Tokyo Motor Show: Honda hints at MX-5 fighter

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Funky Tokyo concept could follow platform-sharing Urban EV sibling to production

Honda’s Sports EV concept is a striking electric sports car with clear production intent.

Revealed at the Tokyo motor show, it is the second model on Honda’s new dedicated electric vehicle platform after the Urban EV city car shown at the recent Frankfurt show.

The Urban EV will make production in 2019 as the first model in the new family. A production version of the Sports EV has not been approved by Honda chiefs yet, but is under consideration.

Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said: “We’re going to evaluate and see the feedback on Sports EV from Europe and Japan, to learn if we should launch this.”

“We’re going to see the feedback on Sports EV to learn if we should launch this”

The marque has been steadily increasing its number of sporty offerings over recent years. Creating the Sports EV would signal that it intends to keep on doing so moving into the era of electrification. Honda already has an electrified supercar – the NSX – so it is no stranger to the technology.

If Honda could move the concept to production as quickly as it will the Urban EV, it could have the Sports EV ready by 2020, well ahead of any electric sports car rival.

The model would join the NSX and Civic Type R as one of Honda’s flagship performance offerings, alongside the S660 mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive kei car sold in Japan only. The NSX and S660 both started out as concept cars that went on to make production.

Honda is keen to create a family of electric cars using the new architecture to achieve economies of scale. On that point, Hachigo said: “We might extend the series of EVs within the same family.”

The car revealed at Tokyo borrows its main stylistic themes from the well-received Urban EV concept, the design of which Honda has said will make production largely unchanged. The interior of the Sports EV is, apart from the seats, a straight carry-over from the Urban EV.

Although Honda did not disclose the Sports EV’s dimensions, it seems a little longer than the 3895mm of the Urban EV and close to the 3950mm of the Mazda MX-5.

Honda has retained classic long-bonnet, cab-backwards proportions of a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car in the age of electrification. The concept’s appearance is the work of Makoto Harada, who became sole designer on the project after winning a global internal competition (see separate story, above right).

No specific powertrain details have been revealed by Honda for either the Urban EV or Sports EV concepts.

Honda said the Urban EV features a high-density lightweight battery pack with integrated heat management and energy transfer functions both to and from the vehicle. The same technology would appear likely to feature in the
Sports EV too.

The Sports EV’s battery pack is mounted in the floor of the car. A source quoted a range of 150 miles for the Urban EV, which could be replicated in the Sports EV.

Honda has already committed to having an electrified version of every model in its range from now on. In Europe, Honda hopes to have two-thirds of its new car sales using electrified technology by 2025, five years earlier than its overall global goal.

MARK TISSHAW

 

Q&A: MAKOTO HARADA, SPORTS EV DESIGNER
How long had you been working on this project?

“It was a super-tight turnaround. We were working on it right to the last minute. The Urban EV at the Frankfurt show was created way before this. The cars share the same concept, but we’re targeting a wide range of people with them.”

How adaptable is Honda’s electric vehicle platform?

“There is a lot of freedom, depending on what we want to achieve. Construction-wise, this is the same as the Urban EV, using the same headlights, tail-lights and interior except for the seats. Dimensions-wise, they are pretty close. The platform allows for different weight distributions, where you can make some parts of the car heavier, some parts [lighter].”

Why is the design so different to current Hondas?

“The surfacing is totally different – we’re not relying on harsh crease lines. We spent so much time on the surfacing. We gave the car a low, wide stance, and then wanted to give it a design like sports cars back in the day – more friendly and human.”

How was the concept received within Honda?

“We took a lot of risk with it. Some people ask why it is like this. There are so many different opinions on it. I went through three three-quarter clay models rather than just one to get the right feeling from my original sketch. At the end, people seemed to like it.”