Designers Talk
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Tokyo Motor Show 2009


Making environmental responsibility enjoyable through design

The benefits of a large automobile include a relaxed driving environment and the comfort of a large cabin. In accordance with the Honda principle of man maximum, machine minimum, Honda strives to reduce the volume of mechanical parts to make the space inside vehicles as large as possible. In the case of minicars as well, Honda seeks to create as large a space as possible within a small body.

The designer of EV-N, Kanna Sumiyoshi thought, “Wouldn’t people want a car even smaller than a minicar if its interior were sufficiently large and felt just right, and if the car were inexpensive and could be freely enjoyed? A car in which one could relax, a car that would be great just to have around. Wouldn’t such a small and cute partner be appealing?”

A small car requires fewer resources, and a lighter car can operate more efficiently, using less energy and imposing less of a burden on the environment. Going forward, small form factor will be an important feature, especially for battery electric vehicles.

A small and simple car offers its own type of enjoyment

When Honda decided to create a concept battery electric vehicle for the Tokyo Motor Show, Sumiyoshi was delighted: “This is my chance to make that small car a reality!” Especially in the case of a battery electric vehicle like EV-N, using the energy in the battery as efficiently as possible requires a light vehicle. Making such a vehicle small and light is important, but people won’t want to drive it simply because it’s better for the environment. Rather than invite people to eat a dish because it’s healthy, it’s better to make it both healthy and delicious, for then people will eat it because they enjoy it. Similarly, it’s preferable to design a car in which smallness and lightness make for greater enjoyment so that people will want to drive it. Sumiyoshi began her design process with this principle in mind.

In EV-N, the seats with their thin mesh covering contribute to the lightness of the automobile and the effective use of space in it. But also, the fabric panels can be detached from the frame, and customers can replace them with patterns that match their taste—sporty, cute, vivid, chic—creating a personal style that adds to their enjoyment of driving.

To make the instrument panel as lightweight and use as few resources as possible, Sumiyoshi removed absolutely everything that was decorative and without function. Using shapes and colors creatively, she made sure that the functional remained visible, creating an interface that is cozy and easy to use. By keeping the exterior simple as well, she further enhanced customizability. EV-N appears to be leaning a little bit forward, indicating that, although small, it will bravely give its all when driven.

Honda’s long-term goal

In taking on the design of EV-N, Sumiyoshi took time to revisit Honda’s design initiatives of the past and found inspiration in the N360, which Honda released in 1967. Among the people working on the design of EV-N, few could recall the birth of Honda’s N automobiles or the time when they were everywhere on the streets, but they were delighted to encounter these Honda classics. Their cuteness made their owners want to have them around, and, since they had power and could transport four adults despite their small size, they became an important part of people’s lives. Honda’s N automobiles were the first implementation of design principles that Honda continues to uphold.

It may be a while before battery electric vehicles are common on city streets, but, when that day arrives, Honda will continue to remember the importance of making automobiles fun. We hope the challenge of commercializing the battery electric vehicle can be fun, and that the design of the EV-N will communicate Honda’s determination to continue building fun into the mobility products we offer.

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