Honda had a surprise for those attending this week’s CEATE consumer electronics show held just outside Tokyo, a 3D printed electric car.
Called Micro Commuter, the little battery powered delivery car was produced for Toshimaya, a Japanese cookie company which has plans to actually use it.
This isn’t Honda’s first 3D printed car. It produced a series of toy-sized models last April to demonstrate the company’s future self-driving technology.
Don’t think that printing a car is just fun and games for engineers and designers fooling around on company time; a 3D printed car is serious business for car companies.
Using special design and engineering software allows the production of a working vehicle in as little as two months, an enormous cost savings compared to the traditional methods of building a running prototype.
Honda worked with 3D-printing specialist Kabuku to build the custom delivery vehicle.
“The total development process was shortened to about two months while still offering an original vehicle with reduced time and costs,” Honda said.
The EV chassis and drivetrain were almost the only parts of the van that were not 3D-printed; most body panels were designed from scratch to fit existing hardware, such as headlights.
Honda’s motorcycle division pitched in with the design and engineering of the car, which has a frame of pipes similar to a motorcycle, giving it a lightweight yet strong narrow structure beneath the 3D printed panels.
The Micro Commuter has a driving range of around 50 miles provided by one large battery pack built into the floor of the van, plus a pair of packs that have about a 10 mile range that are positioned next to the driver’s seat, which is the only seat.
Toshimaya is famous for its butter cookies in the shape of a bird, so Kabuku used a bird shape theme across the outside panel of the hatchback door, as well as around the windows and on the seats.
Micro Commuter was designed with features specific to cookie deliveries, such as trays that slide out of the back and tie-downs to stabilize the cookie cargo.
The small width of the car was designed per Toshimaya’s request, as the roads in their delivery area are particularly narrow.
The fully functional Micro Commuter EV will begin delivering Toshimaya’s bird-shaped butter cookies next spring — subject to approval from Japan’s department of transportation.