For the past 50 years, the Super Cub has graced the road in essentially the same form. Easy to use and ride, durable and inexpensive to maintain and environmentally responsible, the Super Cub has been sold more than 60 million time and is the world’s most popular motorcycle.
Honda decided to create an electric version of the Super Cub because the essence of a battery electric vehicle is to be in harmony with people and the environment and the original Super Cub was just such a vehicle. The more time passes, the more this venerable design makes sense. So a Honda designer took on the challenge of turning the venerable megahit into an electric vehicle.
In designing the EV-Cub, the first thing designer Tokumaru Watanabe did was to take a look at every single Super Cub design since the very first. He quickly saw that the size, shape and position of all the Super Cub parts had a kind of necessity to them, and that the design of the Super Cub was very rational and rider-centric.
The human body has not changed in the past 50 years, and the fact that the Super Cub has served riders so well in the same period without a major design change indicates how rational this design was and how well it matched the human body in the first place. In designing the EV-Cub, however, it would not be appropriate simply to copy the design for the gasoline engine Super Cub. A design that matched the characteristics of a battery electric vehicle was required.
In the EV-Cub, the riding position and such basic dimensions as wheel size and wheelbase remain nearly identical, but changes had to made to accommodate a different source of power. Originally, the gasoline engine located in the center of the body provided power to the rear wheel via a chain. Since an electric motor is much smaller and lighter than a gasoline engine, Watanabe decided to locate one motor each at the front and rear wheels, and providing power to both wheels at once resulted in enhanced stability in operation. In addition, now that the gasoline engine no longer took up the space it once did, the body became more slender the bike got even easier to ride. Without the need for a gas tank, it was also possible to create a small compartment for helmet storage. To replicate the distinctively proud and orderly silhouette of the Super Cub, Watanabe paid great attention to detail, working through trial and error to establish a perfect, unitary line from the leg shields back to the rear fenders. Even while ensuring that the EV-Cub would be first and foremost an exceptional motorcycle to ride, Watanabe endeavored to make the styling of the EV-Cub simple, appealing and right for the times.
Having fulfilled the basic requirements of the design, Watanabe was left with several options for a final form. At this point, he worked to strip away anything unnecessary until he was left with a polished gem—the ultimate form, from which nothing could be taken away and to which nothing could be added. Watanabe had gone beyond simply tracing the lines of the Super Cubs of the past; he had retained the Super Cub’s essence while pursuing its evolution to accommodate a different power source with style. The task had indeed been difficult, but creating an entirely new incarnation of Honda’s huge little product was to Watanabe the ultimate joy.
The gasoline engine will continue to evolve, but motorcycles can gain considerable advantages by going electric. Since they are quiet and emit no exhaust, electric motorcycles can even be driven indoors, and, since they have no gasoline tank, they can be stored on their side. When touring in the countryside, riders can enjoy the song of birds and the wind blowing through the trees.
Just like its Super Cub predecessors, the EV-Cub is built to add enjoyment and convenience to the lives of people around the world and be appreciated as a product contributing to society. Honda will continue to make riders the focus in the motorcycle design process, building bikes that are more personal and more fun to ride.