The Challenge of Zero Emissions for the 21st Century
"An electric vehicle (EV) running on solar power?" thought Junichi Araki, LPL of the first-generation EV basic research team. "Maybe the time is right for alternative fuel cars to be running all over town." He had just read a magazine article describing the exploits of the General Motors Sun Racer, the solar car that had taken the first place at the inaugural World Solar Challenge (WSC) race held in Australia in November 1987.
Honda EV Plus cruises the streets of America. This advanced electric car offers the dynamic performance of a gasoline-powered car, along with all the comforts one expects of a Honda.
Several managers in charge of research at Honda R&D Center had recently held a meeting, in which they debated the types of research that they should conduct for the coming 21st century. The meeting was an important one, since their target was to be an age of "clean energy." They were well aware that they were working well in advance of the time when the world's available petroleum reserves would dry up, so all those in attendance shared Araki's sentiments about alternative energy vehicles.
Several issues were discussed during the meeting. However, overall the participants were mindful of the fact that electric vehicles had fewer parts than conventional vehicles, and this prompted them to look into the possibility that their EV (electric vehicle) could be an automobile easily manufactured anywhere in the world. The meeting also led them to reconfirm the necessity of enhancing technology with regard to the internal combustion engine, such as improving gas mileage and reducing emissions. Therefore, they would dedicate their future product deve-lopment efforts to the protection of the environment.
"Electric operation was the most likely candidate, in terms of alternative power," Araki recalled. "However, Honda had no previous experience with electric powerplants. Also, at the time not much research was being done with regard to alternative-fuel vehicles. Therefore, we decided to take up the challenge of making an electric vehicle. We also considered participating in the WSC, simply because we knew the harsh conditions of such a race would enable us to produce our technology even more quickly."
The research and development of electric vehicles got under way at Honda in April 1988, through basic debates like this one. It started out fairly small, with a staff of only four, however, basic research was now under way.