Honda’s Urban EV concept will be put into production next year, the automaker reaffirms in Geneva
At last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, Honda unveiled what seemed like an early design sketch of a future electric offering, dubbed the Urban EV Concept. Alongside another sportier version – economically named the Sports EV – feedback for the pair was largely positive, and the carmaker promised a production version of the supermini EV by 2019.
If sceptics – ElecTrans included – wondered that the prototype and design sketches on show seemed a little rough, Honda was confident this model would soon become reality. “This is not some vision of the distant future; a production version of this car will be here in Europe in 2019,” President and CEO Takahiro Hachigo said at the time. Honda confirmed that the concept was set to be launched within two years.
Six months later, Honda is reaffirming its commitment to the model in Geneva. In addition to displaying the Urban EV at the conference, the company has also stated that order books for a production model will open in Europe in early 2019.
A new electric hatchback – even a retro futuristic one – might not seem like headline news, but the Urban EV will be the first battery-electric model the Honda has released in Europe (its Clarity electric is only available in the US and Japan). For that reason, it will have to deliver on performance as well as charm.
Not that there isn’t a lot to love here. Honda touts “a simple and sophisticated design” and certainly both interior and body speak to a minimalism that has informed many consumer electronics. In addition to small A-pillars and the panoramic windscreen that has been so popular in EV rivals like the Model 3, the suicide doors add a hint of something unusual to the car. There are also definite shades of the classic AMC Pacer hatchback from the mid-70s.
Inside too has a retro-futuristic feel. Instead of the separate seating used in just about every modern passenger vehicle, the Urban EV opts for two bench seats in the front and rear, which in the production model will offer enough room for five occupants. Doing away with a central column opens up the cabin space too, and the interactive dashboard features a wrap-around screen that extends into the doors. Honda says this can display a range of vehicle information, while the extended door screens will also function as the car’s side mirrors through digital camera displays.
The new Honda Automated Network Assistant will also act as a “personal concierge” to the driver.
Performance-wise though, specifications are still scarce. Honda promises a “high-density, lightweight battery pack [with] integrated heat management” but is less open about kWh and range. According to Autocar, Honda sources have said a middling range is expected, leading to a speculative guess of about 155 miles.
With around a year to go eager buyers won’t have to wait long to place orders – but Honda will need to get firmer on the details soon if they are to know exactly what it is they are buying.