runabout in Japan next year

13 Nov 2012

HONDA has announced it will start real-world trials of its electric Micro Commuter city runabout next year in Japan to determine its potential for mass production.

The car - powered by a rear-mounted 15kW electric motor and with a range of up to 60km - will be tested not only for its CO2-saving properties on the road but also as a battery for households when garaged at home.

However, the car is unlikely to venture onto Australian city streets any time soon, as Australian Design Rules do not accommodate such vehicles.

Honda says this category of micro vehicle is being considered for approval by Japanese authorities, bringing Japan into line with Europe, where such vehicles – including the Renault Twizy – can be registered as a form of motorcycle.

The Honda Micro Commuter fits the Euro L7 motorcycle category that permits electric vehicles under 400kg – excluding battery – and with a power output of 15kW or less.

“The demonstration testing will verify the potential of the vehicle in various uses including supporting everyday short-distance transportation for families with small children and for senior citizens, home delivery services, commuting and car sharing,” Honda said in its media release.

The Micro Commuter was first shown in a radical concept form at last year’s Tokyo motor show, but now Honda has revealed the production version with a more sedate, more practical body design.

15 center imageLeft: Honda Micro Commuter concept shown at last year's Tokyo motor show.

The flexible platform under the Micro Commuter Prototype is engineered to accommodate a variety of body styles, ranging from city commuter to delivery wagon.

“The adoption of the Variable Design Platform positions components such as the battery, motor and control unit under the floor and in the rear space to concentrate the vehicle driving functions into a compact space,” Honda said.

“This made it comparatively easier to develop and produce a body and interior that accommodates various uses and customers’ needs than existing vehicles.”

The first production-ready vehicle shown by Honda in Japan yesterday is set up as a three-seater – one central seat for an adult driver at the front and two child seats at the rear.

This layout was conceived as a short-distance family runabout to, for example, run the kids to school.

The same vehicle can be reconfigured as a two-seater for adults by shifting the front seat.

Rather than built-in instruments, the Micro Commuter employs an iPad-type tablet for functions such as meter display, navigation, audio and reversing camera display.

This tablet can be recharged from solar cells on the roof of the car.

Honda, which helped to pioneer solar-powered cars through its World Solar Challenge-winning Dream cars, says it is continuing research into onboard solar energy to assist the driving.

“Furthermore, through collaboration with the Honda Smart Home System (HSHS) that has already begun demonstration testing in the city of Saitama in Japan, Honda is planning to verify the CO2 reduction effect from the optimised energy management in everyday life and the values this vehicle can provide for customers when it is used not only as an EV but also as a household battery,” Honda said.

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