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Transportation Technology

Honda's "Micro Commuter" Features Swappable Bodies 96

Zothecula writes "Further evidence of the coming fragmentation of personal transportation came today when Honda released details of the next iteration of its electric 'Micro Commuter' prototype which we first saw at the Tokyo Motor Show last year. The new version is close to production-ready, and concentrates the battery and functionality of the micro EV below the floor, enabling the vehicle's body to be easily changed to accommodate different functionality."
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Honda's "Micro Commuter" Features Swappable Bodies

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  • by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:24PM (#41987267) Journal

    GM was working on something like that yonks ago.

    • Yep, read it in SciAm maybe 20yrs ago along with the "crazy" prediction that tar sand woould become economically viable when oil hit the $!00 mark (which IIRC they said would be ~2010). They were also taking about fuel cells rather than conventional batteries, Honda and BMW seem to be looking at that piece of the future pie but the whole industry is rather incestous at the wholesale level.
    • Yeah, It's called the Hy-Wire [] but it's more like haywire (yeah I wrote that) because theirs didn't leave room for normal seating positions, it stole your leg drop and mandated a high sill as well.

      What I can't remember is the car that you could convert between hatch and sedan, or was it hatch and coupe? It was Japanese and it was in the 80s or 90s. It wasn't the pulsar sportbak, was it?

    • Also the Trexa platform [].
    • by tatman ( 1076111 )
      yeah I was a bit bummed when they pulled the plug. I think it would be very useful to swap out bodies.
  • Pure car-show fodder.

    I think the "bondi-blue" '98 iMac model is the most humourous. A little late to the party, no?

    • 3 Bodies that no one wants

      Yeah really. Where's the hearse []?

    • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @10:53PM (#41987955)

      Pure car-show fodder.

      Not quite, in a lot of places people want a small personal commuter that is easy to park and wont use much fuel. Not everywhere is like the US where everyone drives massive mum-tanks (SUV's) across multiple lanes whilst on the phone and stuffing their face.

      However this is a concept car by the looks of it.

      I can see this becoming big in Asia, in Japan Kei Cars [] are already popular because they are cheap and small. This concept is perfect for a single commuter to go to and from work in, a good alternative to riding a motorbike and getting changed at work (no matter how much you prepare, it still sucks getting rained on). With a rising middle class in China and India and already congested streets, a smaller one man commuter would be very much in demand. Honda see's this (not to mention other companies like Tata)

      But the swappable bodies would be more of a manufacturing boon. Build one wheel base, then 3 bodies. you benefit from having increased economies of scale with the wheel base production and fewer factories required to produce 3 different cars.

      • However this is a concept car by the looks of it.

        It looks like they took a Smart car and put different body panels on the nose/wheels. The roof/windshield are exactly the same...

    • With very small cars there's always the question of safety.

      Now imagine a car that, besides being small and lightweight, is also designed to be taken apart.

      • Pop a wheelie!

      • by suutar ( 1860506 )
        with a top speed of 50, this is not intended for the US and the ideas of minimal safety are a bit different in Japan (not least because the driving styles are entirely different).
        • I live in a small college town (> 100k) with a daily commute that takes me nowhere near a freeway, thus 50mph is way more than I need going to/from work. Keeping my 5yr old Saturn to run and down the freeway would satisfy all my travel needs. Unfortunately, the sticker-shock on these exotic powerplant cars means it'd probably cost a multiple of what I paid for the Saturn which begs the question - what kind of crazy math do I have to do to get a decent ROI on the car's purchase?
      • by nil0lab ( 94268 )

        Safety is not as correlated to size as you might think. I hit a car parked on an interstate freeway and walked away with mere scratches and soreness after my Smart Fortwo went spinning like a theme park teacup ride. Now every time I drive me 2nd Smart, I see big sheet-metal cars (most of the cars out there) as deathtraps. Next time you see a bad accident, note the crumpled sheet-metal. I am very glad to have a car without that.

  • Looks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nschubach ( 922175 )

    All these "commuter" cars are ugly as sin. Why can't we get "commuter" cars that aren't straight chairs with wheels? Get something sleek and futuristic looking and I'll consider buying it. (Like that Lamborghini in the icons above... a single seat, well performing low slung vehicle.)

    • Err, I didn't mean to infer that the Lambo had one seat, but make something like it with a single seat...

