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Honda launches new “Green Path” initiatives for manufacturing and operations; new $210M paint line at Marysville with new 4C2B process

Honda has announced several initiatives under its new “Green Path” approach to reducing the total life-cycle environmental impact of its products and operations in North America. Among these is a $210-million investment in a new, more environmentally responsible auto-body painting facility and innovative paint process at its Marysville, Ohio auto plant (MAP), the largest of Honda’s eight auto plants in North America. MAP produces the Honda Accord Sedan and Coupe along with the Acura TLX and ILX for customers in more than 100 countries.

Honda has established a voluntary goal to reduce its total GHG emissions—including customer use-phase—by 50% by the year 2050, compared to 2000 levels; this works out to a reduction of 90% per unit sales—a difficult task, noted Ryan Harty, a former Honda R&D engineer who now manages Honda’s new Environmental Business Development Office.

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Source: Honda North America. Click to enlarge.

In 2006, Honda was the first auto company to voluntarily and publicly announce targets for the reduction of its CO2 emissions for its products and operations globally. Honda’s “Green Path” approach, announced during a media tour of its operations in Ohio, seeks:

  • To reduce or eliminate the use of substances of concern (SOCs) and scarce natural resources such as rhodium, palladium and platinum in the design and production of its vehicles. SOCs are chemical (e.g., solvents) or materials (e.g., metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead and hexavalent chrome) that pose a known threat to health or the environment. Honda is specifically trying to reduce or eliminate a number of solvents such as toluene, xylene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, benzene, ethylbenzene, and styrene. Its goal is to be solvent-free, not just to replace a given solvent with a slightly less toxic alternative, said Bob Proctor, Manager, Environment and Cost Planning, Honda North America.

  • Significantly to reduce the CO2 intensity and water use of its manufacturing operations.

  • To continue to decrease CO2 emissions from the transportation of vehicles from its plants to dealers.

  • To expand the involvement of US Honda and Acura dealers in its “Green Dealer” program.

When one thinks about what automakers can do to help the environment, the immediate thought is about improving fuel efficiency and developing alternatives to gasoline. We work every day on these issues. 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.

—Ryan Harty

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Rob May, Honda Marysville plant manager, announces the new Line 1 paint facility. Credit: Honda North America. Click to enlarge.

New Paint Line 1 at Marysville, 4C2B process. A highlight of the Green Path announcements is the investment in a new $210-million paint facility at the Marysville Auto Plant (MAP). The new MAP Line 1 paint facility will utilize numerous new technologies to significantly reduce energy use, water use and chemical emissions from the vehicle painting process while at the same time improving the quality of Honda and Acura vehicles produced at MAP. When complete, the new paint shop will be the most energy-efficient paint line in Honda’s US automobile production network. Auto body painting can account for upward of 60% of an automobile plant’s total energy use.

Use of a higher efficiency paint-curing process, a new waterborne two-component primer material and “dry-booth” paint overspray technology will eliminate water used to capture paint particulates, which is one of the few remaining landfill waste streams in the manufacturing process. The new paint line will cut CO2 emissions in the painting process by 18% (12,000 metric tons annually) and reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 66%.

Construction of the new paint line will begin this December and is slated for completion in December 2017. The new Line 1 paint shop will have a capacity of 229,000 units annually. The 300,000 ft2 facility will replace the existing facility built in 1985. The Marysville plant’s Line 2 operation received a major renovation in 2006.

The new paint shop will use a more compact and energy-efficient 4-coat, 2-bake (4C2B) short process—versus the conventional 4-coat, 3-bake (4C3B) used on the current line, eliminating one primer-coat curing oven.

Typically, new automobiles receive four coatings: an electrodeposited anticorrosion coating; a middle coat that prepares the surface for painting; a base color coat; and a final clear coat.

In a 4C3B process, the surfaces are coated four times and baked three times: first after electrodeposition; then after the application of the middle coat; and finally after the application of the base and clear coats.

Honda first developed the new 4C2B process in its Suzuka Factory in Japan. The use of drying ovens after the application of the middle coat was eliminated, leaving one baking stage after electrodeposition and a second after the application of the other three coats (middle, base, clear).

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The change from 4C3B to 4C2B. Source: Honda. Click to enlarge.

Applying another coat before the previous coat is fully dry causes problems with the performance and finish of the coatings. At the Suzuka Factory, they solved this problem by developing a new paint specifically for the middle coat that allows a conventional water-based base coat to be applied wet-on-wet after a short pre-drying period.

