As the news emerged that Honda was to close its UK Swindon plant in 2021 with the loss of 3,500 jobs, the car manufacturer also revealed a tantalising glimpse of their new Urban EV.
The reveal was almost like a validation of the winds of change that Honda has stressed has nothing to do with Brexit, but is purely a response to the wider global shift in car buying and the almost inevitable future of new automobiles being powered by battery.
The news of the plant closure has understandably overshadowed the Urban EV somewhat – a car that Honda has said is now only a matter of weeks away from its first reveal.
We first saw the Honda Urban EV Concept at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show where it met with a pretty favourable response. Intriguingly, the company has also revealed a more streamlined electric compact sports car built onto the same platform as the Urban EV. Time will tell if the handsome retro-inspired 2-seater Sports EV is to follow the Urban into full production. It’s clear though that Honda is heading towards a universal EV platform to potentially produce their future fleet of electric vehicles.
The Urban EV has a dual screen almost the length of the dash, which is controlled by your thumbs operating buttons ergonomically placed on the centre of the steering wheel. Both of these EV concepts feature cameras in place of the side mirrors; a wider concept idea that was initially met with some type approval concerns, but as the car industry moves at a rapid pace, so the safety bodies have had to respond and we are sure to now see more and more cars with ‘camera mirrors’ in the future – though depending where you park, getting your mirror battered by a passing lorry might now prove more costly that it already disproportionally was.
The Honda Urban EV will be the company’s first mass-produced electric vehicle for the European market and with less moving parts than a standard vehicle, Honda believe that the electric car will require less maintenance to keep on the road, giving improved energy efficiency as an added bonus.
From what we can see from the images, the Urban EV is thankfully not going to be too far removed from the original concept vehicle – something that is so often not the case when a concept arrives at final production.
Honda in the UK
Honda of the UK Manufacturing (HUM) first sprang to prominence with the production of the hugely popular Honda motorcycles in the 1960s. The Swindon plant rose in 1985 with production commencing in 1989 at the engine plant. Since then, the Civic, CR-V, Jazz and Accord have all rolled off the production lines at Swindon, while exports to Japan commenced in 2000.
In 2012 Honda had announced that it would be investing a further £267 million in the Swindon plant, partly in preparation for a new 1.6 diesel engine build. While we can only speculate on the internal company workings that have inspired such a dramatic change of direction, it must be factored in that (all) new car sales are down on previous years.
While this is arguably a bold and pro-active response as Honda addresses the decline in car sales, it can only presently be seen as sad that such a fruitful and long-standing relationship with Swindon will come to an end.
Images: honda.co.uk, topgear.com, evo.co.uk