Anyone who loves tiny sports cars, as I have for more than sixty years, can only be delighted when a new one appears, especially when it comes from a competent manufacturer so you know that hard-to-do details like the HVAC system have been worked out properly. From 1950s Siata Spiders to the 1960s ASA 1000GT "Ferrarina," most attractive tiny sports models were Italian, with all that implies as to reliability and longevity. The happiest exception was the 1991 Honda Beat, mechanically the product of a company then at the height of its powers and graced by a lovely Ferrari Mythos-inspired Italian body design (it was a Pininfarina project, unacknowledged by Honda). I wanted it the moment I saw one at Honda's Tochigi Proving Ground and have enjoyed mine for sixteen years now.
So I was quite excited to see this similarly tiny, equally well-proportioned roadster concept at the Tokyo show last fall. Only its motive power, and its dumb name, were deceptive. It's not that you can actually travel very far without refueling the Beat. With its 6.3-gallon tank, it won't go much farther than most electric cars on one fill. But if you stop every couple of hours to refill, you can actually cross the American continent in four days. I've done it [Automobile Magazine, August 1996]. With the pure-electric EV-ster (presumably Electric Vehicle and the "-ster" from speedster, roadster, et al.), I imagine it would take weeks to get from San Diego to Baltimore.
So although the car cries out for a brilliant Honda internal-combustion engine and would be acceptable with a hybrid powertrain like that of the original Insight, the EV-ster can't be a candidate to replace the Beat until it has a practical solution to the range problem. I hope Honda has plans for an Insight/Prius/Volt mixed-energy-source driveline, because it's a nice-looking little vehicle -- busier than the Pininfarina design but also quite clever in its visual references. The front fender profile recalls MGs and Morgans; there is almost no rear overhang and very little in front. The science-fiction cockpit is intriguing, and although I don't know how the steering levers are meant to work, I'm sure I could quickly acclimate to their function. The automatic gearbox indicated by the PRND markings on the central air-bag cover means there is no problem of shifting with the left hand, although that has never bothered me in all my years of driving a Beat. Even the oversize, trapezoidal Honda Design badge fits the side profile composition.
I haven't been very far from home in my Beat for several years now. So maybe even if the EV-ster is made only as a battery-electric car I'll overcome my reservations and try to get one. But only if they change its name.