Accord Plug-In: Leading the Way Toward Bluer Skies

1/15/2013 4:00:00 PM

It was with no small sense of pride in my company that I read this recent quote from Mr. Tom Cackette of California's Air Resources Board (ARB):

"Honda has demonstrated that a dedicated commitment to the environment and advanced engineering at every level of the company can deliver the cleanest cars well ahead of schedule."

The quote was contained in a December 26, 2012, press release from ARB announcing that our new Accord Plug-In is the first vehicle to meet ARB's new SULEV 20 standard, the most stringent tailpipe emissions regulation in the nation.

Honda's effort to reduce automobile tailpipe emissions stretches back to the 1970swhen our company founder, Soichiro Honda, decided to end the first era of Honda Formula 1 racing in order to pursue a different race – the race to meet new emissions standards set forth under a 1970 amendment to the U.S. Clean Air Act. Mr. Honda saw this as a new race with everyone starting from the same starting line.

The challenge was strongly embraced by a group of young Honda engineers, who were shocked by reports projecting the harmful effects of air pollution on future generations. These engineers took up the rallying cry "Blue Skies for our Children" and created the now legendary CVCC engine, the first vehicle to meet these new emissions standards without the need for a catalytic converter.

But this proved to be only the first lap of a long race. In the intervening years, the Honda Civic and Accord together achieved a series of important milestones in the drive for cleaner air. This included America's very first Low Emission Vehicle, or LEV (1996 Civic), the first Ultra Low Emission Vehicle, or ULEV (1998 Accord), the first Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle or SULEV (2000 Accord), and the first gasoline powered Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle, or AT-PZEV (2003 Civic Hybrid).

While by no means alone in this effort, over a 30-year period in which Honda led the way in introducing automobile emissions controls, tailpipe emissions for U.S. passenger vehicles have dropped 99 percent. We demonstrated through our ingenuity and challenging spirit the path to achieve ever lower levels of tailpipe emissions both affordably and with minimal impact to vehicle performance.

Last year, the CVCC engine marked its 40th birthday, but four decades later the race to reduce the environmental impact of Honda products is still being run, and run with a vengeance. With the Accord Plug-In launching in California and New York this week, tailpipe emissions are reduced to just 7 pounds over 150,000 miles of driving. By comparison, prior to the first LEV vehicle, typical passenger cars produced somewhere around 300 pounds of over the same distance.

While these are important markers in our race for a more sustainable mobility future, there's no real finish line to this race, no checkered flag, no spray of champagne or chugging of milk. But it's a race that, in true Honda spirit, we love to run, knowing that every lap brings new challenges, new learning, and new chances to live up to the great legacy of those who first took up the rallying cry "Blue Skies for Our Children." I think Mr. Honda would be proud of our efforts to reduce smog-forming tailpipe emissions – but I imagine his next words would be "Get ready for the next race!" And so we will.

Steven Center
Vice President
American Honda Environmental Business Development Office