A new Honda promotional video shows clips of a hazy, smog-choked Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s, and then gives the company credit for its lead role in cutting vehicle-emissions by a factor of one thousand since 1970. Self-serving? Sure. Then again, this LA-native reporter born in 1970 can't help but be somewhat appreciative.

The nearly five-minute video takes a tour through Honda history, showing the Japanese automaker using its experience designing race cars to help develop smaller engines such as its four-cylinder CVCC. An early proponent of California's Clean Air Act, Honda recounts its low-emissions history with the first production low-emission vehicle (the 1996 Civic) and the first production ultra-low-emission vehicle (the 1998 Accord), and says it's approaching "near zero emissions" for its new cars.

For anyone keeping track, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said late last year that Honda's 2013 model-year vehicles averaged an even 27 miles per gallon, and that's with a fairly limited number of hybrids and plug-ins sold. That number was up from its 26.6 mpg in 2012 and second only to Mazda's 27.5 mpg among the major automakers. The overall 2013 average was 24.0 mpg. Read Honda's press release here and check out the Honda video below.

Show full PR text
Honda's "Never Ending Race" Documents its Four-Decade Battle Against Air Pollution
  • Third film in award-winning Environmental Short Film Series explores Honda's voluntary efforts to reduce vehicle emissions over forty-year period
  • Honda's successful demonstration of low-emissions vehicle technology led state of California to adopt new, more stringent emissions regulations
  • New-vehicle emissions are 1/1000th of 1970 levels
  • Next environmental "race" is against global climate change
TORRANCE, Calif., Feb. 13, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- As unprecedented levels of pollution choked the nation's largest cities in the early 1970's, a group of automobile engineers secretly toiled to develop an engine technology that would significantly reduce pollution from automobiles. Honda's new environmental short film, "Never Ending Race," tells the story of Honda's industry-leading efforts to reduce vehicle emissions, and how its successful technology demonstration for the state of California led to more stringent exhaust emissions standards, eventually transforming the automobile industry's approach to automobile emissions controls. Today, as a result, smog-forming emissions from new vehicles are one one-thousandth of 1970 levels1.

"Never Ending Race" is the third film in the award-winning Honda Environmental Short Film Series, which highlights the initiatives of Honda associates to fulfill the company's vision for reducing its environmental impact and creating a more sustainable future.

The short film reminds viewers that urban air pollution has been a pressing social concern in the U.S. for nearly four decades. In the 1970s, Los Angeles came to symbolize America's air pollution problem, experiencing over a hundred stage 1 smog alerts in just one year.2 A public outcry over dangerous smog levels led to the passage of the U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970, which Honda answered with its now-legendary CVCC engine in the 1975 Civic, making Civic the first vehicle to meet the federal standards without the need for costly and complex catalytic converter technology.

The film begins with the former heads of California's Air Resources Board and the U.S. EPA's Assessment Standards division offering first-hand accounts of what it was like to live in the Los Angeles area during some of the worst years for air pollution. Both leaders, who played central roles in the implementation of tighter emission standards for California and the nation, offer praise for Honda's efforts to assist the regulatory process and develop better emissions controls.

Having demonstrated the ability to make a much cleaner-burning engine with the CVCC, Honda continued to lead the way in the development and introduction of increasingly cleaner engines and automobiles.

In 1990, the state of California introduced Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) regulations that reduced allowable vehicle tailpipe emissions by 30 percent. Subsequent demonstrations by Honda engineers of its pioneering emissions technology eventually led to the adoption of even more stringent standards. Thus began a series of incremental achievements in automobile emissions controls and regulation. Honda led the industry with the first vehicles sold to customers that met these higher standards: the 1996 Civic (first low-emissions vehicle), the 1998 Accord (first ultra-low emissions vehicle), the 2000 Accord (first super ultra-low emissions vehicle), the 2001 Civic (first 50-state ultra-low emissions vehicle), and the first zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the 2005 Honda FCX.

Honda's most recent achievement came in the fall of 2013, when California's Air Resources Board announced that the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid was the first gasoline-powered car to meet its SULEV 20 standard, the most stringent in the nation and one-third cleaner (in terms of smog-forming pollution) than the state's previous most stringent standard.

The result of this technological revolution is a dramatic improvement in urban air quality in the U.S. Los Angeles, for example, has not experienced a stage 1 smog alert in eight years, and only one in the last 14 years3, despite a steady increase in the number of cars per capita in the region and an increase in the annual miles driven per car. While Los Angeles and other cities still experience unhealthful air – primarily due to sources other than light duty vehicles – air quality is greatly improved from thirty years ago.

Honda's achievements in reducing smog-forming emissions were significant, but they did not mark the end of the race; before the checkered flag could be thrown, the attention of the world and of companies like Honda shifted to the new and even more pressing issue of global climate change. Today, while Honda continues to reduce smog-forming emissions with vehicles like the Accord Plug-In Hybrid, the company's technology innovation efforts are strongly focused on improving fuel efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions that contribute to climate change.

Honda has adopted a "portfolio approach" that seeks to provide both near and longer-term solutions to society's environmental and energy needs, including more fuel-efficient gasoline and gas-electric hybrid cars like the Accord and Accord Hybrid, natural gas-powered vehicles like the Honda Civic Natural Gas, as well as electrically driven vehicles like the battery-powered Fit EV and hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity.

Honda plans to introduce an all-new hydrogen-powered fuel cell car in 2015 and unveiled a concept version of the vehicle, the Honda FCEV Concept, at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, where the 2014 Accord Hybrid was also named the 2014 Green Car of the Year.

