The CVCC Engine System: An Immediate Success

October 11, 1972, was a landmark day in the history of Honda. On that day at Tokyo’s Akasaka Prince Hotel, the CVCC engine was introduced in its entirety to journalists from throughout Japan and the world. The hall was decked out in blue panels representing a brilliant blue sky, bespeaking the achievement of this new, low-emission product.

The event was attended by all company directors, including President Soichiro Honda, and by the research engineers responsible for developing the new power plant. They introduced the engine, profiled its history of development, and described its features and combustion principle.

Several achievements were introduced, including the following:

1. The engine could be made using existing reciprocat
ing engines, which meant that existing production facilities could be used. In addition, because the only change required was the replacement of a portion of the cylinder head, the CVCC system could be applied to other types of units, resulting in the proliferation of low emission engines.

2. Because clean, complete combustion took place
internally in the engine, additional devices such as catalytic converters were not necessary. Secondary pollution was no longer then a concern.

It was clear with this auspicious announcement that Honda had championed a new technology for the world. Moreover, it was just what Mr. Honda had in mind from the very beginning. And by that time some 230 patent applications were already pending with regard to comprehensive inventions covering the CVCC engine principle and associated technologies.

“Some of our competitors conducted good research, as well,” said Yagi, obviously stressing Mr. Honda’s philosophy on the origination of technology. “They didn’t have the means to make it all happen, though. We at Honda did everything on our own, from the creation of a concept through to research and the establishment of a workable method.”

Not only the press and industry observers were impressed. Once the public heard about the CVCC engine, the news of Honda’s achievement created a sensation in Japan and overseas. Subsequently, the EPA asked Honda to submit some cars equipped with the CVCC engine for testing. Honda sent three automobiles to the EPA’s laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Two had 15,000 miles on them, while one had completed a 50,000 mile durability test, which was conducted in the presence of Honda representatives December 7—14, 1972. Thus, the vehicle became the first to pass the stringent 1975 emissions requirements of the 1970 Clean Air Act.

“Test data was taken with the CVCC engine installed in a Nissan Sunny,” said Ken Mizoguchi, the Honda representative on-site in Ann Arbor. “At that time, Honda still didn’t have a car that was big enough for the CVCC engine. We even used sandbags to try to increase the weight.”

Indeed, the Civic had only been introduced a short time before, on July 21, leaving Honda with no alternative but to take the qualification test with the body of a competing vehicle.

Soichiro Honda had always made it clear that his policy was to make emission control technologies public. As Honda’s CVCC technology became available to other automakers, Toyota Motor inquired about it. Subsequently, an engineer from that company visited Honda R&D Center, where he test drove the car and was given details of the technology. Then, following a thorough evaluation of CVCC technology, Toyota signed a licensing agreement with Honda.

“It was a very positive sign when Toyota became the first to sign an agreement,” said Koichiro Yoshizawa, who was in charge of negotiating the licensing agreements with outside companies. “In fact, it had a positive effect on both the CVCC and Honda. Once the news hit the papers that we had signed an agreement with Toyota, other makers in Japan and the U.S. immediately forwarded their proposals.”

Licensing agreements were eventually signed with Ford, Chrysler, and Isuzu, and during that period Honda R&D was in constant receipt of visitors from auto companies around the world.
The EPA held a public hearing on March 19, 1973, in Washington, D.C., to hear the testimony of automakers on whether to implement the 1970 Clean Air Act as scheduled. At the hearing, the only automakers who testified that they could meet the 1975 regulations were Honda and Toyo Industries (now Mazda).

“At the hearing,” recalled Date, “we were asked, ‘Can Honda really produce cars that meet the 1975 requirements? And if so, can Honda supply CVCC engines to automakers such as GM?’ But honestly, we had our hands full just taking care of Honda’s business. We didn’t have the capacity to supply products to a company the size of GM. It was a very frustrating experience.”
The demands were simply too much for the industry as a whole. So, as a result of the hearing, it was decided that implementation of the Clean Air Act would be postponed.
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<< The 1970 U.S. Clean Air Act
<< Launch of the AP Lab
<< Achieving Lean Combustion through Trial and Error
<< Developing an Engine with a Prechamber
<< The Official Name: CVCC
<< The CVCC Engine System: An Immediate Success
<< Civic/CVCC Fuel Economy Draws Praise in the U.S.
<< The CVCC: Expressing the Honda Philosophy

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