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The uphill battle to build Honda’s first modern EV

Engadget 2019-09-11 06:30:00

Honda, like Toyota, has a troubled history with EVs. After pioneering them with the EV Plus in 1997 then releasing a very limited edition Fit EV, it's been radio silence from the company ever since. Now at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Honda has finally built a modern electric car that it plans to sell: the Honda E.

This Europe-only EV won't be sold in the US, but it sure has attracted a lot of attention. Honda fans are eating up the retro-adorable styling, and the interior will be impressively high tech for a production vehicle. On the other hand, it's expensive and can't go nearly as far on a charge as rivals. These decisions might seem at odds with other automakers, but as the design team explained to me, Honda hopes that urbanites will love the technology and sportiness enough to forgive the lower range.

The Honda E's primary competition is the Renault Zoe, which costs considerably less at ÂŁ26,000 (around $32,000 before UK rebates), compared to ÂŁ29,660 for the Honda E (about $36,700). However, while the Zoe packs a 52 kWh battery that takes it around 186 miles, the Honda E's 35.5 kWh battery will power it just 137 miles

Honda no doubt did this to save some money, given that EV batteries represent a huge chunk of the cost of building a car. It's also fair to say that Honda vehicles usually command a premium price because of their bank-vault-like quality. Still, that's quite a gap in both range and price.

Honda did put some of that money to good use. The interior is incredibly futuristic for a compact car (for any car, really). It packs concept-like features, including a dashboard-wide display with dual 12.3-inch LCD touchscreens that act as primary infotainment displays. In place of the regular side mirrors, it's got a high-tech camera mirror system with two six-inch screens mounted at the far left and right side of the dashboard. That's a first for any compact car, Honda said. In that sense, the Honda E trumps the much more basic Renault Zoe, and even the Leaf, by a long shot.