As the coronavirus became a global health crisis, then evolved into an economic one, carmakers were among the first to adapt. Brands like General Motors, Toyota, and Volvo shifted from building cars to creative life-saving medical equipment. This week, Honda made the headlines not for a new product launch, but for how the company is repurposing its popular StepWGN and Odyssey vans for good in both Japan and the U.S.
Honda vans repurposed as a response to COVID-19 in Japan
In mid-Apri, Honda engineers began working on measures in Japan to convert its StepWGN and Odyssey vans in order to safely carry COVID-19 patients to hospitals and other designated healthcare facilities.
To help protect the car driver, Honda installed a clear plastic barrier between the front row and the rear seats of its vans which aligns with social distancing efforts.
Along with the plastic shield, Honda also reconstructed the vans’ air conditioning system to allow fresh air to come through the windshield area, move through the cabin vents, and leave through the back. With this redesigned ventilation system, Honda says the air from the back of the vehicles can not re-enter the front area. It’s important to note that this new transportation method is not intended for those with the most severe COVID-10 symptoms.
Repurposed Honda vans introduced in the U.S.
After the word got out about Honda’s newest response to COVID-19, the City of Detroit asked the carmaker if they would be willing to duplicate their efforts in the U.S. Honda’s team of engineers and fabricators based in Ohio rose to the occasion to modify the Odyssey for the Detroit community. The modified ventilation system in the Odyssey minivans is also in alignment with guidelines organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for medical rooms and research facilities.
“Honda’s speed in addressing this challenge, paired with Detroit’s willingness to find and detail a use case for Honda, made this a model public-private partnership. The state’s goal is to conduct 15,000 tests a day. This kind of ingenuity will help us get there faster,” said Trevor Pawl, Senior Vice President at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and head of PlanetM, the state’s mobility initiative.Honda News
Honda’s additional responses to COVID-19
Honda has been working on many additional projects to helpt mitigate COVID-19. The carmaker is partnering with Dynaflo Inc. to create diaphragm compressors, which are an essential part of the portable ventilators used by first responders and hospitals to treat virus patients. The carmaker has also been using its 3D printers to mass-produce face shields. Additionally, Honda has donated healthcare equipment including half-mask respirators, N95, masks, alcohol wipes, and more.
“Several members of our team have family members or friends working in the medical field to battle COVID-19 or know people who have family members battling COVID-19 infection and this became a very personal challenge to help potential victims and their families,” said Mike Wiseman, senior director for Strategic and Materials Research of Honda R&D Americas, LLC, who led the project. “At Honda, we believe the purpose of technology is to help people and make their lives better and we were humbled to make this commitment to potentially help save lives.”Honda News