Honda's electric dreams

  • 10-Mar-2010 11:04 EST
When parked, the 3R-C windshield folds down over the cockpit to form a cover.

Early in Honda’s life as a car maker, the company produced city cars powered by small, efficient motorcycle-derived drivetrains.

At the 2010 Geneva Motor Show in March, for one of its two concepts the company targeted city commuters for the Honda 3R-C three-wheeled electric vehicle. “We imagined a business man, or woman, young people who have to travel in the city,” designer Matteo Krzanowski told AEI. “The package concept was divided into two main parts. There’s the stable platform where we located all the heavy components—the battery and the motor to give a low center of gravity and, in this case, more stability. Then we have what we have termed a safety cocoon—the cockpit that floats on the platform.”

“We don’t want to classify the 3R-C as a car or as a bike; it’s a totally new system of transportation,” said Krzanowski. He believes that the design draws on all the transport systems that Honda produces from cars, motorcycles, and aircraft to robots. “The door from the car will give protection and also the feeling of safety that you don’t have on a scooter or a bike. The seating position is similar to that of a car and the steering system is the same as that from a car.” The idea is that it should be a familiar environment for a car driver, with the suspended platform providing car-like comfort, but incorporating the excitement of riding a bike or a scooter.

Krzanowski describes the 3R-C as a three-wheeled cabriolet. When parked, the windshield can be folded down and locked in position to form a canopy over the cockpit. When in use, the windshield is moved into the vertical position to provide weather protection for the driver. Storage space on a scooter is usually confined to a helmet locker under the seat. “In the front area of the 3R-C, there is luggage space. It’s enough for daily usage, to put tools, or a sports bag,” said Krzanowski.

The concept is still under development and many details are not yet finalized. For example, the 3R-C could have a tilting steering mechanism like that used for some three-wheeled motor scooters, or it may be more conventional. The electric drivetrain is expected to have sufficient range for a day’s urban use, but the details are still under development.

For the other concept on display, Honda recalled the 1967 N360 city car with the EV-N, a tiny four-seater designed as a city car with a minimalist interior to keep weight low. Interchangeable mesh panels are used for the seats to reduce weight and provide a choice of color and style inside. Solar panels have been built into the roof to charge the battery pack when it is parked. One of Honda’s U3-X electric unicycles is stowed in each door. The EV-N is based around a lithium-ion battery pack and a small electric motor, tailored to urban usage and range.

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