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Honda’s vision of future commuting

Published: 21 October 2001

IT seems Honda is not even pausing for breath after launching the the new all-new VFR800, Blade, Pan-European and Hornet 900 – for the firm will reveal no less than 15 new designs later this week, including an electric sports bike you can fold up and carry in a bag.

A mixture of concept bikes, specials and new production machines will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show on Wednesday.

Rather than revealing a single, show-stopping concept bike along the lines of Suzuki’s B-King (see related stories panel, right), Honda has decided to unveil a wide array of wacky ideas.

Most of the new designs revolve around the firm’s " Concept Commuter Stage " . This is a platform for new designs to show how bikes can fit into people’s everyday lives and make treks into congested cities easier and more fun.

All these concepts use the same basic technology – electric motors mounted inside the wheels to reduce the amount of space taken up by conventional engines, gearboxes and drive chains. And as there’s nothing more than wires to connect the wheel-mounted motors to the battery packs inside the bikes, Honda’s designers have been able to make the whole machines fold away into amazingly small spaces.

Most interesting of all is the e-NSR – an electric sports bike you can fold into a carry case and stick in the boot of your car. That means long-distance commuters can drive cars most of the way to work, park outside the city centre and blat, or rather hum, to the office on their electric bike.

The e-NSR certainly doesn’t look like a fold-up electric commuter bike. The " NSR " part of the name is a clear reference to Honda’s GP bikes, and the styling is obviously designed to appeal to fans of Rossi & Co.

Honda hasn’t given any hints about the bike’s performance, or even said whether the concept is a runner, but it should be faster than our current expectations from this kind of machine.

Rather than a single electric motor, the e-NSR has two – one inside each wheel. That means it can drive the front or rear wheels – or both together for half the battery life, but double the performance.

It’s clever stuff, but better still is the way the bike folds up. Simply unclip the fake " fuel tank " and seat unit, disconnect the rear suspension and the rear wheel tucks into the gap under the tank. The clip-ons can clip off, as are the footpegs, and the whole lot can then slide into a purpose-built case for storage or transport.

The e-NSR is just one of several concepts along the same theme. There’s also the e-DAX, a tiny electric scooter that can fold up to the size of a briefcase and doubles as the seat backrest of Honda’s Bulldog concept car, which will also be revealed at Tokyo. And because it only weighs 25kg (55lb), you can even carry it around with you.

Two other concepts follow a similar theme. The weirdly-named Mobi Moba doesn’t fold up, but it’s small enough to fit into the back of another of Honda’s concept cars, the tiny Unibox, which will be unveiled alongside it. The compact, foldable Caixa concept bike, another electric scooter, can do the same trick – folding to fit into spaces just 17cm wide and 80cm long.

Perhaps the weirdest offering is the Riding Cart concept bike. Looking more like a bicycle than a scooter, this electric commuter also folds up – but not just for storage. Fold the swingarm forward, then slide in the seat and fold the bars back along the main frame rail. The result is an electrically-powered shopping trolley you can load up, unfold (without spilling the groceries) and ride off on.

None of these bikes are destined for production. But enough support from show-goers could see some of them hitting the streets. And while they might not be the sexiest machines ever, if they can persuade more commuters on to two wheels, they can’t be bad.

What do they do for you? Have your say by following the link in the panel (right).

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