This is pretty much the ugliest thing to ever grace Frankfurt

Honda is one of the last companies to truly jump on the “look at us as we promise a future of EVs” bandwagon, not even touching base on its future strategy until early 2017. When it did finally break silence on the topic, it promised that Europe would be its focal point for electrified vehicles and that hybrid, plug-in, electric, and fuel cell vehicles would make up two-thirds of its Euro sales by 2025. Fast forward six months to the Frankfurt Auto Show and Honda has attempted to impress with an all-electric concept that Takahiro Hachigo – President and CEO of Honda Motor Co. – said will be in production and on the Euro market by 2019. There’s a problem, though – the concept just isn’t that attractive. Perhaps it’s the American in me, but I think it’s straight-up ugly on the outside. It makes me feel like someone crossed a Mini Cooper and a 1990 Volkswagen Golf and gave it some modern gene sequencing to add in some futuristic features.

At this point, Honda hasn’t said a whole lot about this concept of the vehicle of the future that it represents. It has said that the car has compact proportions and is, in fact, 100 mm or 3.93-inches shorter than the Honda Jazz. That puts its overall length in the area of just over 156 inches from tip to tip. To go along with this, it also mentions that the Concept showcases its new Automated Network Assistant, a virtual concierge of sorts that learns from your emotions and actions as you drive to suggest new choices in the future – kind creepy, but interesting. With that said, there’s a little more we can talk about, so join me further down the page, and we’ll get into the nitty gritty.

Continue reading for the full story.

We’ve Seen This Story Before

Remember when Nissan first debuted its Leaf electric vehicle – the car that would go on to be the best selling EV on the market? Well, if you don’t let me explain. The first-gen Leaf was quite ugly, to say the least. But, it offered up a decent electric range for the time and came at a very affordable price – especially considering the lack of attention. It wasn’t long before looks didn’t matter and the little EV that could was a big hit despite its shortcomings. So, while the Urban EV, and its future production counterpart for the matter, are ugly, they could still be very dominating in the compact EV market if Honda does things right in other departments. First, let’s talk about that exterior design.

Now, I’ve already said that it looks like a cross between a modern-day Mini Cooper and a 1990s Volkswagen Golf, and just to prove a point, here’s the Urban EV Concept next to a 1990s VW Golf:

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2003 Volkswagen Golf R32
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It looks like a cross between a modern-day Mini Cooper and a 1990s Volkswagen Golf

With that in mind, it does have a lot of futuristic, but feasible things going on outside. First, it’s got the electric door poppers that automakers keep teasing but are too afraid to put into production. The circular headlights are LED units with center LED strips as well. The Honda emblem lights up a dark blue and the display up front is said to be able to display various messages such as greetings, warnings, or other communications.

It’s still weird to look at vehicles that are inherently boring up front, and it will take a while adjusting to not seeing an actual radiator grille up front, but it’s a small price to pay if it helps save the world right? Moving right along, this concept also features what I would consider being modern-day wire wheels along with side view cameras which should help aerodynamic efficiency. I certainly wouldn’t call the body muscular either, but those fender flares are a nice touch and add a bit of character to the vehicle overall. Where things get really interesting, however, is the interior, so let’s take a good look at the inside.

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The interior is certainly a huge departure from the exterior

As you can see, the interior is certainly a huge departure from the exterior. It offers seating for four – two in the front and two in the rear – with sofa-like bench seating. Digital monitors reside in the door trim panels to display the video feed from the side view cameras but are the only thing of interest in that department. The dash itself, despite being rather bland has a large wood veneer that traverses nearly the entire width of the dash and is complemented by the rood on the arm rests of the front seats. A massive display screen sits atop the dash and features two circular controllers for the driver and passenger.

The steering wheel is a rounded, rectangular unit with a flashy insert on the inner rim that seems to match the two pedals ahead of the driver and the inserts along the dash and door trim panels. A large glass roof provides passengers with a nice view of the night’s sky while the shag-like carpet on the floor makes me want to tell passengers they have to remove their shoes before entering. So, we’ve got the sofa, the widescreen, and soft carpet… is this a home or a vehicle? Let’s just say that it’s a home on wheels.

