Measuring a tad over 10 feet long and under 5 feet wide, HW Electro’s concept EV, the Puzzle, may present itself as a bewildering vehicle, one of perplexingly tiny proportions to the average American used to driving the equivalent of a living room on wheels. Yet in Japan, the ubiquity of small utilitarian vehicles classified as Kei cars across the nation makes this rectilinear van nothing all too strange, its unique qualities attributed to the van’s maximized capacity, electrified utility, and contemporary interior design.
While Americans may ascribe the van’s name to its diminutive size, the Puzzle actually earns its moniker from its thoughtfully designed exterior and interior construction all engineered to fit together like puzzle pieces.
HW Electro describes their design philosophy as one of form representing function: the panel under the front light and the front edge of the roof, alongside the left front door and right rear door all use the same standardized exterior panel, thus eliminating waste and increasing efficiency of manufacturing. The automaker says by reducing the cost of hardware, they can use those funds to further develop services such as software updates and features.
Similarly, the Puzzle’s design is the embodiment of “waste not, want not” realized on four wheels. Puzzle’s cube-like cargo space maximizes the capacity of the van beyond that of a typical vehicle of similar size, with even the corners near perfectly square to allow for Jenga-like fits when transporting a payload. This space efficiency will make the Puzzle an attractive option for delivery service duties.
Equipped with large batteries, the PUZZLE can also operate as an AC power supply itself, suited to aid in emergencies during instances when the power infrastructure is down. Additionally, a rooftop array of solar panels can eke out additional amounts of power throughout the day, further extending the range of the vehicle.
An emergency kit, trio of power outlets, and USB port ensure Puzzle drivers a range of power-connectivity options.
If you’ve ever been in a Kei van or truck, the Puzzle’s pared down interior won’t feel foreign. The van does include a few modern amenities like a small touchscreen infotainment system and center dash display with some basic button controls situated across the steering wheel. A sliding gear shifter is likely a concept flourish rather than a final feature, but we appreciate its novelty.
An elongated rear view mirror extends to offer the driver improved rear visibility. No word whether the van is equipped with rear view cameras or sensors to aid in reverse mode.
The HWE Puzzle made an appearance at this year’s Japan Mobility Show 2023 as an exhibition car, but there’s no final word when these vehicles will see the reality of rubber on road availability, nor any pricing information. But noting the customizable platform the Puzzle presents, alongside its numerous delivery and disaster relief duty capabilities, we’re optimistic about the concept joining HWE’s existing fleet of Elemo EV-powered kei trucks and vans already on the road.