Mercedes Benz iconic smart fortwo was several decades ahead of its time when it was first conceived by Swatch in the late eighties. Now Honda's Micro Commuter Concept looks like it will take the basic design and update it to the world of today, with advanced aerodynamics, seating for three (1+2) similar to Gordon Murray's T25 and T27 city cars, luggage capacity, a customizable exterior and last mile transport in the form of an ingenious fold-up electric two-wheeler known as the Motor Compo.
Very little has been revealed by Honda in its pre Tokyo Motor Show press release, but the electric city commuter vehicle looks like a winner from the get-go. Studying the photos released with the press blurb suggests that the Micro Commuter Concept has seen plenty of time inside a wind tunnel to optimize its aerodynamics for the low to medium speed range of urban roads.
The four wheels are enclosed and even the passenger protection cell has been shaped in such a way as to leave the air as undisturbed as possible. It has not escaped Honda that pushing the air out of the way of a car consumes nearly all of the energy it uses, so every point shaved of the Cd reduces the energy consumption of the vehicle.
The Micro Commuter Concept also appears to employ a dockable handheld device to be known as the Honda Smart Connect which is also the central element of the driver interface for several of Honda's Tokyo Motor Show concept electric vehicles. We could guess at the capabilities of the device, but nothing has been released so the immediate following is pure speculation - smart key, GPS, remote locking, remote charging indicator, mobile phone, and telematics. The same Honda Smart Connect device is also used on the aforementioned Motor Compo and on another concept Honda will show in Tokyo to be named the Townwalker.
The MCC also employs a "Customized Panel" facility which will enable coloured/patterned fascias to be added to the vehicle to personalize it, in much the same way that Mercedes' smart has seen customization the world over.
Inside the cabin, the traditional steering wheel has been forsaken for twin joy-sticks, and the officially-released images clearly show a heads-up display and social-networking functionality which indicates how far you are from your friends in distance terms,
The relationship between the compact, fold-up Motor Compo electric two-wheeler is not clear as yet, but one of the very few indications of the functionality of the two-wheeler in the press releases states it to be a "compact EV commuter which offers the casual and convenient mobility of a two-wheeler, but also strives to be useful even when it's not being ridden. This model can be loaded in the Micro Commuter Concept, with the battery that drives this commuter detachable and designed to be used as a power source in everyday life."
One of the released images shows the battery of the Motor Compo docked in the Micro Commuter Concept, indicating that perhaps the two will be able to share batteries to extend the range.
The Micro Commuter Concept and Motor Compo are just two of seven concepts to be shown in Tokyo, but Honda clearly has the concept of last mile transport still firmly in its mind. It may be difficult for Americans living in cities with a lot of space to comprehend the problems faced by other city dwellers around the world, but as urban roads become more crowded, the distance between where you park and your final destination is set to become a significant part of the daily commute.
Honda addressed this aspect in its last set of Tokyo Motor Show concept vehicles in 2009 when it showed the U3-X electric monocycle and included it in an electric vehicle concept as "last mile transport."
Once again, Honda is showing that it has given significant thought to the problems we will face on our roads in the future.