case 83

Motor Sports Division, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

Honda Eco Mileage Challenge: The Race for Highest Fuel Economy with Vehicles Designed and Built by Amateur Teams

Thinking about fuel efficiency and the environment while experiencing the joy of making things

A starting point for learning for participants of all ages

— There’s a very broad range of people competing in this race, from junior high school students at the bottom to working professionals at the top.

Murakami Maybe this is true for everything, but motorsport is one of those worlds that only people who are part of it can understand. In this race you can compete even with a recycled engine, and that’s why it’s the perfect way to provide opportunities for having fun, which was part of the vision for launching the race that Takayama mentioned at the beginning.

Mizumura The value is in joining and running the race. That’s because it is a race where you get more out of participating than watching.

Murakami In this race, you come to realize through experience that a vehicle’s performance is not the only thing that determines its fuel efficiency. The way you drive influences the outcome of the race, so even if you drive a machine with the best fuel performance out there, you still might not harness it fully. Getting more people to become aware of that fact is another important contribution I think Eco Run is making.

Yamana I would love it if more youth became aware of or sensitive to how people drive.

Manager of the Race Operations Office, Soichi Yamana (Director, Motorcycle Department, Motor Sports Division, Brand and Communication Operations, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.)

Manager of the Race Operations Office, Soichi Yamana (Director, Motorcycle Department, Motor Sports Division, Brand and Communication Operations, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.)

Eco Run was founded on the idea that anyone can participate and have fun

Eco Run was founded on the idea that anyone can participate and have fun

Thai team Panjavidhya servicing their vehicle before the race. They finished with a record of 3,056.121 km/L, winning the 2018 Soichiro Honda Cup

Thai team Panjavidhya servicing their vehicle before the race. They finished with a record of 3,056.121 km/L, winning the 2018 Soichiro Honda Cup

Takayama This race was originally founded on the concept that anyone could participate and have fun. The number of classes slowly grew with each race, to where even the class for high school students is now consistently popular. So in 2005 we lowered the bar again and created the class for junior high school students, so even younger generations could think about fuel efficiency and the environment while having fun making things. When that happened the range of participants broadened even further.

Murakami We really do have a great variety of participants. In the working professionals class, there are teams similar to the works teams (teams who design and build the machines) in other races. They’ve built up experience and specs and a financial investment in certain technologies or parts. It’s a technical trend and also an inspiration for other participants.

— Does the ability to watch these works teams from close up provide a good stimulus for other participants?

Murakami I believe so. In the different pits you have teams racing for the first time, teams wanting to finish the race this year, and teams hoping to win. The role model for each is a very short distance away. If a team with a fuel efficiency of 200 km/L wants to know how to get to 300, or how someone could possibly reach 3,000, they can go to the pit and look at the machine or even chat with the team. Because everyone from junior high school students to working professionals are competing, the race serves as a place for them to inspire each other.

Mizumura If they bargain right, some teams can even get secondhand parts. This is an environment where rivals can communicate with each other, so it attracts teams who are passionate about their goals.

Yamana The race is crossing borders too. Countries like China, Thailand, and Vietnam already hold their own Eco Runs, and we invite the top teams from their national competitions to the global challenge.

Mizumura This year’s Soichiro Honda Cup winner (highest fuel economy) was a Thai team, in fact.

Yamana For people in Southeast Asia especially, gasoline is expensive; it’s a precious commodity. So fuel efficiency has direct ties to daily living. In that sense, their feelings toward fuel efficiency is completely different from Japanese people. Through international exchange, I hope they provide a stimulus for Japanese participants, and not just in a technical sense.

Keeping Honda’s founding principles alive and growing

Murakami: This is a race that values Honda’s founding principles.

Murakami: This is a race that values Honda’s founding principles.

 

Mizumura: Race scores are an outcome of hard work that team members get to share.

Mizumura: Race scores are an outcome of hard work that team members get to share.

Yamana: We need to continue researching and developing more environmentally friendly engines, not just electric vehicles.

Yamana: We need to continue researching and developing more environmentally friendly engines, not just electric vehicles.

Takayama: This race is an initiative to pay more consideration to the global environment.

Takayama: This race is an initiative to pay more consideration to the global environment.

— So the people who participate in Eco Mileage Challenge are diversifying. Where do you see the race going in the coming years?

Yamana When I think about the future of the race itself, we may have to introduce electrification, in part because of social trends. Still, I question the idea that we’ll shift to electrification on social trends alone.

 I lived for an extended period of time in Kenya and in that country there are areas without any electricity at all. As you would guess, people get around on gasoline-fueled motorcycles.

 That’s why it’s absolutely necessary that we continue to research and develop engines with better fuel efficiency and better environmental performance. And as long as engine development continues, there is meaning in continuing the Eco Run, which fosters an awareness of fuel efficiency and the environment.

 

Mizumura That’s probably true. But whether we do gasoline or electric, the three core principles that have been a part of Eco Run since the beginning ― providing the opportunity, the setting, and the means for having fun ― won’t change.

Murakami If you think about it, the only Honda motorsport that has the “Soichiro Honda Cup” in its title is the Eco Mileage Challenge. That goes to show how much this race values one of Honda’s founding principles: the process of making things (monozukuri). I want Eco Run to grow as an event that gets more and more people in touch with the joy of working with your hands and the joy of mobility.

Takayama When more people learn about this race, it should also get them thinking about fuel efficiency. I would love to attract more people to come watch.

Murakami Me too! There aren’t many races where you have this many young people enjoying the process of making things with their hands while also developing an awareness of nature and fuel efficiency. It’s a good reason to have many more people learn about it. On the other hand, the Eco Mileage Challenge doesn’t have the dramatic lights and sounds that tend to draw people’s attention. I want people who watch to have an intuitive sense that the event looks fun, the way a festival or fireworks do.

Mizumura No, there is “light.” Can’t you see the light of passion that radiates from our many participants?

Everyone Well said!

— Now I know the reason for that thrilling atmosphere that got even me excited, just as an observer. All of you have been working to create that kind of atmosphere.

Yamana Even as we stay true to our original mission, I think we need to expand the race beyond Japan to the world, following the motorcycle market’s growth. To do that, we younger people need to keep alive the ways of thinking and the organizational methods and skills developed over time by our predecessors.

Murakami I agree. Whatever young people are passionate about, that’s what shapes our future.

To properly meet the passion participants have for maximizing their fuel efficiency, the event organizers approached the day of the race with the same passion: for all teams to go home having raced and left behind an official record with the machines they built.

Awareness of fuel efficiency and the environment, topics that tend to feel very serious, develop naturally through the races as a result of having fun while making something — a founding principle at Honda. And the first step in that process is wholeheartedly enjoying the environment where that designing and building happens.

As the only race with the name Soichiro Honda in its title, the Eco Mileage Challenge is a motorsport for the ecological age, one that fits the Honda identity by continually providing enjoyment that cultivates awareness of fuel efficiency and the environment.