The Honda e, the company’s first electric model available in Europe, recently won the German Car of the Year award for 2021. It is the first time that a Japanese vehicle has won the prestigious award.
“That the Honda e is the first Japanese car to receive the German Car of the Year award is a great honor and we are incredibly proud to receive it,” said Katsuhisa Okuda, CO and President of Honda Motor Europe. “Customer and media response to the Honda e since its first unveiling has been overwhelmingly positive. The Honda e is a perfect example of a uniquely designed product, packed with cutting edge technology and advanced smart connectivity to keep owners connected to their daily lives. We are very grateful for this award.
To earn the German Car of the Year price, a vehicle must convince a panel of German automotive journalists that it is the best in many ways. The panel tests and reviews cars, ultimately ranking them in terms of usability, handling characteristics, market relevance and innovation. The winners of five categories – Compact, Premium, Luxury, New Energy and Performance – then compete against each other to determine the overall winner. The Honda won the New Energy category and then beat the winners of the other categories to take the overall prize.
This is not the only award the vehicle has won in Europe this year. Awards from England, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and elsewhere in Europe are now all on the proverbial car shelf.
The Honda e is the first of the automaker’s electric models in a plan to electrify most European models by 2022. It sounds like an extremely ambitious plan, but keep in mind that “electrifying” a vehicle doesn’t mean necessarily switch to full electric battery. (BEV). Other electrification options for automakers include hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles with small range extender motors.
The Honda e, however, is fully electric. It comes with either a 134 or 152 HP electric motor, with both variants producing 232 lb-ft of torque. This is powered by a 35.5 kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery, with sport modes and single-pedal driving available. While none of these specs are particularly impressive (in terms of horsepower or range), the vehicle is a dedicated rear-wheel drive model designed for better performance than front-wheel-drive EVs.
It’s also designed primarily to work in urban areas, where more range and speed aren’t as critical. In addition, in most parts of Europe, the CCS charging network is much better developed than in places like the United States. So even with a 35.5kWh battery, traveling even in rural areas will rarely be more than a minor inconvenience. With liquid cooling, repeated DC fast charging sessions to travel longer distances would be a reasonable experience.
Another area where a smaller battery is beneficial is handling. While it’s low like most other EVs, the smaller bag allows for better maneuverability and weight distribution. Combined with the lack of torque steering (rear wheel drive) and other handling optimizations, the Honda e remains a fun car for city or winding rural roads in Europe.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the vehicle is its retro-inspired look. Designed to resemble the first generation Honda Civic, the car has a strong 1970s aesthetic. Like the Honda e, the original Civic was also an innovation. With the CVCC engine, it was able to meet increasingly stringent emissions requirements despite the absence of the expensive and powerful emission control devices often installed on other vehicles. This, combined with its smaller size and weight, allowed it to outperform vehicles like the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega. It was also a time when many American vehicles suffered from quality and even safety (the Vega and Pinto being perfect examples).
Unfortunately, for our American readers, the Honda e will not be coming to the United States. Much of what makes it a great European electric vehicle doesn’t apply as much or not at all to the US (especially the small battery). Hopefully, more retro-inspired designs will be available for US buyers in the future.
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