By Andrew Ganz
Monday, Nov 12th, 2012 @ 9:00 am
 


Despite its mundane name, the 2+1 Honda Micro Commuter Prototype that the automaker unveiled recently at its research and development center in Japan could have major ramifications for the automaker in its home market.

This latest prototype is an evolution of a concept car shown at the Tokyo Motor Show last year. Honda plans to launch demonstration vehicles in Japan in 2013 to test the potential of this small, ultra-urban runabout.

Designed in response to a Japanese government study request, Micro Commuter envisions a short-distance vehicle capable of various configurations ranging from a family runabout that seats one adult and two children to a mini pickup for urban deliveries. While the passenger-carrying concept might be difficult for consumers in many markets to wrap their arms around, the sight of an adult and two small children straddling a single bicycle is remarkably common in Japan.

The Micro Commuter concept features a single, centrally-located, adult-sized front seat and a pair of small jump seats in the back for two children.

But Honda says that a production-intent version would have a number of body types that could, theoretically, be changed out by a dealership depending on a buyer's needs. Ideas the automaker floated include a pickup-type body for deliveries and, almost comically, an open top roadster.

Honda suggests that the car could become popular with car sharing services in big cities.

High tech

The Micro Commuter's concept interior is spartan, but one of its best ideas is a tablet computer dock located where the gauge cluster would otherwise be. Drivers could insert their own tablet in the dock, which would automatically open up an app containing pertinent vehicle functions.

Included in the under-development app are features like a backup camera display, audio controls and navigation. To charge the tablet, the Micro Commuter's roof features integrated solar cells. Honda says it is looking into creating solar cells capable of charging the Micro Commuter's battery.

Underneath the prototype, a 15 kW electric motor mated to a lithium ion battery should provide decent around-town scoot and a 60 km range. Full charging would take about 3 hours, Honda says.

Outside of Japan, the ultra-restrictive Micro Commuter probably doesn't make much sense, but it could help reduce emissions in the densely populous Asian country.