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Honda's 3D-printed customizable EV has motorcycle bones

Adorable birdie motif optional.
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Honda isn't the first company to reveal vehicles with 3D-printed panels, details and more. However, it's certainly one of the biggest, so its efforts warrant a closer look. Fresh off the heels of the Paris Auto Show, Honda showed off its Variable Design platform for micro EVs: petite cars where space -- and weight -- is at a premium. The automaker wants to offer a vehicle with a customizable layout where drivers can choose what they need. That could be lowered entry points at the doors for senior drivers, a hatchback trunk for delivery vehicles or space for a family of three. (Somehow!) Let's take a closer look:

Gallery: Honda's 3D-printed EV at CEATEC 2016 | 10 Photos

I was a bit skeptical of the idea of an entire vehicle built from 3D-printed panels, but a Honda spokesperson outlined how the company took design and engineering know-how from its motorcycle division, resulting in a light but safe pipe-based skeleton under the panelling. This is apparently what gives the "micro commuter model" structural integrity. The company had some assistance from design firm Kabuku, which put a bird on it -- on the hatchback trunk, as well as the doors and seat.

The car mostly has that familiarly, rough 3D-printed surface to it, but despite being the early first step in Honda's efforts to offer a heavily customizable electric vehicle, today's prototype could very much move. A handful of journalists and businessmen got to sit inside and drive it very briefly around a corner in a faux-Japanese village. 3D-printing entire car bodies could lead to reduced design times and cheaper costs. But that's if it becomes a bigger thing. For now, it's a promising platform that's still in development.

Mat once failed an audition to be the Milkybar Kid, an advert creation that pushed white chocolate on gluttonous British children. Two decades later, having repressed that early rejection, he completed a three-year teaching stint in Japan with help from world-class internet and a raft of bizarre DS titles. After a few years heading up Engadget's coverage from Japan, covering high-tech toilets and robot restaurants, he heads up our UK bureau in London.

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