Today I took a test drive with Jimmy McGuckin, one of our longest serving members of staff at JCB Honda, and a great colleague.
I chose the new Honda e - an all-electric city car that's only come on to the market in the UK during 2020.
I had never driven a fully electric car before and was very nervous! However, Jimmy drove first and demonstrated all it could do, explaining how the Honda e drove and how the technology worked, and I then took over the driving. Read on - I've taken some pictures to show you all about it.
... My honest opinion? W-O-W!!
The ride is incredibly smooth and the handling very light and easy to manage. The Honda e is very responsive. Unlike a car with an internal combustion engine with pistons, etc, the Honda e has an electric motor, housed in the back of the car, so the ride is very quiet. There is no gear box, so there is no clunky changing up and down gears, you just go! With rear wheel drive and 50:50 weight distribution, the ride is smooth with plenty of power. There is a very tight turning circle on the Honda e, which makes manoeuvring and parking in tight spaces much simpler. Reversing cameras show the view of the area behind you and also from above (like a drone), with tram lines to guide you when steering into place.
One thing you notice straight away is that there are no wing mirrors on the outside of the car, just slender cameras which show what's going on in the blind spot, side and rear of the car. You see the imagery on a small screen either side of the dashboard, where the air vents would normally be. They adjust downwards slightly when you go into reverse, so your visibility is improved. It also reduces the glare that you might get with traditional glass wing mirrors. These are called side camera mirror systems. Really clever is the rear view mirror which can switch from mirror to camera mode. This took a bit of getting used to, but actually gave a much clearer view of the road behind. Very useful if you have luggage or passengers slightly blocking the view.
You can choose to drive the Honda e in a couple of different ways. You can use it like a normal automatic car, having a brake pedal and accelerator controlled by your right foot. Or, you can go 'single pedal' mode! This means you don't need to put your foot on the brake, the Honda e does the braking for you. As soon as you take your foot off the accelerator, the regenerative braking kicks in. That is, the braking system is helping recharge the battery as you slow down. No need to put your foot on the brake.
You can also use two paddles which sit either side of the steering wheel, underneath the indicators. They allow gradual braking, say, when you are coming up to a roundabout for example. The paddles involve less wear and tear on the brake discs and pads, which in turn creates fewer particulates sent into the atmosphere every time you brake. Another way this electric car is good for the environment.
The acceleration of the Honda e was surprising. An electric car has instant torque which means acceleration is instant and quick. It can certainly get you out of trouble very quickly if you need to. Although the maximum speed of the Honda e is advertised at just 90 mph, for a city car, that's plenty of speed for urban driving.
The Honda e has 2 batteries. The hybrid battery, which provides the power (instead of the petrol tank); and a 12v battery system which powers all other functions, as in a non-electric car.
If there is no engine, then what's under the bonnet of a Honda e? Jimmy showed me that there is the charging point, into which two different types of charging cable can be attached, with the bonnet up or down. If down, there is a little flap in the bonnet which can be flicked up to attach the cable in. The cable locks in to prevent anyone unplugging it. There are also the regular components such as brake fluid and air conditioning pipes within the front of the Honda e.
The Honda e charges using a range of power strengths. You can use the lead with the normal 3-pin plug for your home. You don't need a wall box necessarily, but charging will take a long time - maybe 19 hours. Having a home wall-box installed will make charging quicker. Public charge points tend to use rapid or fast chargers and the cable is tethered to the point, so you don't have to have yours with you. Ultra-fast chargers can take as little as half an hour to charge to 80%. Jimmy recommended downloading ZapMap to your phone. This app tells you details of your nearest public charge points, whether its fast or regular and whether the charge points are vacant. The charge point he showed me was charging 40p per kWh. The Honda e battery capacity is 35.5 kWh, so fully charging makes that £14.20 and you can go 137 miles on that. That's about 10p per mile. That's only a rough estimate, but gives you a good idea of the cost of charging.
A really clever function is the link you can create between your smartphone and the sim card within the Honda e. The downloadable app can control a whole host of features of the car. You can synch a digital key onto your phone. So, for example, you can send someone else the key to drive the Honda e for you. If you left your Honda e at the station for example, and you needed your partner to pick it up, you just send them the key via e-mail, phone to phone, and they will then have access to open up and drive the car. This is available on the Jazz hybrids too. The app also shows the charge status of the Honda e, has a locator in case you can't remember where you parked, and a temperature indicator so that you can programme the climate control to the perfect temperature remotely, before you drive off. There are lots of other tech-y things like the Honda virtual assistant that you can have as optional extras.
Lastly, the dashboard looks like nothing I've ever seen before. From the pictures rotating below, you can see it is fully digital. You can have all the information you need, from sat nav, to the nearest charging points to your location. It even has a fish tank screen saver for when you've turned off and are parked up!
Wow! This certainly is an amazing car. I'm impressed by the fully digital interior and easy handling. It's the first fully electric car I have driven, and so it took me a little while to get used to things like not looking outside for wing mirrors! If you're looking for a smart little environmentally friendly city car, this is great. It's easy to drive with the straightforward controls, but it might be worth going back to the dealership after a few months of ownership and having a second hand-over so that you can familiarise yourself with the more unusual features such as the single pedal driving and the paddle brakes. Our staff would be more than happy to do this on any of our vehicles.
Thank you to Jimmy for a very informative and fun test drive! I thoroughly recommend you have a go too!
Watch the video of the walkaround here.