Honda has revealed further details of its new electric city car, the Honda e, ahead of its dynamic debut later this year.
The new machine, which is available to order before deliveries commence in 2020, will arrive with a 50:50 weight distribution and a low centre of gravity, thanks to the placement of its batteries low within its wheelbase. Power will be sent to the rear wheels, and the car will ride on four-wheel independent suspension.
The Honda e will use a 35.5kWh, liquid-cooled battery that Honda claims should have a range of over 200km. Rapid-charging should allow for an 80 percent charge in less than 30 minutes, although Honda is yet to reveal the exact maximum charging capacity of the car.
While the estimated range is substantially lower than that offered by rival EVs such as the 454km Kia e-Niro and 310km BMW i3, Honda e project manager Kohei Hitomi explained that this was necessary to keep the batteries small to fulfill its city car role.
“We believe the range is sufficient for this segment of car,” said Hitomi. “Some potential customers might not be satisfied, but when you think about bigger range and a bigger battery, it has drawbacks in terms of packaging. It’s a balance.”
The e will make its first UK appearance at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed. It will take to the event's hillclimb course, with another example being on display at the Honda stand.
Honda says the e that will appear at Goodwood will be "95 percent true" to the production version. The latest version of the NSX hybrid supercar will also appear at the Japanese firm's Goodwood stand.
The e is the production version of the Urban EV concept that was revealed at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, and Honda has confirmed that many of that car's features will reach the final model as standard. These will include the camera wing mirror system, which Honda claims reduces aerodynamic drag by around 90 percent. That is said to improve the efficiency of the entire vehicle by 3.8 percent, playing a significant role in maximising range.
Honda recently began taking orders for the e, ahead of first deliveries in spring 2020.
Mirroring the process of rivals such as Tesla and Peugeot with the e-208, potential customers are invited to cough up a reservation fee of £800 for "priority status" in the order books. The pricing is still yet to be announced, but as with most reservations, the fee is refundable if buyers change their mind.
A near-production version of the e was shown at this year's Geneva motor show, dubbed the e Prototype. Honda has confirmed the 'e' name will stay for the production version and revealed a selection of available paint options for customers at launch.
The firm believes the car’s retro design will give it an Apple-style appeal to customers. It also maintains the styling of the Urban EV, albeit with the addition of an extra set of doors.
While Honda has yet to reveal full technical details of the car, its designers told our sister publication Autocar UK at the Geneva show that it would offer "more than" 99hp and 300Nm.
Honda has said there are more than 6,500 people in the UK who have expressed interest in the e so far. Pricing has yet to be set, but Autocar UK understands a ballpark figure is GBP 35,000 (about Rs 30.86 lakh).
Project manager Kohei Hitomi said the machine had been the subject of an internal “battle” over whether to put it into production, with the positive reaction to the concept being a key factor in it gaining approval.
The car is slightly shorter than the Jazz and around 100mm taller than the Mini hatchback. It is built on a new platform designed for A and B-segment electric cars, with underfloor batteries produced by Panasonic that are similar to those used in the US-market Accord plug-in hybrid. The rear-mounted electric motor drives the rear wheels, which employ torque vectoring to give a smoother response and improved handling in tight corners.
As well as featuring cameras instead of rear-view mirrors, there are also flush door handles to further boost aerodynamic efficiency, while the charging port is mounted centrally in the bonnet.
The cockpit of the e prototype is dominated by two 12-inch touchscreens, built into a dashboard finished with a wood-effect trim. The seats – including a two-seat bench in the rear – are covered in polyester, which, as with the wood effect, is designed to make the interior feel like a living room.
The e will be built in Japan and go on sale in selected European markets in late 2019, with others following in 2020. It will also be sold in Japan.
Hitomi said it is “important” the car is affordable but he added: “A low price is not always a guarantee of success. When you look at Apple products, they are not cheap, but everyone wants to have them because of their added value. We believe it is the same for the electric vehicle.”
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