Urban, electric, design-led, and minimalist yet advanced. This is the car that Apple should have released, but its front end wears a Honda emblem. Called E Prototype, it made its debut as a close-to-production concept during the 2019 Geneva Auto Show, and it will reach showrooms in select markets before the end of the year.
The E Prototype accurately previews the production version of the friendly-faced Urban EV concept that turned every head — and melted every heart — at the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show. Honda envisions it as a small, affordable electric car that feels right at home in the city. Think of it as a zero-emissions alternative to the Fiat 500. Its design has evolved over the past two years, but it hasn’t changed drastically. It still wears a retro-inspired front end reminiscent of the 360 and the 600, two of the Japanese company’s very first cars. The concept’s round LED headlights and back-lit Honda emblem have made the transition from concept to production, too.
Stylists added a set of rear doors in the name of practicality, but they concealed the handles in the C-pillars to keep the two-door look. The photos confirm the E Prototype will be available with cameras in lieu of door mirrors. This forward-looking technology remains illegal in the United States, which is why Audi’s electric E-Tron SUV will go on sale here with standard mirrors, but the new tech is allowed in Europe and in Japan. We expect American regulators will approve the cameras in the not-too-distant future.
The interior is a tech lover’s dream come true. Designers replaced the analog instrument cluster with a tablet-like screen that provides key information about the car and its surroundings in high resolution. It’s connected to two additional, driver-configurable screens that replace a vast majority of the buttons normally found on the dashboard and on the center console. The result is a clean, minimalist cockpit that looks intuitive to use. The company explained it aimed to make the concept’s interior feel lounge-like by giving it a flat floor — which is made possible by the battery pack — and sofa-like fabric on the seats.
The E Prototype rides on a brand-new platform developed specifically for electric cars. Technical details are few and far between, but Honda promises up to 124 miles of driving range, and a fast-charging system that delivers an 80-percent charge in 30 minutes. An electric motor mounted over the rear axles draws electricity from the battery pack under the floor and zaps the rear wheels with it.
It’s difficult to say precisely when the Honda E Prototype will reach showrooms because the model we saw in Geneva is a close-to-production prototype; in other words, development work is ongoing. Pricing and availability will be released in the coming months. What’s certain is that the E Prototype — a name that will not be retained for the production model — will not be sold in the United States, but it hopefully sheds valuable insight into the electric cars Honda will sell here after the turn of the decade.
Updated February 27, 2019: Added full information about the Honda E prototype.
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