Honda Advocates and Builds for Both Lower Emissions and Better Mobility
by Caroline Schomp
Honda has been an international leader in making greener and more fuel-efficient vehicles and it has done it without sacrificing popularity with the public. Honda automobiles consistently are among the top sellers in their categories. Automakers are in a race against time to meet the U.S. government’s 2025 deadline to make their cars meet a 54.5-mpg fuel-economy average, so that’s put pressure on the industry as a whole. But for Honda, the reasons go much deeper than government mandates.
Honda developed its “Honda Environmental and Safety Vision” in 2011, which sums up the company’s philosophy: “Realizing the joy and freedom of mobility and a sustainable society where people can enjoy life.” Its goals include cutting total CO2 emissions in half by 2050 from the base year of 2000. The plan includes promoting more electric-powered technologies and increasing use of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric and fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs), and by 2030, reaching a two-thirds to one-third ratio of electric-powered to gas-powered technologies.
Honda has already taken huge steps, with outstanding examples such as the 2017 Accord Hybrid (49 mpg city). Perhaps Honda’s most dramatic example is the 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell, a zero-emission vehicle that will be available this year. Widespread use of hydrogen-powered cars like the Clarity FCV will depend on developing a hydrogen infrastructure. Honda and other manufacturers are working with the state of California to put that in place, and it will act as a template for the rest of the country’s hydrogen infrastructure.
California is considered the world’s pioneer in automobile use, freeways and photochemical smog (what many consider Los Angeles’ first freeway, the Arroyo Seco Parkway, now the 110, opened in 1940). It also has been the most aggressive of any state – and the U.S. as a whole – in cutting emissions. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has mandated electric and fuel cell vehicles. While Honda has supported CARB’s efforts, recently American Honda VP of Environment and Energy Strategy Robert Bienenfeld pointed out that in its eagerness to reach zero emissions, California is giving short shrift to transitional efforts, such as plug-in hybrids.
Speaking in early August, Bienenfeld said it would make more sense for California to join the EPA in setting a target for emissions and let innovators like Honda figure out how to set it. As an example he pointed out that while battery-powered vehicles would meet CARBs 2050 air-quality standards, so would a vehicle fleet made up of 60 percent plug-in hybrids. “It’s a little too early to pick winners and losers,” Bienenfeld said.
Honda, and all auto manufacturers, are experiencing tension between meeting fuel-economy goals while also fulfilling public transportation wants. Honda’s solution is to offer a range of vehicles that offer performance, efficiency and comfort. That range includes cars for people who are particularly conscious of environmental impacts – like the Clarity FCV and the Accord Hybrid – as well as great all-gas vehicles that still achieve awesome fuel economy and lower emissions.