Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s new concept for sidestepping traffic and parking problems may not be fast-moving, but it is a long-range glimpse of moving in a more congested world.
Honda's Intelligent Community Vehicle System combines electric-powered vehicles, intelligent transportation technology, radio communications and even moped-like vehicles to move through urban areas.
Rather than owning the vehicles, drivers simply would borrow them as needed, according to Honda's concept.
One feature even allows a traveler to drive a Honda from an airport to a hotel, for example, and not have to return it. Once dropped off at a satellite location, or 'port,' the car would drive itself back to its original location. A vehicle manager could move a caravan of vehicles from place to place by linking them together.
Masaya Nagai, a Honda North America spokesman, said the Intelligent Community Vehicle System concept would be used in conjunction with a mass transit system. It would offer a small pool of personal electric vehicles that travelers could gain access to with an electronic key, similar to a credit card.
The idea behind the system is getting through highway congestion, avoiding urban parking problems and easing air pollution. The largest and fastest vehicle in the fleet is the two-seat City Pal EV, powered by a magnetic synchro-motor. The car's top speed is about 70 mph.
There is also a single-seat hybrid vehicle, called a Step Deck, which moves at about 40 mph, and an electric-powered bicycle called a Raccoon. Small golf-cart-like vehicles that move at walking speeds would be available to help older people move along sidewalks.
Honda is not saying when such a system might reach the commercial market. Nagai said it is simply Honda's idea of a way to let the public take advantage of EV technology without having to make long-term investments.
'It's much easier to let us take care of the vehicles than own them privately,' he said. 'Right now, it's very hard to enlarge the volume of EVs because there aren't enough charging stations. We would need lots of charging stations to make them more widely available.'
He acknowledged that government and community cooperation will be necessary to bring the concept to life.
'It will be difficult for Honda to take it on alone,' Nagai said. 'It will require local and national government cooperation and the community to put together the total system. We must find out where the ports are needed, and the government will have to help with the infrastructure projects.'