'Honda President & CEO Takanobu Ito announced the other day that, with Earth Dreams Technology, Honda will aim to achieve top-of-industry fuel efficiency in every category in the next three years. What I would like to know is what you engineers are working on to achieve best fuel efficiency for each of the technologies that make up Earth Dreams Technology—engines, transmissions, hybrid systems and so on.' The directness of Kawabata's question prompted the engineers to reveal just how serious they are in achieving their goal.
Kawabata Honda President & CEO Takanobu Ito announced Honda's aim to achieve number-one fuel economy in every category in the next three years. Tell me what specifically you are working on in each technical area to achieve that goal.
Otsu (General Manager of the Gasoline Engine Technology Development Division)
We're developing Earth Dreams Technology engines based on the unifying concept of creating an engine framework that can fit any and all technologies. Such a framework could accommodate any specification or condition and could be tailored to any vehicle style. This is to lay the foundation for achieving best fuel efficiency but also to outperform the competition by any other measure. What technologies we will actually use will depend on the personality and objective of the car we put the engine in.
Yamano (General Manager of the Diesel Engine Technology Development Division)
Diesel engines are an important solution for reducing CO2 emissions, and in Europe, where diesel engines are the most popular, auto makers are practically competing over who has the better CO2 figures. But if we're going to develop diesel engines, we want to do it the Honda way, meaning reducing overall CO2 emissions but with an emphasis on fun driving performance.
Wakamatsu (General Manager of the Transmission Technology Development Division)
We are always thinking about how to make the best transmissions in the world. That just goes without saying. To make the most use of the engine's power and efficiency, transmission manufacturers everywhere are in search of the best answers to two questions: How wide of a gear ratio to use and where to break up those power and efficiency sweet spots, and how to transmit that performance most efficiently.
One thing that sets Honda apart is that it's one of only a few automakers that develop transmissions, bodies, and engines all on their own. This partly has to do with our high standards toward performance. We have absolutely no intention of losing to other companies in terms of our ambition for creating powerful, fun cars.
Hasegawa (General Manager of the Electromotive Technology Development Division)Honda's existing hybrid system, named Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), was a cost-conscious system developed with the goal of propagating hybrid technologies to as many people as possible. We think the system was very well designed in terms of balancing practical fuel-efficiency against price and performance, but the power plant mechanism made it hard to achieve extreme levels of fuel efficiency. That kept us from demonstrating a clear advantage over other companies. However, going forward, we want to beat the competition not only with our vehicles as a whole but with technology, in other words system efficiency, driving efficiency, or the efficiency of the motor by itself. Our competitors are tough, but we're determined to win.
Kawabata "Winning" on fuel efficiency for Honda means that anything short of first place is losing, right? Only a company that has competed in motor sports for as long as Honda would talk like that.
Ishibashi Even when briefing sessions to directors they always say thing like "we won" here or "we lost" there. I think that's typical of Honda—for better or worse [laughter].
Wakamatsu Developing a technology and putting it in our products means we have to compete with that technology 10 years down the road. Just barely beating the best technology that is out right now isn't going to cut it. We have to be daring and ready to face immense challenges when we set targets. The idea of being okay with second place never even enters the conversation. It's part of our culture to make things that can compete for ten years. Settling for less isn't an option.
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