My uncle is an architect. He’s conscious of fine design, comes from a technology when model loyalty mattered and environmental points had been much less of an apocalyptic concern. He’s at all times had a tender spot for quick motor vehicles, but over Sunday lunch at my dad and mom he instructed me how a lot he’s having fun with driving his spouse’s Good Forfour electrical automobile. Parked on the purple lights beside a hot-red Ferrari, he couldn’t assist however smirk on the driver sitting impatiently behind the wheel, revving his V8. To paraphrase, he mentioned he appeared foolish losing his cash on petrol whereas polluting the ambiance. I attempted to cover my astonishment (and amusement) at this flip of occasions. However I couldn’t assist pondering: is the age of combustion vehicles actually behind us?
Driving the newest Honda e, I’m inclined to suppose why not. And about time too. Celebrating the motor automobile is one factor, hanging onto its sell-by-date is an altogether extra tragic affair. We will nonetheless worship the beauties of vehicle historical past — the Citroën DS, the Bertone Countach and coachbuilt Rolls-Royces and Bentleys — but it surely’s time to maneuver on. For each Phantom V or Aston Martin DB5, there are numerous anonymous and faceless small, massive and ugly SUVs polluting — actually and aesthetically — our roads. Transferring to wash transport needn’t be second finest, however relatively an thrilling new chapter within the ever-evolving story of the automobile.
Which brings me again to the Honda e I’ve on a short check. The situation is London and as customary with electrical vehicles, I exploit the event to take it for a spin wherever I’m not allowed in my typical automobile. We head to the town heart and onto the West Finish, enter roads reserved for bikes and electrical autos, purely for the sake of it, whereas navigating slim roads made all of the extra so with cafes and eating places spilling onto funds and streets — and all with nice ease.
The Honda e was introduced at the beginning of the 12 months. Designed with a concentrate on performance and usefulness, the outcome is a straightforward, clear exterior, which feels a bit like a smartphone on wheels. The surfaces are as clear as might be, the home windows are frameless and door handles flush, which pop open as I strategy with my digital key. In the meantime, the radio, GPS and cellular information antennae are built-in into the highest fringe of the rear window so as to add to this clear, uncluttered look.
There’s a massive glasshouse to ask pure mild in what’s in any other case a small house and the roof is completed in shiny noir so as to add to the tech gadget aesthetic. The round lamps are a nod to the 1972 Honda Civic, as is the gently scalloped element line that runs throughout the flank and up the rear finish. I’m notably impressed with the logic of putting the charging port centrally on the bonnet, which additionally makes a characteristic, even perhaps a celebration, of the electrical drive.
The cabin has a technical austerity to it — in a great way. Too many trendy vehicles add additional curves and contours, thrives and garish ambient lighting that feels extra Nineteen Eighties disco than the ambiance of intent. Or to cite the Austrian modernist architect Adolf Loos who famously declared, “freedom from ornamentation is an indication of religious power.”
Loos would have been completely satisfied to see Honda’s strategy, the place every little thing has been stripped out and changed with such fundamental logic. The wing mirrors are small digital cameras exterior which supply a superior clear view of the encompass. It takes a couple of minutes to get used to them, however I can’t assist surprise why different carmakers don’t undertake the know-how. The shortage of cumbersome exterior mirrors additionally helps with the automobile’s total aero effectivity.
The instrument panel is completed in a easy wooden veneer, whereas the seats, together with the again bench, are upholstered in a contemporary textile which feels becoming for an city electrical automobile. In site visitors we now have enjoyable enjoying round with the full-width colour touchscreen — altering the gallery from serene scenes of the rainforest to Tokyo blossoms. The Bluetooth connectivity is straightforward to navigate and there’s a number of plugs beneath the middle console for charging and connecting to electrical units together with laptops.
My solely criticism can be the modest battery energy, however then the Honda e is a purely city commuter. The 35.5kWh battery supplies a variety of 137 miles, with 80% of cost added in half-hour of fast charging. In the meantime, a thermal administration system optimizes battery vary in excessive and low temperatures, permitting the automobile to keep up optimum vary functionality.
The Honda e is a pivotal automobile for the corporate who has pledged to have all its mainstream European fashions electrified by 2022, three years forward of the beforehand introduced objective. The marque’s imaginative and prescient incorporates city charging options to incorporate a bespoke Honda home energy chargers and industrial power companies.
The Honda e is so Japanese and this may solely be a optimistic factor. In structure, merchandise, graphics, even meals, Japan has such confidence in selling its philosophies and it design sensibility. But on the subject of vehicles — even with the pleasant tiny Kei vehicles that roam Asian cities — Japanese carmakers have collectively shied-away from expressing a singular persona.
Years in the past, I used to be tasked to edit the Honda model journal. “Dream” was a beautiful little quirky publication, however my work was certain by the shortage of thrilling merchandise within the household. I couldn’t comprehend why a carmaker with such an thrilling model story anchored on one man’s imaginative and prescient, a dream to discover the boundaries of transport, lacked all braveness in design. The drab portfolio left little to the creativeness. How I might have had enjoyable and video games with a gadget like this Honda e. To my thoughts, this little city commuter might mark the beginning of a brand new starting for Japanese automobile design. And we want extra vehicles just like the Honda e to make the brand new automotive age an optimistic one.
See BMW Group’s sustainability imaginative and prescient; and browse what the illustrious automobile designer Marcello Gandini feels in regards to the present wave of electrical vehicles. Additionally in dialog about future design, learn my interviews with the previous BMW Group artistic director Chris Bangle, Hyundai/Genesis chief artistic officer Luc Donckerwolke and David Lorenz of the electrical up-cycling model Lunaz.