Honda has capitalized on a recent “building” technique by unveiling a Micro Commuter electric car, whose body features panels that were created using a 3D printer, at CEATEC Japan 2016.
The car is an ultra short-range electric commercial vehicle that will be used for local around-town deliveries by confectionary-maker Toshimaya, famous for its dove-shaped Hato sablé butter cookies. The car was jointly developed with start-up digital fabrication company Kabuku.
Japan’s largest consumer electronics show, CEATEC is also an annual exposition of business trends, technology and developments.
Based on Honda’s variable design platform, a lightweight pipe frame structure, the car then uses exterior panels and cargo space printed out and fastened to the frame. The panels reportedly took about a month to print, with printers running around the clock.
The cargo area of the car on display featured rack-brackets moulded into the side walls, so multiple racks for cookies could be slid into the vertical space. But Honda is reportedly working on other designs that are equally practical and relatively easy to adapt to the needed tasks.
He electric vehicle has a range of about 80 km, featuring a main battery built into the floor. Two other small packs slot in beside the driver’s seat (the only one in the vehicle). The idea is that if you have made a day’s deliveries and you park the car and plug it in to charge the main battery pack, you can take the smaller ones inside to charge separately and, understandably, more quickly. If somebody calls in a late order, you can slot the smaller, presumably nearly fully charged, batteries back in and have enough juice to get you to the customer and back.
The Micro Commuter is based on the MC-β (Micro Car Beta), unveiled at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, which seats two (one behind the other) and gets power from an 11 kW motor run by one battery pack that takes 7 hours to charge from a home 100V outlet (3 hours using a 200V hookup).
Honda says the car will hit the road in spring 2017, with other variants to follow. Probably one a month, given the production time to print out the panels.