Driving Today

Honda Goes Electric in Tokyo

Honda points the way forward with technology barrage.

The Tokyo Motor Show might not be what it once was, but Honda still seized the opportunity to show off a slew of concept vehicles, heralding a new era in which it will transfer its expertise in conventional gasoline engines and hybrids to electrics and diesels as well. In a year punctuated by a devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami, it seems more important than ever for the Japanese companies to flex their technological muscle.

Honda did that in spades with its AC-X concept car, a plug-in hybrid that will move you along in a leisurely fashion or allow you to test your performance mettle like a good old-fashioned gasoline car. The AC-X (for “Advanced Cruiser Xperience”) offers two drive modes, but its styling is its most obvious calling card. It has active aerodynamics in the form of a moveable front bumper, descending side skirts, and taillights that dance back and forth. Inside, the most obvious departure from the norm is the lack of a steering wheel. That age-old relic of the 19th century has been replaced by twin joysticks, but the fact is you don’t have to steer at all. The concept offers an (experimental) Automatic Drive Mode that lets you relax while it does the driving.

If you crave a little more involvement with your car, you might prefer the EV-STER, a so-so name for a cool proposed sports model. While it looks conventional at first, it is a pure electric vehicle. But that doesn’t mean it’s a golf car clone. Acceleration from zero to 60 mph is said to take just five seconds, and overall range is right around 100 miles on a charge. Like the Honda AC-X, it eschews a steering wheel in favor of a pair of joysticks. Not surprising (given its Honda heritage) are the obvious motorcycle references in its exterior and interior styling. The central instrument panel could come directly from a bike, while the two display panels that flank it resemble rear-view mirrors. One whimsical touch is the fact the passenger’s seat is finished in different colored fabrics than the driver’s seat.



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