Honda Electric Car Is Range And Price Challenged, But Technology, Quality Are Plusses


Honda’s new little electric city car won’t be a candidate for best value for money or longest range, but it is a technology marvel with plenty of ground-breaking innovations, while being the first in a brand-new category of “small premium”.

The “e” looks exceptionally cute, has lively performance, and when you get behind the wheel for the first time, you will see a marvellous sweeping dashboard design which might make even Tesla
TSLA
owners envious.

Honda has no current plan to sell the car in the U.S.

When you consult the various data sources on the dashboard, which fills the entire space in front of the driver and front-seat passenger and is boarded by the TV monitors for the wing-mirror cameras, you might find some disturbing information. When I climbed aboard, the battery monitor said 97% full, while the range predictor said only 106 miles. The claimed range for the Honda e from the 35.5 kWh battery is 125 miles. This compares unfavorably with many other all-new electric cars in this price-bracket – in Britain the top of the range Honda e Advanced – is priced at 29,160 pounds after tax ($37,100).

Cars like the Renault Zoe (240 miles) and the Peugeot 208 e (220 miles) are priced very close to the Honda e but are bigger, and have this huge almost double advantage in range. Honda counters with the argument that the interior quality of the “e” is in a higher class, and the technology offered is also worth paying for. Honda says that for most daily commuters, the range of 125 miles would be more than adequate, while its fast charging is top class. Honda says it can be 80% recharged in 30 minutes.

Even electric cars at the lower end of the price range, like the Volkswagen eUp and its derivatives the SEAT Mii electric and Skoda Citigo e, have close to 170 miles of range. Spain-based SEAT and Czech-domiciled Skoda are VW subsidiaries.

Viktor Irle, Stockholm, Sweden-based analyst with consultancy EV-volumes said these three electric cars will sell a total of about 27,000 in Europe this year, with the VW accounting for around 13,000, the Skoda 5,000 and the rest from the SEAT. Like the Honda, none of these vehicles are at home on the highway because they start seriously haemorrhaging power at over about 65 mph.

“Sales of the Honda e will ramp up slowly to about 20,000 to 25,000 a year (globally) with the major sales in the home (Japanese) market. They’ll sell about 1,500 in Europe this year, and around 4,000 in 2021. The range is a bit poor and it’s expensive. It will do best in Japan and some Asian markets,” Irle said.

Meanwhile Honda said the rear-wheel drive “e” is part of its plan to electrify all its cars by 2025.

Honda said what it called the minimalist interior has been designed to feel like a lounge.

“The clean surfaces also incorporate flush-fit pop-out door handles, (like Tesla) whilst the charging-point port is integrated in to the bonnet (hood). This helps to reduce drag and increase the overall efficiency of the car,” Honda said.

The “e” includes what Honda calls a “sector-first” camera system for the wing-mirrors, which are replaced by bullet-like cameras on each side, and little screens on the left and right of the dashboard show the rear view. The “e” boasts much high technology, which until recently would only have been seen in high-priced German vehicles. The “e” has systems like collision mitigation, which also detects in-danger pedestrians, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assists and lane departure warning.

One of the high-tech boasts of the “e” is an enhanced voice control facility. If you say “OK Honda” it will in theory fulfil commands like increasing the regenerative braking or tuning the radio. I’ve heard these claims a few times over the years, and up until now, they’ve never worked for me. Nor did this one, although it might with a bit of time for the system to recognise your voice.

The 150 hp Honda e Advanced accelerates from zero to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds with a top speed of 100 mph.



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