Tokyo — Honda today revealed this tiny concept car that is appropriately named the Micro Commuter Prototype. It’s designed to fit new Japanese rules that create a class of car that bridges the gap between motorcycles and automobiles.
Honda previously unveiled a version of the Micro Commuter at the Tokyo Motor Show earlier this year, but that was a fanciful show car with a yoke instead of a real steering wheel. The Micro Commuter we saw in Japan looks much closer to a production-intent vehicle.
The car consists of a chassis that integrates a lithium-ion battery, 15-kW electric motor, and all the car’s suspension components. Various different body types can be bolted on top of that chassis, from the hatchback seen here to convertibles and even small pickup trucks. Honda says the Micro Commuter could manage a top speed of 50 mph and a driving range of 37 miles before it needs a three-hour charge. The teensy car measures just 98.4 inches long and 49.2 inches wide, and is said to weigh less than 880 pounds.
Although the Micro Commuter has its own instrument cluster, a special dashboard dock lets owners slide their own tablet commuter in place and use special Honda software that provides navigation, a backup camera, and more. Solar panels on the roof charge the tablet computer and other accessories, but are not yet able to charge the battery.
Honda showed this prototype with a centrally mounted driver’s seat and two small rear child’s seats. Although the proposed Japanese laws for this vehicle class stipulate a maximum of two adult passengers, Honda has interpreted this to also include one adult and two children. After all, notes an engineer, it’s far safer than the Japanese families who precariously transport two children on a bicycle. For those who want to follow the letter of the law, a full-size single rear seat can be installed instead.
Honda plans to start demonstrating the Micro Commuter on public roads in Japan next year. The company also hopes the car could sell in Europe, but admits that such a small and impractical vehicle has no real chance of success in the U.S.