    • You should search for 'smart car Lamborghini body kit'

      The car is still an overpriced POS, but it looks better.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      It's important that the "cool" factor be removed from cars. They need to be reduced to the status level of grocery store shopping carts. The very concept of "a pleasure drive" needs to disappear and become as irrelevant to modern life and as hoary-sounding as a hayride or the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
      • It's important that the "cool" factor be removed from cars...the very concept of "a pleasure drive" needs to disappear.

        Agree, I'm writing to my polycritter while we speak! We must stop this pleasurable activity immediately before people start enjoying themselves! What's next on our anti-vainity hit list? - Hair gel? - I hate smarmy barstards with shinny hair, who the fuck do they thing they are!

    • I noticed in the article that one group that may benefit from this tiny commuter car was senior citizens. Really? Can you imagine a senior citizen getting in or out of that tiny thing? I'm a 6' 250 lb 59 year old with arthritic knees and artificial hips, and I have trouble getting in an out of a Volkswagen Jetta. By the time I'm 70 I'll have trouble getting in a Cadillac!
      • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
        Almost no-one in Japan is that big. Also, their elderly get around much easier than ours. My wife's grandmother is 85 yet she still puts in 4-6 hours a day in her fields, growing fruits and veggies. She's also about 5' tall.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        We can't help it that you're a big fat oaf. These cars care made in Japan with the average Japanese as their target market. Not fat Americans, stuffing their fat faces with big macs and acting like the world owes them 3 tons of steel meant to hold 8 passengers so they carry their singular fat asses around in.
        When you stop treating vehicles like fashion statements maybe the rest of us will start to give a fuck about what you think.

        • by Endo13 ( 1000782 )

          Actually, I can also see this being very useful here in the USA. There's lots of medium to large cities here that have little or no public transportation where these cars would be perfect. The only trouble you may have is getting people to accept driving them, but I think with time it could work. I for one would gladly drive one of these for my work commute. I'd even consider selling my current vehicle and simply renting a car when I need to drive further. I currently have a 6-mile drive through the city (C

      • Not to worry, the good 'ol US manufacturers are busily perfecting the Senior Moment Vehicle. []

        USA! USA! USA!

      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        If you're 59 and already have artificial hips, then you are a zombie, and the NHC (New Healthful Race) does not care a whit for your needs*.

        *: Because without modern medicine, you'd have already failed, and even in the best case driving a car would not be an option for you.

      • by mvdwege ( 243851 )

        If you'd seriously dieted, you might have a larger choice in cars.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      All these "commuter" cars are ugly as sin. Why can't we get "commuter" cars that aren't straight chairs with wheels? Get something sleek and futuristic looking and I'll consider buying it. (Like that Lamborghini in the icons above... a single seat, well performing low slung vehicle.)

      I have such a beast.

      It's called a Honda Integra (Acura RSX in North America) It cost a lot to run and insure.

      People buy commuter cars to commute, not to look good. Cheap and cheery is more important to them than looks. If you want looks drop $85 K on a Porshce, aesthetics will always come second to practicality.

    • by rvw ( 755107 )

      All these "commuter" cars are ugly as sin. Why can't we get "commuter" cars that aren't straight chairs with wheels? Get something sleek and futuristic looking and I'll consider buying it. (Like that Lamborghini in the icons above... a single seat, well performing low slung vehicle.)

      Like the Renault Twizy []?

      • Nah, that's still a very tall and short wheelbase car. The car in the upper banner looks quite nice (even though I'm sure it's a two seater... it looks like an Audi R8 with that stripe down the side but I'm sure it's a concept...)

    • by suutar ( 1860506 )
      Eh. I've been in a Lamborghini. Beautiful exterior, but I don't like craning my neck enough to drive from a lawn chair :)
  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:44PM (#41987421)

    When can I freakin' get one???

    3-wheeler, covered, a bit of seat heat and minimal climate control, and a cheap base price like other tiny cars.

    Hello..... I've been waiting at least 5 years and seeing an endless stream of cool non-production car-show concepts and test prototypes.

    "Show me the MINI !"

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      "Show me the MINI !"

      Here you go []

      Just keep in mind they pretty much stop running if it rains.

    • I don't like 3 wheelers. 4 wheels is much more stable, no matter how you look at it. Consider it a bit of necessary redundancy on a plane.

