Here's the thing: I know exactly what I need in a car.
And the Honda EP-X is it.
I'm not saying this as a guy who's naturally attracted to strange-looking coupes with two seats in tandem—like the EP-X has—I'm saying this as someone who religiously tracks fuel economy and knows how much I've spent. I also know:
- The type of terrain I drive on: flat.
- The speeds I do: typically 70% B-road / highway and 30% city; ~62 km/h / 32 mph avg over a tank.
- The climate: temperate to cold; option to walk if necessary.
- Electric or gas? I'd have an electric car if I wasn't renting an apartment and could install the necessary charger and such.
- The space I need: Usually just me and a briefcase 99.9% of the time, so anything above two seats is overkill; for long trips we pack light (one carry-on for two people).
- The type of driver I am: I stick to the speed limit most of the time, and here in Ontario, caught at anything 50 km/h (31 mph) over the speed limit could mean an impounded car. I corner quickly, keep my speed up, and accelerate smoothly. I'd rather enjoy excessive power and speed on a race track.
- The fuel economy I get: I don't hypermile but I feel as though I drive more efficiently than others and save money (and energy) thanks to my small car, a Fiat 500 Abarth. A typical tank for me—and I've measured all of them since I bought the car—is right around 7.2 L/100 km (32 US mpg) in mixed driving. Fiat quotes highway mileage at 6.9 L/100 km (34 US mpg). This is not done at the expense of making the exhaust backfire.
- The economy I could get: a few points better in a Prius, but I enjoy a manual transmission (that is seriously the only thing preventing me from getting a Prius; yes, I still look for 1st generation Honda Insights in good condition)—and all-in with fuel, insurance, and car payments, a Prius would be significantly more expensive. Sadly, so would a Honda CR-Z with a turbo on it. (On the two lane roads here it's nice to be able to pass.)
- What about a new car? A very efficient new car would have to be both inexpensive enough (ruling out the BMW i3) and available in my country (XL1, Elio). Moreover, it's a shame that Edison2, Aptera, Honda, and others haven't been able to bring cars like this into production. The new Smart fortwo looks promising, though…but will need about twenty more horsepower to feel spry. And why does it get only five speeds in its manual transmission?!
Because Honda never sold a 1st generation Insight fitted with an Si motor, and Mitsubishi brought the electric i instead of the all-wheel-drive gasoline version, I'm forced to look at concepts like the Honda EP-X with great longing and sadness.
Shown at the 1991 Frankfurt Motor Show, it was no doubt overshadowed by the high-horsepower, exotic machines that typically grace European motor shows. Even though it's the perfect car for narrow and winding European B-roads—and surely entertaining with its Messerschmitt KR200-like central driving position—there's no doubt it was overlooked by media and show-goers.
Knowing how great '90s Hondas were, I have a feeling that its 1.0-litre 3-cylinder engine would have been a willing companion. Having driven the Beat, with its normally-aspirated SOHC 656-cc 3-cylinder engine (with individual throttle bodies!), 63 horsepower, and top speed of 135 km/h (84 mph), an extra few cubic centimetres would have been noticeable.
A story on the car at autoweek.nl says it had 70 horsepower, a weight a few kgs above 600 (~1325 lbs), and that means it would have matched a period CRX in power-to-weight ratio. And we all know how well that car did among enthusiasts. Both employ variations on the Kamm tail, too.
Mechanically simple, it doesn't take much effort to design a car like this, fewer resources to produce it, less fuel to run, and less space to park it in—better: not much information is needed to justify driving one. It's taken me fewer than 700 words, in fact.