In his remarks to the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars 2006 in Traverse City, Michigan, American Honda Senior Vice President John Mendel outlined a powertrain strategy focused on three critical issues requiring unique technological approaches.
These three areas are (a) the continued reduction of air pollution with conventional engines; (b) improving the fuel efficiency of the internal combustion engine, including hybrids and diesels; and (c) developing alternative fuel technologies—vehicles and infrastructure— to address energy sustainability and work toward a mode of transportation with zero mobile source CO2 emissions.
With progress...in reducing air emissions... coupled with increased concern over global warming... today, the primary focus of environmental technology has shifted toward fuel efficiency as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions... or CO2.
But higher gas prices have added a strong consumer voice to this issue. And sales numbers over the past two months paint a pretty clear picture of how attitudes toward fuel efficiency are changing.
But we were focused on fuel efficiency when gas prices were relatively low. It is just what we believe. One media pundit has said that “the market has come back to Honda.” And he might be right. But give us some credit, too—we stuck to our commitment—to Honda’s core values of providing fuel efficient vehicles. It is strategy guided by principle...not blind luck.
We have no intention to stop pushing the efficiency envelope even from our leadership position. Earlier this year, Honda became the first automaker in the world to set global CO2 reduction goals for its products and production activities. Importantly, these are voluntary efforts...beyond what is required by law. Despite increased sales of larger vehicles such as SUVs and minivans, we are targeting a reduction in CO2 emissions from our products of 10 percent by year 2010, compared to 2000 levels. We are also focusing attention on the facilities that build our products...with plans to reduce the global average of CO2 emissions required to produce one automobile at a Honda facility in year 2010 by 10 percent compared to 2000.—John Mendel
Honda recognizes, according to Mendel, that the gasoline internal combustion engine will remain the primary platform for the next 15-20 years. He noted the targets set by the company for coming gasoline platforms: a new 4-cylinder ICE in the VTEC series with an improvement in fuel efficiency of up to 13% compared to 2005 levels and a V-6 with more advanced variable Cylinder management technology to offer an up to 11% improvement in efficiency over 2005 levels.
...our strategy is not about pursuing the latest fad. And I would include hybrids in that statement. Now, be careful about what you just heard... I did not say hybrids are a fad. But I want to emphasize they are just one necessary approach.
I know people have wondered about our hybrid strategy—we have been questioned repeatedly regarding why we haven’t joined those companies promising to sell 250-thousand to a million hybrids by the end of the decade. The reason is simple...Honda always proceeds with a sense of urgency, but we also have a patience that is born out of experience with technology. There are multiple solutions to the environmental challenge...and the answer is not necessarily hybrids for all model types.—John Mendel
Mendel touched on Honda’s plans for the new small hybrid to be launched in 2009 (earlier post), but then went straight into a discussion of the diesel strategy that Honda is developing for North America.
Based on this foundation, within three years, we will introduce a new 4-cylinder diesel engine that meets the world’s toughest emissions standards. With hybrid technology focused more on small cars, we believe that diesel technology is the best fuel efficient technology for larger vehicles. So, R&D is also working on the development of V6 diesel engine technology. We do not have a timetable for introducing such an engine. But it is a key development goal.
Mendel also noted that Honda will not use add-on exhaust aftertreatment technology such as urea SCR to manage the diesel emissions. DaimlerChrysler is using a NOx adsorber in its E320 BlueTec sedan to go on sale this fall, but has proposed using urea-based SCR treatments for its larger vehicles—such as SUVs—in the US.
He also emphasized Honda’s role with natural gas vehicles and infrastructure—the Phill home refueling appliance.
This real world experience with the [natural gas] technology and the customer has been invaluable to Honda. Not only in advancing the performance of the Civic GX... but as a pathway to another alternative fuel vehicle...the hydrogen fuel cell.
In addition to confirming that Honda plans to have a production version of the FCX fuel cell vehicle on the market in about three years, Mendel pointed to Honda&rsquols infrastructure efforts to support hydrogen-fueled transportation: the 3rd generation Home Energy Station and its efforts in building a solar-powered hydrogen refueling station using Honda’s own thin-film solar cells.