Honda Mods its Minivan to Transport Detroiters to Covid-19 Testing Sites
Honda says the van is compliant with CDC guidelines for negative pressure rooms as used in medical and research facilities
Engineers at Honda have put together a truckload of Odyssey minivans that can help deliver people to be tested for COVID-19 without putting the driver at risk of droplet infection. And they’re going to work in Detroit, which seems like at least a bit of an elbow nudge to the manufacturers who call that city home.
Officials from the state of Michigan and the City of Detroit reached out to Honda in America, Honda says, after seeing some specially modified vehicles the company had put together in Japan for the same purposes. They approached Honda in mid-April and the automaker got to work to help transport residents and healthcare workers to testing sites.
“As of today, the City of Detroit has tested over 20,000 residents and employees for COVID-19. Transportation is a critical component of ensuring every Detroiter has access to a test. We are very appreciative of Honda for choosing Detroit to deploy these newly modified vehicles,” said Mayor Mike Duggan, City of Detroit.
Volunteers at Honda’s R&D centre in Raymond, OH, including engineers and fabricators came up with the solution for the Odyssey and made the necessary modifications.
It’s actually quite a clever solution, starting with a clear polycarbonate barrier that’s installed between the front and middle row of seats. Like the barrier you’d see in a taxi, but one big sealed piece, covering the entire opening and fastened directly into the door pillars.
Then Honda’s volunteers made some tweaks to the software for the ventilation controls in the vehicle. They adapted the system so that the blower motor for the front would always turn faster than the one in the rear. That creates a pressure differential between the two compartments. Having a lower pressure in the rear means that the air back there – including droplets – can’t get sucked into the driver’s area. Air from the rear of the vehicle exits out the back of the van, as it would normally.
Honda says it’s compliant with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for negative pressure rooms as used in medical and research facilities.
“When we developed our transportation service to the COVID-19 testing sites, we quickly realized that a lack of separation between the driver and passenger would be a limiting factor in our capacity to transport patients. This innovation from the Honda team will be critical to transporting passengers during this time,” said Mark de la Vergne, Chief of Mobility Innovation for the City of Detroit.
“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.