      • The problem is that with the way the laws are, they'll never be able to sell a 4-wheeler like that as it will never meet the safety standards for cars, so they have to make a 3-wheeler so that it classifies as a motorcycle. The law of unintended consequences strikes again...

    • by suutar ( 1860506 )
      yeah, this would work for my daily commute with a bit of rerouting to avoid the freeway. Not so much for my wife, who actually needs to carry cargo sometimes, but that's why she has a CRV instead of a Civic :)
  • And there Brave New World dystopia future with no sex, no booze, and really really crappy cars.

    Its here. At least for cars.
    • by snookums ( 48954 )

      Brave New World ... no sex

      I think you need to go and read it again.

      The dystopian future of Demolition Man might have been without sex and booze, but the Brave New World kept the populace happy with a weekly drug ration and regular orgies.

      • In Brave New World everybody had a social life, regular sex, drugs if they wanted them, free medicine and organised games. Huxley thought he was describing a dystopia, but for 95% of the population at the time he wrote he was describing an unattainable paradise. Who would worry about dick-extendermobiles when all the women are beautiful and forever young?
  • The last body is actually a battle robot.

    It is Japan, people.

    • by azalin ( 67640 )

      The last body is actually a battle robot.

      It is Japan, people.

      How many of these robots does it take to stop Godzilla? Actually that seems like a decent idea for a new SI unit: The GSP or Godzilla Stopping Power.

  • IMHO it's just further evidence that small electric vehicles are, and always will be, really dorky looking and totally impractical. Though I'm sure all five people in the target market will respond to this post.

    • Honestly I would just be scared to drive one if *all* other vehicles on the road were not exactly the same. Think about what would happen if you pulled out in front of a Hummer, or a Semi. They'd have to pull out the fine toothed comb just to gather bits and pieces of you to send along to your family.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Not much different than if you were driving the Hummer, and pulled out in front of the Semi.

        And the same effect is illustrated by Semi's pulling out in front of freight trains.

      • Charles Darwin would probably have something to say about people who pull out in front of a semi. It has often been noted that as tools, equipment, and vehicles grow more idiot-proof, the world just produces better idiots.

        Personally, I ride a little 1/4 ton vehicle, that gets about 53 mpg, as opposed to some two-ton hulk that gets maybe 20 mpg.

        This one is almost exactly like mine: []

        Or, you can browse what members are riding, to find

        • I for one ride a 1/100 ton vehicle that gets infinite miles/gallon and do so in all types of traffic. It can even carry cargo -- it's record towing is 3/4 of a ton (about 1500 lbs) The trick is to be well lit and predictable. Above all else, PREDICTABLE. A little planning concerning lane positioning, when I'm going to turn and actually using my signals (hands) makes riding in traffic around vehicles that can turn me into a grease stain safe.

          Driving one of these little smart cars? Hell, as long as they
      • If you pulled out in front of a Hummer, you'd kill its occupants. You might wonder why you were suddenly facing the wrong way, surrounded by body parts and fragments of cheap crappy 4x4.

  • I don't think so...

  • "Further evidence of the coming fragmentation of personal transportation

    Erm, the blogger doesn't not seem to understand the words.
    * Fragmentation
    * Evidence
    * Personal Transportation

    When was the car industry ever been unified and standardised. We have umpteen number of trademarked and patented systems for Variable Valve Timing (VTEC - Honda, CVVT - Hyundai, ZETEC - Ford, VVTi - Toyota, VEL - Nissan).

    Also people have demanded, from Henry Fords first mass produced car, different types of cars. Some pe

  • Which version comes with the see-through side panels and LED-lit motor fan? Oh, and don't forget those cold cathode UV lights!
  • Old time idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by ModernGeek ( 601932 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:32AM (#41988783)
    I don't know if anybody here remembers the Volkswagen Thing. Modular body for different purposes. The vehicle is probably older than most here..
    • by Optic7 ( 688717 )

      It was probably based on the VW Beetle chassis, as VW typically did (and does). The classic Beetle has a removable body as well. I saw it done once and it's pretty trippy. Disconnect it from the chassis and you can lift the whole body straight up. Probably why it was a popular car to convert to buggies.

  • What's the point of the covers on the wheels? Seems really extraneous.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith