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Motorcycle R&D Center, Honda R&D Co., Ltd.Project to develop an electric-powered marathon lead motorcycle

Yoshihiro Namiki, Assistant Chief Engineer, Motorcycle R&D Center, Honda R&D Co., Ltd.

Yoshihiro Namiki, Assistant Chief Engineer, Motorcycle R&D Center, Honda R&D Co., Ltd.

The arrival of the EV-neo presented a major turning point for the project.

 In 2010, Honda unveiled the EV-neo, an electric scooter developed for business and commercial applications, and in 2011 began leasing it to private companies and small business owners.

 At the start of the Dream Queen project, Honda didn't have an electric model in its lineup of production motorcycles; the team had to create the Dream Queen by modifying an existing gas-engine motorcycle. Now that Honda had released a production electric model, it was only natural that the team would start considering switching the base model to the EV-neo.

 Such a shift would present a major turning point for the Dream Queen project.

 Switching the base model to the EV-neo, a production scooter, meant transferring management of the project, which started out as a volunteer group activity funded by the Dream Contest, to the EV Development Department and making it a part of official electric vehicle development operations.

 Yoshihiro Namiki, the current LPL ("large project leader," the title given to development project leaders at Honda), spoke about the issues the department faced.

 "Actually, some of us in the department had reservations about taking over the project. We couldn't see how leading marathons with the EV-neo, a scooter we had already developed, could contribute to the development of the next technology. But my boss told me, 'Starting or stopping something only when it suits us doesn't help Honda achieve its goal of being "a company society wants to exist." We can't let down the people who look forward to us doing something.' With those words, our minds were made up."

Second-generation Dream Queen, based on the EV-neo

Second-generation Dream Queen, based on the EV-neo

In 2012, the project was relaunched as an official company project under a new team of associates.

 Ono's feelings about moving the project were complicated. While proud that the project would continue as an official part of operations, he was also sad to see the child he took great pains to raise stand on its own two feet and leave the nest. Ono would still be a member of the project, but the project itself would no longer be what it was.

 "I agreed to the project being moved, but on one condition," he said, "that project participation would be voluntary instead of the company deciding project members on its own."

 Ono knew the project had no chance of success if it was compulsory. It would only go well if associates wanted to be a part of it.

 And so, in 2012 the project was relaunched, this time under a new group of associates—each with his own motivation for joining. Chief Researcher Kunihiko Tanaka, who was familiar with the first phase of the project, also took part as a supporter.

 "I've been running marathons since I was in college, and the smell of exhaust from the lead motorcycle has always bothered me. So when I heard about the project, I didn't hesitate to join, even though I was the youngest," said Manabu Hasebe.

  "I joined because I identified with the ambitions of the development team, my older colleagues who designed the first-generation Dream Queen," said Kiyoharu Okubo.

64th Okazaki Ekiden (January 20, 2013)

64th Okazaki Ekiden (January 20, 2013)

2012 Koedo Kawagoe Marathon (November 25, 2012)

2012 Koedo Kawagoe Marathon (November 25, 2012)

'Sports and zero-emissions vehicles are extremely compatible.'

 "Sports and zero-emissions vehicles are extremely compatible on a very broad level. It's an area that's full of hidden potential," said Namiki, project LPL. "This initiative is less about developing an EV technology and more about increasing social awareness of EVs themselves. To do that, we're working to expand our activities so we can lead more competitions."

 Besides Namiki's dream for the project, each team member seemed to have his own.

 "I want to develop more features and systems to help the rider feel as comfortable as possible," said Takeo Numata.

 "This initiative is still not very well recognized even within Honda. My dream is for it to become so well known inside and outside the company that people equate 'electric lead motorcycle' with Honda," said Takafumi Yamaguchi.

 "I bet other companies will start coming out with their own electric lead motorcycles. Being Honda, we can't let them win," said Tsuyoshi Moriya.

 Ono, Ikeda, and Murayama, the original three dreamers, have successfully passed the baton to the younger generation.

 "The dream we started a decade ago has grown to become Honda's dream, symbolized by the EV-neo as a lead motorcycle for long-distance running competitions," said Murayama. "Nothing could make me happier."

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