|"Why don't you just dig a hole, and bury it!"
Although the project was launched on a broad scale, the team was thrown together quite hastily. As a result, most of the team members had no knowledge of electric vehicles. As could be expected, the group lacked a sense of purpose and unity.
"The members were not easily united," said Kenzo Suzuki, Project Leader (PL) in charge of the testing of electric vehicle powerplants. "We wondered how we were going to come up with a united idea for an automobile, especially given the limited technology we had available to us at that time."
The first prototype to be test-manufactured as a significant project was based on the Civic three-door model. In a race against time the car was manufactured using a commercially available motor and battery obtained from the market. For most team members, it was their first attempt at building an electric vehicle and was thus a matter of "labor pains." However, in July 1991, with the team members assembled to watch, the car made its first run without any problem.
"What do you know; it runs okay," the team members said with obvious relief. However, Araki, the Large Project Leader (LPL), turned beet-red with anger.
"Before I knew it," recalled Araki with a chuckle, "I was yelling, 'You call this a car? What the heck did you just make? Why don't you just dig a hole, and bury it!'"
Araki then spent about two hours explaining the reason for his outrage, saying that at first glance it was obvious that the car was "a compromise; an excuse for having had no previous experience."
"As long as we continue trying a variety of measures in a project, each car we produce must constitute a learning experience that leads to the next step," Araki said. If a car doesn't lead to greater experience, we might as well not build it. I was so disappointed that they hadn't put more passion into the project.
The team members were deeply shamed and mortified. The experience, however, became a driving force for coming up with new ideas and inventions. Shigeru Suzuki, the PL in charge of powerplant design, said, "After being questioned, 'Why didn't you change the battery specifications to better meet the needs of an electric vehicle?,' we reexamined the issue many times. However, because of that, we were able to propose a battery format and size that could be better used in an electric vehicle. Therefore, the battery manufacturers approved our proposal, and it became a world standard."
There still was time before the ZEV Act was to be enforced. Honda's new goal in developing electric vehicles had become "to make a good electric vehicle, with no compromises."
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