|First Prototype Gets the Green Light
Project members flew to the U.S. while the actual test drives were being conducted, in order to conduct direct interviews with prospective customers. Such an undertaking provided the team members an opportunity to meet with many Americans, who from a social context had a deep understanding of the need for environmental preservation.
"These were people who empathized with and applauded Honda's commitment to the environment as expressed through electric vehicles," Matsumoto said. "The fact that such people existed gave us so much courage. Really, you can't imagine how much. I'll always remember the words of one of them: 'This car is right for me. I'm doing the right thing.'"
The first prototype EV was completed in December 1995, reflecting the vast amounts of data obtained through research results, drive tests, and interviews.
"We wracked our brains coming with a body design that said this was an electric vehicle," Matsumoto recalled. "All we had in mind was to create an EV with an original body rather than some conversion of an existing model. We had put too much of our energy into the car for that. Also, we believed that if we were to announce its arrival as a conversion, top management would yell at us, saying, 'Get serious!,' and give us a kick...."
The cost of creating an original car body can be quite high, however. Moreover, electric vehicles were to be made on the condition that they could be produced in small quantities. The Development and Engineering divisions worked as a unified force in that respect, ascertaining the machine's engineering feasibility and ensuring its high quality. Permanent dies were employed for large parts for the first lot of prototypes. In this way, a motor manufactured at EG and a body manufactured at Tochigi Factory (TA)'s Takanezawa Plant were put together to become the EV, representing the thorough capabilities of Honda's technology.
In January 1996, then-President Nobuhiko Kawamoto test-drove the newly minted Honda EV. "It's a 'go'," he said to the project members. "Let's do it."
"When it's complete, introduce it immediately," said Hiroyuki Yoshino, then the executive vice-president. "Introduce it simultaneously in Japan and the U.S."
Yoshino's words were more than an encouragement. They were an order.
There was no time to lose, and accordingly the project members split into two groups: one in Japan and another in the U.S. This would allow them to enhance their electric vehicle even further. Then, in April 1996, the result of that effort was announced simultaneously in Japan and the United States.
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