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It will be shifted into production for Europe and is expected to hit the market by 2019

Unfortunately, that’s about all we know about this concept for now. It will be shifted into production for Europe and is expected to hit the market by 2019. Whether it’ll retain the sofa-like bench seats of the same exterior design and features remains to be seen, but if Honda sticks with this interior and manages to offer up a reasonably powerful drivetrain with decent range – we’re talking at least 175 miles per charge – then it can be ugly as sin on the outside and will probably sell like hotcakes. And, let’s be honest, that’s what Honda really needs if it’s truly going to venture into the EV market and be a prime contender in what is soon to be a very busy niche.

What do you, my loyal readers, think of the Honda Urban EV Concept? Is it ugly or gorgeous? Is the interior a bit too comfortable or would you prefer something more intensive? Drop down to the comments section and fill us in on what’s on your mind.


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Read more Frankfurt Motor Show news.

Press release

Honda has revealed an all-new electric vehicle, the Urban EV Concept; which makes its global debut at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. The concept car is built on a completely new platform, and sets the direction for the technology and design that will appear on a future battery electric Honda production model.

Does Honda's Urban EV Concept Prove that Honda has no Idea what it is Doing? High Resolution Exterior
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The concept was officially introduced by Honda Motor Co. President and CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, during his press conference speech. “This is not some vision of the distant future; a production version of this car will be here in Europe in 2019,” he added, confirming that the concept is set to be launched within two years.

Exterior design
Honda’s Urban EV Concept showcases advanced technology within a simple and sophisticated design. Its low and wide proportions give the car a planted, muscular stance that hint at sporty driving performance. Its compact proportions mean it has a total vehicle length 100mm shorter than the Jazz supermini.

The Honda emblem on the concept is backlit in blue, which previews a new styling feature for the company‘s future EVs. At the front of the car, interactive multilingual messages can be displayed between the headlights, including greetings, advice for other drivers on the road, or charging status updates.

Interior design
The driver’s outward visibility from the Urban EV Concept is excellent thanks to slim A-pillars and a wide windscreen that appears to sweep around the entire front of the car. Entry and exit from the vehicle is via rear-hinged coach doors. The electric charging cable connection is housed on the bonnet.

Honda’s Urban EV Concept can accommodate four occupants, across two bench seats finished in different materials. To create a lounge feeling, the front row is upholstered with natural grey fabric, with the seat backs, squabs and arm rests embellished with contemporary wood finish accents. The seatbelts for the rear bench are fixed in the middle of the seat, allowing the belt to retract out of the way before a passenger exits the car.

The same wood finish wraps around a large ‘floating’ dashboard console. This houses the steering wheel column, a set of simple control buttons, and a panoramic display screen. The dashboard itself is completed by a wrap-around screen that runs behind the console and extends into the doors. The main dashboard screen presents a range of vehicle information including remaining battery level. Whilst the extended door screens function as the car’s wing mirrors through digital camera displays.

Honda Automated Network Assistant concierge
Honda’s Urban EV Concept showcases the company’s vision for a world where mobility and daily life are seamlessly linked. The on-board advanced Honda Automated Network Assistant acts as a personal concierge, which learns from the driver by detecting emotions behind their judgments. It can then apply what it has learnt from the driver’s past decisions to make new choices and recommendations.

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Honda Power Manager
New methods for managing energy transfers between the grid, homes and electric vehicles could provide revenue opportunities for EV owners in the future. Honda’s Power Manager Concept, revealed alongside the Urban EV Concept in Frankfurt, is a smart system that can store energy more efficiently, releasing electricity generated by renewable sources back into the home or selling it back to the grid.

Electric Vision
Honda’s ‘Electric Vision’ strategy, launched at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, includes the development of a dedicated electric vehicle platform, featuring fully-electric powertrain technology. Key parts of the powertrain development will include a high-density, lightweight battery pack, integrated heat management and the evolution of energy transfer functions – both to and from the vehicle.

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Press release
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