When green car enthusiasts think of Honda, their first thought might be, “The automaker without an electric vehicle?”
Indeed, Honda has no EV in production (and barely has a plug-in hybrid available) but has a plan to reduce its total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% in the coming decades. While announcing the latest steps in its Green Path plan, the automaker is planning to make its leap in sustainability without new plug-in models appearing until 2018.
According to a company statement, these huge sustainability upgrades will come mainly through improvements in the design and production process where Honda has trailed world automakers in the past. (In a study of the greenest car companies released in 2015, Honda placed 10th.) An investment of $210 million in the company’s Marysville plant will lead to an 18% reduction in emissions and 66% reduction in volatile organic compounds in the painting process.
An installation of solar panels at a Connecticut facility will deliver more sustainable operations there as well. Furthermore, Honda is expanding the company’s Green Dealer program that rewards dealerships that run more efficient operations. These steps will piggyback on other initiatives in the production and delivery process that Honda hopes will reduce its life-cycle emissions 50% by 2050 using 2000 levels as the baseline.
Nonetheless, skepticism about the automaker’s sustainability efforts are likely to continue until Honda produces an electric vehicle for sale in the U.S. and other markets. (The Honda Fit EV, which ended production in 2014 after a total run of 1,100 units, was available only through leases.) Currently, the car maker can boast of some used Fit EVs via pre-owned lease and the pricey Accord plug-in hybrid on the electric vehicle front.
Nonetheless, Honda has remained one of the companies with the most fuel-efficient lineup.
As recently as 2013, Honda was second only to Mazda (a much smaller company) in terms of fuel economy, which proves efficiency across the board is a credible approach to the green car business. In a release announcing the company’s latest Green Path initiatives, company representatives took up the subject.
“We work every day on these issues [i.e., fuel economy],” said Ryan Harty, head of Honda’s Environmental Business Development Office. “But there’s much more automakers can do beyond fuel efficiency to reduce our environmental impact by adopting energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout our operations.”
One of the company’s tricks come in vehicle shipments. Rather than sending vehicles to destinations by truck, Honda uses trains for 80% of its deliveries, which cut emissions by over 60%. The automaker also boasts its vehicles are 90% recyclable while a fraction of 1% of its production materials ends up in landfills.
So would consumers like a new electric vehicle from one of the most respected automakers in America? Absolutely, but there are other ways for a car company to go green while its future plug-in models are in development. For now, Honda is seeing if its fuel cell vehicles can deliver on the emissions-free side of the equation. Otherwise, it will deliver a more sustainable operation from the design and production processes.
[Editor’s note 09/28/15: Due to an error on the writer’s part, the original version of this article stated Honda has no electric vehicle on sale or in development. The automaker promises a new EV by 2018.]
[Update 09/28/15: Details on the Honda Fit EV were added.]