The most fundamental means of mobility people possess is their own legs, but the ability to walk can diminish with age. What kind of vehicle design could best supplement this type of mobility on the sidewalk? One answer Honda came up with in 2006 was the Monpal ML200, a vehicle that remains in Honda’s product lineup. Representing a further evolution of the Monpal, the EV-Monpal is the electric scooter of the near future. Electric scooters are among the slowest vehicles in Honda’s lineup, but the design principle is consistent: enjoyable mobility.
In designing the Monpal ML200 and its progeny the EV-Monpal, Honda aimed for ease of use and the approachability that would make it a partner in life and for a design that would make the user proud to be seen riding the vehicle.
For many of us vehicles are special: owners give them nicknames and they are the manufactured products that seem closest to living things. If an electric scooter were so cute and approachable, so much so that one could give it a nickname, then the owner would likely want to go out on it more and would experience greater enjoyment riding it. In designing the EV-Monpal, the designer made the dual headlights of the Monpal ML200 even cuter and more like eyes, creating a vehicle front more like that of a lovable animal face. Making the EV-Monpal stand out with a distinctive face helps make bicycle riders and pedestrians on the sidewalk and users of other vehicles off the sidewalk more aware of its presence, thereby enhancing its safety.
To make the EV-Monpal even more approachable to the rider, the designer created a single liquid crystal touch panel to contain all of the vehicle’s controls. This allows for easy changes of font size, colors and the positioning of controls. As a result, the EV-Monpal became easier to use and allowed the user to easily create a personalized control system for an even greater level of approachability.
At the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, Honda exhibited the EV-Monpal along with the EV-Cub and EV-N— all concept models with electric motors as their powerplants and similar design principles. The possibilities suggested go beyond individual product categories and hint at the potential future of mobility design.
Originally an automobile designer, EV-Monpal designer Masahiko Yamagishi had worked on the design of the NSX-R, the European Civic, the Accord and the first-generation Fit/Jazz and was eager to try his hand at design in a completely different area. Since electric vehicles produce no exhaust, it may soon be possible to create cars that can be driven indoors like electric carts and, since there is a great deal of freedom in how electric motors can be positioned, it may be possible to create motorcycles that look like bicycles. The possibilities for interesting new vehicles are endless. Honda seeks to introduce as quickly as possible enjoyable mobility that can be seen and touched, bringing joy to as many people as possible.