Modified Honda Odyssey minivans deployed in Detroit aid coronavirus response

The minivans will transport health care workers, and also provide safe transportation for those potentially infected with COVID-19.

Clean, safe transportation.
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Detroit saw Honda's creative engineering and turned to the automaker for help as the city is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, Honda delivered 10 modified Odyssey minivans inspired by ingenuity in its home country of Japan.

These vans feature modifications to ensure that passengers and drivers are separated to attempt to nearly eliminate the chance of respiratory droplets spreading in the vehicle. It's intended to be a safe haven for health care workers, who will be transported in the vans, and Detroit also plans to shuttle those potentially infected with COVID-19 to testing sites.

Modified Honda Odyssey for COVID-19 transport

Social distancing is possible, even inside the minivan.


The engineering work took place in Ohio after Detroit city officials reached out to Honda asking for van similar to a vehicle the automaker deployed in Japan for COVID-19 transport. Engineers installed a plastic panel between the front row where the driver sits and the rear portion of the cabin to create a barrier, and they also tweaked the HVAC system. Now, the van operates much like a negative pressure room in medical facilities.

While the blower motors power fans faster in the front part of the Odyssey, the rear fans blow slower to create a negative pressure chamber. The rear compartment's air funnels out vents in the back of the van. The system follows guidelines the CDC put in place for medical facilities, and all of the modifications were done in fewer than two weeks.

As testing becomes a key part of reopening state economies, Michigan officials said vehicles like the modified Odyssey can play a crucial part. "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.

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