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Honda Microcommuter Concept outsmarts the smart


November 10, 2011

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Honda's Micro Commuter Concept EV has heads-up display, social networking, advanced aerodynamics, seating for three (1+2 like the T25 and T27 city cars), luggage capacity, a customizable exterior and a fold-up electric bike for last mile transport

Mercedes Benz iconic smart fortwo was several decades ahead of its time when it was first conceived by Swatch in the late eighties. Now Honda's Micro Commuter Concept looks like it will take the basic design and update it to the world of today, with advanced aerodynamics, seating for three (1+2) similar to Gordon Murray's T25 and T27 city cars, luggage capacity, a customizable exterior and last mile transport in the form of an ingenious fold-up electric two-wheeler known as the Motor Compo.

Very little has been revealed by Honda in its pre Tokyo Motor Show press release, but the electric city commuter vehicle looks like a winner from the get-go. Studying the photos released with the press blurb suggests that the Micro Commuter Concept has seen plenty of time inside a wind tunnel to optimize its aerodynamics for the low to medium speed range of urban roads.

The four wheels are enclosed and even the passenger protection cell has been shaped in such a way as to leave the air as undisturbed as possible. It has not escaped Honda that pushing the air out of the way of a car consumes nearly all of the energy it uses, so every point shaved of the Cd reduces the energy consumption of the vehicle.

The Micro Commuter Concept also appears to employ a dockable handheld device to be known as the Honda Smart Connect which is also the central element of the driver interface for several of Honda's Tokyo Motor Show concept electric vehicles. We could guess at the capabilities of the device, but nothing has been released so the immediate following is pure speculation - smart key, GPS, remote locking, remote charging indicator, mobile phone, and telematics. The same Honda Smart Connect device is also used on the aforementioned Motor Compo and on another concept Honda will show in Tokyo to be named the Townwalker.

The MCC also employs a "Customized Panel" facility which will enable coloured/patterned fascias to be added to the vehicle to personalize it, in much the same way that Mercedes' smart has seen customization the world over.

Inside the cabin, the traditional steering wheel has been forsaken for twin joy-sticks, and the officially-released images clearly show a heads-up display and social-networking functionality which indicates how far you are from your friends in distance terms,

The relationship between the compact, fold-up Motor Compo electric two-wheeler is not clear as yet, but one of the very few indications of the functionality of the two-wheeler in the press releases states it to be a "compact EV commuter which offers the casual and convenient mobility of a two-wheeler, but also strives to be useful even when it's not being ridden. This model can be loaded in the Micro Commuter Concept, with the battery that drives this commuter detachable and designed to be used as a power source in everyday life."

One of the released images shows the battery of the Motor Compo docked in the Micro Commuter Concept, indicating that perhaps the two will be able to share batteries to extend the range.

The Micro Commuter Concept and Motor Compo are just two of seven concepts to be shown in Tokyo, but Honda clearly has the concept of last mile transport still firmly in its mind. It may be difficult for Americans living in cities with a lot of space to comprehend the problems faced by other city dwellers around the world, but as urban roads become more crowded, the distance between where you park and your final destination is set to become a significant part of the daily commute.

Honda addressed this aspect in its last set of Tokyo Motor Show concept vehicles in 2009 when it showed the U3-X electric monocycle and included it in an electric vehicle concept as "last mile transport."

Once again, Honda is showing that it has given significant thought to the problems we will face on our roads in the future.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon

It is really cool but I would still rather have my Smart Fortwo. :)


Excellent development and I do hope that Honda backs themselves in and goes to market with this transport option - I\'d buy one even at a price point premium, though as close to \'normal\' costs would be hoped. If Honda went to market priced at around \'normal pricing options for a small car, they\'d get a jump start on their competitors and likely eat into the existing petrol based market. If they went into this by trying to extract their full premium, they\'ll always face \'compared to\' choices for consumers

Strategic Futurist

Looks great, but comeon, no steering wheel, those things covering the wheels, i\'d like too see what they\'d look like after most parralel parking attempts! Likelyhood too see this on the roads in the next 20 years 5%. Are any of the ideas learnt really new, I doubt it. Looks like fun though.

Jack Thompson

How can a tech organization get something as basic as \"head-up display\" wrong? \"Heads up\" is what you yell in a situation such as when a baseball or football is flying toward a group of unaware people. The technology that allows people to keep their eyes on the road is \"head up\" because you can keep your head up; not looking down at a display.


It doesn\'t look any more utilitarian than a Kia Rio, and likely would cost more.

William Lanteigne

At least Honda is thinking outside the box which cannot be said for any American company producing transportation vehicles. Disagree with the car to scooter concept. In all first world countries except the United States there are very efficient mass transportation systems with a combination of intra city trains and inner city light rail. The reach of the light rail would be greatly extended with the use of a personal electric powered vehicle that could be taken onboard the trains and light rail cars for the next leg of a trip. Studies in the USA have shown that when commuters have to get into their car for the first leg of their trip they tend to complete the trip in the car rather than find parking near a train station (if one even exists) and so they do the entire trip by car even though cars provide the least efficient and most environmentally and financially costly means of transportation. Not surprising that Japanese and Chinese companies are leading the way with battery powered personal vehicles and that the USA is decades behind them.


I predict steering wheels will be replaced in 50 years or less. I like the idea of taking one of the batteries and making it power a mobil device. We need it now though, not in 5-10 years.


Did Steve Jobs and Apple get involved in a little \"moonlighting\" with Honda on the design of the Micro Commuter Concept EV?

Honda\'s design has iMac simularities written all over it. Especially the on the interior of this unique vehicle.

Way to go Steve! (?)


Transit Buses are Not as Green as One Would Want

Actually, from the metric of energy efficiency (related usually also to Carbon emissions) US transit buses and most, though not all, light rail systems are less energy efficient than a large single occupancy SUV. Sad but technically true. It\'s counter-intuitive, but owing to the fact that transit buses in most US cities outside peak commuter hours travel many more hours with few passengers, are heavy, start and stop frequently (awful for diesel mileage) they are energy hogs on a per-passenger-mile basis. Light rail in my city of Seattle is a horribly wasteful transportation system, with low ridership, running many off peak hours near empty. Thankfully our electricity here is mostly hydro base.

Boston\'s commuter rail is much more energy efficient because they pack the trains at commute times, but park most of them otherwise, running a reduced schedule when ridership is light, not so with most bus transit systems running on a fixed schedule regardless of ridership load. New York subway is also energy efficient due to near round the clock high ridership, but most US cities lack the density to support efficient subway systems. In Seattle our South Lake Union surface Trolley is the object of derision due to high operating costs and very low ridership.

My wife and I own an all electric Nissan Leaf and a Volve sedan we now seldom use.

See the following website for technical info supporting the above assertions;


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