￼￼Honda and Kabuku, a Japanese 3D-Printing startup, have revealed their visions of the future to be broad-thinking and inventive. Their latest idea demonstrates the company’s vision of customizable, multipurpose automobiles – cars that serve their owners in more ways than just getting them from one place to another.
The car is based on Honda’s Micro Commuter car, which the company originally revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2011. However, unlike the Micro Commuter car, which sat two people, the new prototype seats only the driver so that the rear of the car can be used to carry cargo.
￼￼Honda took design and engineering know-how from its motorcycle division, and built a rigid tubular chassis similar to a motorcycle, giving it a lightweight but strong structure beneath the 3D printed panels. The car is built upon Honda’s Variable Design Platform, which allows for the automaker to easily build vehicles of different sizes.
The automaker wants to offer a vehicle with a customizable layout where drivers can choose what they need. This customized vehicle was built for the Japanese cookie company Toshimaya, which will use the vehicle to deliver cookies in the city. Since Honda and Kabuku used 3D printing, they were able to incorporate Toshimaya’s company logo into the design of the car.
The outside of the Micro Commuter was almost entirely 3D printed on a Stratasys printer, in a process that took a full month of nonstop printing.
The bird design, which marked the car as Toshimaya’s in a more subtle and artistic fashion than simply throwing their name across the side, was just the beginning of the customization that went into the vehicle. They turned it into a repeating motif across the outside panel of the hatchback trunk, as well as around the windows and on the seats.
The car itself was engineered with convenient features specially tailored to a cookie service, such as trays that can be slid out of the back and tie-downs to stabilize cookie cargo on its way to being delivered. The thin frame of the car was also designed per Toshimaya’s request, as the roads in their delivery area are particularly narrow.
The electric Micro Commuter has a range of about 50 miles maximum, with removable battery packs for quick charging. It’s equipped with a full instrument cluster, and a small screen on the left side of the three-spoke steering wheel that runs the infotainment system. Dimensions haven’t been published yet, but it’s narrow enough that a single seat takes up most of the cockpit’s width.
The car mostly has that familiarly, rough 3D-printed surface to it, but despite being the early first step in Honda’s efforts to offer a heavily customizable electric vehicle, this prototype could become a great, inexpensive and highly customizable product.