Executive Quote
"The race for a cleaner, more sustainable future has no finish line, but that's okay because our competitive spirit is honed on the race track, and we bring that same intensity to the environmental race now, just as we have for the last thirty years," said Robert Bienenfeld, assistant vice president of Environment & Energy Strategy for American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "Honda played a pivotal role in reducing air pollution, and now we are taking on the even more pressing issue of global climate change."

Honda Environmental Film Series
The Honda Environmental Short Film Series, featured on Honda's YouTube Channel, was launched in August 2012 with the film, "Paint by Numbers," which told the story of Honda engineer Shubho Bhattacharya who, inspired by his belief that global climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind today, developed technology to reduce energy use in the auto body-painting process at Honda manufacturing plants in North America. The second film, "Every Drop Counts", released in October 2012, tells the story of how a retired plant engineer's sketch inspires a team of associates to generate clean, renewable energy using a simple but ingenious device. "Paint by Numbers" was awarded two Telly Awards in the Green/Eco-Friendly and Social Responsibility categories.

Honda Environmental Leadership
Honda is a leader in the development of leading-edge technologies to improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions. Honda has led the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) rankings of overall vehicle environmental performance since 2000, and a Honda vehicle has topped the list of America's greenest vehicles from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) for eleven out of the past thirteen years. The company leads all automakers with twelve LEED-Certified "Green Buildings" in North America, and is producing products in North America with virtually zero-waste to landfill. In 2006, Honda became the first automaker to announce voluntary CO2 emissions reduction targets for its global fleet of automobile, power sports and power equipment products and its global network of manufacturing plants. In 2011, the company set a new CO2 emissions reduction targets for 2020, including a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions from its products compared to 2000 levels.

1 Honda calculation based on publicly available data.
2 "Historic Ozone Air Quality Trends." SCAQMD: www.aqmd.gov/smog/o3trend.html
3 "Historic Ozone Air Quality Trends." SCAQMD: www.aqmd.gov/smog/o3trend.html


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 17 Comments
      Rick
      • 2 Days Ago
      Honda deserves a pat on the back for the work they've done through the years. I think most auto companies today have seen the light and no longer fight the inevitable.
      JB
      • 2 Days Ago
      The 1999 Honda Insight was bold. Its rated at 61MPG highway on today's lower EPA ratings,but you can do much better on the highway or city. If Honda did the Insight without a hybrid system it would get 50 MPG gas, proving weight, aerodynamics and thrifty systems . Since then Honda has not impressed.
        SteveG
        • 2 Days Ago
        @JB
        The much maligned but more modern and much more practical Insight Gen2 can get 50mpg highway just fine.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 2 Days Ago
      That's a cute piece of fluff, but you're still behind your competitors. The insight and civic hybrid still don't have an atkinson cycle engine, and have poor fuel economy and power compared to the competition. WTF is up with the 21mpg highway ridgeline tho? Even an oldschool Chevrolet 5.3 v8 motor can pull 23mpg highway in a bigger truck like the silverado. The ridgeline has a 3.5L V6.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 2 Days Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        I mentioned it in the comment. Actually. you can get a 4.3l DI engine model now that can achieve 24mpg highway. It's still not the most high tech motor..
        Technoir
        • 2 Days Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        2wm The current 5.3L in the Silverado gets 23mpg highway. That is not an "oldschool" truck, it's a brand new truck.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 2 Days Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        1) incorrect; see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atkinson_cycle#Vehicles_using_Atkinson_cycle_engines 2) a simple visit to chevrolet's web page answers this question. *shrug* keep downrating me for stating easily found facts though i guess, guys.
        SteveG
        • 2 Days Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        No one makes an atkinson cycle engine. The insight pretends to be atkinson in an otto engine just like a Prius. What silverado makes 23 mpg?
        Technoir
        • 2 Days Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        Which "old school GM truck" gets 23 highway?
      CoolWaters
      • 2 Days Ago
      Honda could do a lot better if it actually SOLD the FIT EV in every state. It needs to talk to it's dealer network, and start SELLING hybrids. And the Fit Hybrid needs to Come to America.
      Ryan
      • 2 Days Ago
      This is what car commercials should be. Informative and interesting. I'm surprised it is that low now since the 1970s. I could see 1/50th or maybe 1/100th, but 1/1000th? How dirty were the cars back then? I also have to wonder about it especially since the cars aren't getting 100mpg yet. Part of that is probably to get better emissions, they had to give up some mpg.
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Days Ago
        @Ryan
        Yeah.. 'emissions' in this context does not include Greenhouse Gases at all... but really the smog causing pollutants. Many cars back then were redesigned to be much cleaner, without much change in MPG... and in some cases, losing efficiency. Just in 2006, with Tier 2 bin 5 standards, diesel cars got much cleaner, while losing some MPG in the process.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          --"Only a blind man could ignore these strong serious effects of Climate Change." No, it is actually quite easy to ignore because of basic human psychology. A smog cloud is intuitively known to have been caused by vehicle pollution. Global warming does not have an obvious link... it is much more of an indirect causation. It takes real science to discover the link. And many people are scientifically illiterate and/or mistrust science.
          CoolWaters
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Global Warming is causing two things: 1) Greater variability in weather, now with shifts in the historic pattern of the Jet Stream. 2) A Global Drought. California is drying up the quickest, but the whole of the southwest is dry. This is also happening Globally. China is loosing it's major lakes and rivers. The Arctic ice and glacier melt. And the Treat of the Methane Time Bomb. Only a blind man could ignore these strong serious effects of Climate Change.
          Technoir
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Indeed. I wish the talk about "Climate change" shifted to "air, soil and water pollution" which is really what has the bigger impact. Cars today are far cleaner than a few decades ago, when cars were spewing dense clouds of poison.
      danfred311
      • 2 Days Ago
      So Honda is clueless enough to think we'll believe they haven't been fighting against electric drive because of this bs video?
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