Honda has fast-tracked an innovative new cabin filter in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s called the Kurumask, a portmanteau of “kuruma” (Japanese for “car”) and mask. A “car mask” would be an accurate description, because the Kurumask is actually a thin cap that goes over the existing cabin filter.
It shields occupants with a specially developed surface comprising millions of thorn-like protrusions at the nanometer level. Though it looks like a cheval de frise to a coronavirus, the barbs are too small for a human to detect and would feel smooth if you ran a finger across it. Honda says it was created by a zinc-phosphate chemical treatment that is similar to one used for rust prevention on cars.
Developed in conjunction with the Kitasato Research Center for Environmental Science, the Kurumask can remove 99.8 percent of airborne coronavirus droplets in a car in 15 minutes. The mask is good for 15,000 kilometers, or 9,320 miles, before it needs to be replaced. It also helps filter out other types of viruses, not just the unique coronavirus.
According to Honda, it would normally have taken several years to develop such a product, but because of the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company released it on an accelerated schedule. Since the outbreak, Honda has been working with local governments in Japan on vehicles for transporting coronavirus patients. This was one of the technologies resulting from that program.
Released on Christmas Day, the Kurumask is only available on one model, the N-Box (closely related to the Honda N-One) kei car that’s only sold in Japan. It’s available as a dealer accessory and costs about $68. However, the company hopes to quickly ramp up production so that it can make Kurumasks for a variety of its models.