In March 2010, Chief Engineer Kenya Tsutsui was surprised by a paper presented at a conference he was attending. The research showed the annual volumes of CO₂ emissions from all of Honda’s facilities in Japan, including Honda R&D Co., Ltd.’s Automobile R&D Center in Tochigi Prefecture (the Tochigi R&D Center) where Tsutsui was working.
“I thought CO₂ emissions from Honda factories—which are part of the production division—must be greater than those from the research and development division. But the report showed that our emissions from the Tochigi R&D Center were among the highest from all Honda facilities. I was surprised to find out just how high.”
The Tochigi R&D Center is the business unit responsible for automobile research and development at Honda R&D Co. It is hard to get an accurate picture of what “R&D center” means just from the words. The Tochigi R&D Center is a state-of-the-art comprehensive research institute with an immense design building, facilities for conducting research on materials and other basic technologies, an environmental technology research building for researching next-generation power trains and other technologies, one of the world’s largest crash test facilities, and the Tochigi Proving Ground with its own test courses.
Tsutsui’s conclusion: “Clean cars must come from clean research centers.” With that in mind, he immediately launched a project team to reduce CO₂ emissions from the Tochigi R&D Center.
Senior Staff Engineer Yuji Isaka explained their approach: “Prior to that time, the Tochigi R&D Center had formed an Environmental committee centered on the Facility Administration and vigorously advanced energy conservation measures. The committee began with basic efforts such as always turning off electric switches when not in use, and cultivated associate awareness of energy use. From a comprehensive energy management perspective, they also constructed a smart grid system that combined the mega-solar system developed by Honda Soltec Co., Ltd. with a cogeneration system, and also installed one of the world’s largest sodium-sulfur (NaS) battery systems (high capacity battery systems for largescale facilities) as an effective means of reducing overall CO₂ emissions volumes by smoothing out electricity consumption.”
So what were the conditions at the Research and Development Division? Tsutsui says “Well, R&D had certainly become a kind of sacred cow . The point was to quickly develop good products and make our customers happy, and awareness of CO₂ emissions was definitely weak.”
The Carbon-Smart Development Project, aimed at reducing Total CO₂ emissions from the Tochigi R&D Center, was launched in September 2010. As a first step, the team projected emissions in 2020 assuming no changes to current conditions, set reduction goals, and began to devise specific measures to achieve the reduction targets.
To grasp the current situation, their work began with a survey of actual current CO₂ emissions. Staff Engineer Hiroshi Goto explains “When we looked at CO₂ emissions from fuel and electricity, we found that electricity accounted for the lion’s share of emissions. Breaking this down, we then checked the electricity use by business unit and nothing stood out. Consumption was simply proportional to the scale of each facility and the number of people. In other words, there were no particularly large emission sources to target. So we realized that the entire Tochigi R&D Center would have to work together to cut CO₂ emissions.”
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