The Tokyo Motor Show has undergone a significant transformation this year with its new name, the “JAPAN MOBILITY SHOW.” Honda, with its theme of “Honda Dream Loop,” has created a booth that aims to convey the dreams they want to turn into reality and their vision for the future.
The highlight of the show is the SUSTAINA-C Concept, an electric vehicle concept that aims to transcend the limitations of limited resources. Takeki Tanaka, the development project leader, shares his passion and thoughts behind this concept model and the future society he envisions.
Tanaka, who joined Honda in 1993, has worked on various projects such as the North American Accord, Insight, and Fit. In 2023, he led the development of the SUSTAINA-C Concept as the development leader for Honda’s next-generation electric vehicle research team.
The SUSTAINA-C is a sustainable, compact, and everyday vehicle designed to be accessible to more people. Tanaka emphasizes the importance of developing electric vehicles that are affordable for customers, as full-fledged popularization requires addressing all aspects, including price. The development team incorporated unique technologies to tackle environmental challenges and create a circular/recycling-oriented society with zero environmental impact.
One of the key features of the SUSTAINA-C is the use of recycled acrylic resin for the body panels. This recycled acrylic, sourced from end-of-life vehicles, promotes resource recycling and reduces CO2 emissions. Additionally, acrylic panels eliminate the need for the painting process, which is the most CO2-emitting process in automobile production. By using acrylic body panels, CO2 emissions can be significantly reduced.
Although acrylic panels are more prone to breaking upon impact, the team overcame this challenge by developing a new acrylic that is flexible and less prone to breakage. This unique acrylic allows for unconventional design expressions, such as marble-patterned designs that showcase the flow marks of acrylic resin during the molding process. Tanaka believes that the trend of “no paint is cool” seen in smartphones and other devices can also be applied to cars, allowing customers to change the color of their car body according to their mood.
Another innovative feature of the SUSTAINA-C is the transparency of acrylic, which enabled the team to mold the tailgate as a single panel and let the taillights shine through from the backside of the panel. By utilizing mini-LED panels, the taillights can display various images and messages, adding a new level of interaction and communication between drivers.
The development of SUSTAINA-C was not a conventional process. The concept for the vehicle was born through discussions at Honda’s regular weekly meetings, where participants from diverse backgrounds and expertise come together to share ideas and explore topics of high interest to society. This open and positive atmosphere reflects Honda’s Waigaya culture and led to the creation of this concept model as an output of these meetings.
As the leader of the development team, Tanaka believes in allowing team members to work spontaneously based on their own initiative and thoughts, rather than giving detailed work instructions. He draws inspiration from former Honda CEO, Nobuhiko Kawamoto, who made awe-inspiring decisions based on market trends and other factors. Tanaka also mentions that all the members were excited and enjoyed working on the SUSTAINA-C concept model due to the clear direction and many ideas already gathered.
Tanaka’s passion for automotive engineering stems from his childhood fascination with cars and vehicles. He has been involved in product development for over 30 years, mainly in the area of body design. He also shares a love for motorcycles and actively participates in various activities, including endurance races, during his days off.
The value that SUSTAINA-C offers to customers is the compatibility of EGO and ECO. Customers can enjoy the freedom of mobility, driving a car in their favorite color without worrying about the environmental impact. Honda aims to be the promise to customers that driving a Honda vehicle will not lead to environmental destruction.
Beyond the development of SUSTAINA-C, Tanaka envisions a future where everyone can enjoy mobility more freely at their own will. He believes in creating cars that contribute to this vision and plans to remain committed to the research and realization of next-generation electric vehicles.
In conclusion, the JAPAN MOBILITY SHOW showcases Honda’s vision for the future and their commitment to sustainable and environmentally-responsible mobility. The SUSTAINA-C Concept, with its unique features and unconventional ideas, represents Honda’s efforts to address environmental challenges and create a more inclusive and enjoyable mobility experience for customers. Tanaka’s leadership and the collaborative spirit of Honda’s development team have brought this concept model to life, pushing the boundaries of automotive engineering and setting the stage for future innovations in the industry.