The project manager of the Honda e prototype has admitted that the development team had to overcome opposition from company management before the car was confirmed for production.
The retro-styled electric-powered machine, whose styling closely resembles that of the Urban EV prototype, is a compact city car with a range of around 125 miles. Kohei Hitomi said Honda management was not initially convinced by the car's styling, small size and limited range.
Unusually, those doubts led to the development of the Urban EV concept, which was used to try to prove that a market existed for such a car. Hitomi said: "To tell you the real story, the production car came first and we created the concept out of that for a show car."
We asked Hitomi, who has spent his Honda career developing small cars, to explain in detail why the e prototype almost didn’t make production – and what convinced company bosses the EV was ripe for the roads.
What was the debate over building the e prototype?
“The biggest battle was internal, where the team decided to actually develop a small-size electric vehicle, which everybody else in the company was against. To get that through was probably the toughest battle.”
Why was that?
“Many people, including management, had the opinion that to advance market share of electric vehicles, it is essential to overcome the negatives, the drawbacks of an electric vehicle, which is driving range. To cover that, people were keen to put in a bigger battery. A bigger battery automatically means a bigger car, and a bigger car means a more expensive car. To say ‘no, we want a small car’ didn’t fit in their minds, and that was the resistance."
So how did you win?
“The positive feedback for the Urban EV concept car was certainly a breakthrough to convince internally that a small-size EV would make sense and be appreciated. I also tried to convince people that an EV is meant to be used in urban conditions, [where] the [small] size of the car is the most important aspect. That's where it makes most sense. From that perspective, the small size is the most important aspect, so that was how we tried to convince people. The concept helped the production car to get approval, and the production car helped the concept to look like what it looked like."