The Honda e Prototype represents a rare case of a concept heading into production with arguably minimal changes but the road to the dealership was more difficult than it sounds, according to Kohei Hitomi, the model’s project manager.
Speaking to Autocar, Hitomi said that the development team had to overcome opposition from Honda bosses in order for Honda’s first all-electric model to get the green light.
There were many doubts in Honda’s management about the feasibility of a small-sized electric model and Hitomi and his team had to change their mind.
“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,” said Hitomi. “To get that through was probably the toughest battle.”
As is the case with most concept studies, Honda designed the production car ahead of the Urban EV concept, which was created to measure the public’s reaction.
“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,” Hitomi added. “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.”
“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,” Hitomi said.
The retro-styled Honda e Prototype is a near-production version of a small electric car that will offer a driving range of over 125 miles (200km) and a very eye-catching cabin, once it enters production later this year.