Customers Always Value Driving Pleasure, Says Honda EV Designer

Driving pleasure will never go out of fashion for Honda customers no matter what the powertrain may be.

That’s the message from the carmaker’s Honda E Prototype designer Kohei Hitomi who believes even the rise of ride-sharing mobility solutions will not completely undermine Honda’s core mission. Speaking to TU-Automotive at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, Hitomi-san said: “It is true there are a certain amount of people who do not crave any particular characteristics or driving behavior in a vehicle. However, we believe a certain amount of people, and we hope it will be the majority, will still want that experience of driving pleasure.

“For those customers, we definitely want to continue to provide that Honda unique enjoyment. On the other hand, it’s not just that we want to offer that to those people but also want to make these people still desire a product that provides fun-to-drive through providing the Honda-like drive feel.

That said, he did admit that electrification will greatly reduce the influence of the powertrain on defining a vehicle’s character and emotional involvement with the driver. Hitomi-san explained: “The differences in electric powertrains compared to conventional internal combustion engines will be smaller as time goes on. In the past Honda has shown a difference in the characteristics of a combustion engine and its reliability. This will change as we approach an electrified society.

“Yet, the fundamental mission of Honda of trying to provide an unique Honda-like product will not change. Although, it will probably be in a different area that we try to realize the difference to other carmakers.”

He said the Honda E Prototype concept five-door BEV urban runabout was already 90% production ready and, while unable to comment on other vehicle types that could employ the platform, Hitomi-san said it had flexibility built into it. “The platform is designed in a way that there is quite a degree of flexibility that can be applied to different types of vehicles. What comes first in design is not just thinking about a sports model or a SUV, it’s more whether it makes sense and whether it is beneficial for the customer. That basic principle of bringing that uniqueness and a Honda typical attribute to that product. If all these questions can be confirmed then we will provide that type of vehicle that is required.”

No conversation with a Honda engineer or designer will stray too far away from the carmaker’s iconic Honda Civic Type R. So would the iconic eventually go all electric too? Hitomi-san speculated: “It is quite easy to make an electric car with the same kind of performance as the existing Honda Type R. Yet, that’s probably not the direction we should be going.

“I remember when we introduced turbo charging to the Type R and everyone was complaining that Honda had gone away from naturally aspirated engines. However, once we provided the turbo engine as a Type R engine many new aspects and attributes became possible because it was a turbo engine.”

He concluded: “We believe it will be the same for the electric powertrain as well. We need to find new dimensions so that it’s worth calling it a Type R even though it’s propelled by with an electric motor with a Honda unique special something.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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