The Honda team in Marysville took it further for their implementation of 4C2B—instead of using a solvent-based primer, the new paint line will also use a 2K (two-component) waterborne primer designed exclusively for Honda in conjunction with its paint material supplier. The combination of the new 2K waterborne primer coat and waterborne base coat will reduce volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions nearly 66% compared to existing Line 1 operations.

The new paint line will also use “dry-booth” technology, which uses limestone dust in place of water to capture paint overspray, reducing water use by two million gallons annually. Eliminating water used to capture paint particulates will eliminate paint sludge as a waste byproduct, resulting in the elimination of more than 255 tons of sludge.

Additionally, the new booth will reduce CO2 emissions by 18% (12,000 metric tons annually). Based on Honda research, the new MAP Line 1 paint shop will be the highest-volume application of dry booth automobile painting technology in North America.

The new paint shop will also advance vehicle appearance by using a new two-step temperature curing process with more automation, which supports paint finish appearance improvements.

(Honda is using a new 3-coat/2-bake (3C2B), water-based painting process at its Honda de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. (HDM) plant, which produces the Fit. Earlier post.)

Other elements in the Green Path program include:

  • Connecticut Parts Distribution Center Adds 1-Megawatt Solar Array. Honda has installed a 1-megawatt rooftop solar array at its 400,000 square foot parts distribution center in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. When operational, the array of nearly 5,000 high-efficiency photovoltaic panels, generating 1.4 gigawatt-hours of energy annually, is anticipated to meet more than half of the site’s total electricity needs and offset an estimated 576 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

    The project is an early result of an ongoing companywide evaluation aimed at increasing the use of renewable energy to meet its power needs. Another example of this effort is Honda’s Russells Point, Ohio, transmission plant, which is the first auto plant in America to utilize on-site wind power for a substantial portion of its energy use.

    The most recent data shows that the turbines are not only consistently reaching their targets, but in nine of the 12 months have outperformed projections. In the last calendar year, the turbines out-produced initial estimates by more than 60%, while generating more than 10,000 MWh of power.

  • Expansion of Honda “Green Dealer” Program. After a successful rollout in 2012 of the Honda and Acura Environmental Leadership “Green Dealer” Program to more than 1,300 Honda and Acura automobile dealers in the US, the program is now being expanded to include Honda’s extensive network of powersports and power equipment dealers throughout the US The program rewards dealers who measurably reduce the environmental impact of their operations. Initiatives taken by dealers include the use of more energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems, installing motion sensors, adding rainwater collection systems and utilizing renewable solar energy.

    Honda has also issued a “Green Dealer” guide that provides a roadmap for dealers and other businesses interested in going green to quantifiably reduce their energy and water consumption while cutting operating costs.

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Using Honda’s guidelines, Honda and Acura dealers in the US have cut annual CO2 emissions by more than 10,000 tons, and reducing annual energy costs by more than $1.8 million dollars. In 2013, Rossi Honda in Vineland, New Jersey, became the first electric grid-neutral new automobile dealer in America, producing more energy from on-site solar panels than it takes from the public utility grid.​ Source: Honda North America. Click to enlarge.

Design and production. More broadly, Honda’s “Green Path” approach includes the design and production of the products themselves. Honda engineers are working not only to advance the fuel efficiency and low-emissions performance of Honda and Acura products, but also to reduce the use of non-recyclable materials and potentially toxic substances.

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Source: Honda North America. Click to enlarge.

Honda and Acura vehicles are designed to improve the recyclability of materials at the end of a product’s useful life. Honda is achieving 90% level of design recyclability for automobiles and 95% level for powersports and power equipment products.

Honda continually strives to improve energy efficiency and to r educe waste, water use and emissions from the manufacturing of its products. Activities include real-time monitoring of energy use; the use of energy-efficient equipment and lighting; rapidly shutting off equipment during non-production periods; using reusable containers for parts shipments; recycling waste; and improving the efficiency of transporting parts from supplier plants to Honda factories.

Honda’s associates in the plant have contributed numerous ideas and solutions toward this end. These range from something as simple as highly visible signs for light switches (enabling more rapid turning off of lights); to new machines for densifying styrofoam; to balers for scrap steel from stampings (which are then reused to make brake rotors); to a micro hydropower generation unit to convert small streams of water into power.

  • The CO2 emissions intensity of automobile production in North America was 592 kg/auto in FY14—down 21.6% from a high of 755 kg/auto in FY11.

  • Waste sent to landfills from automobile manufacturing operations in North America has been cut 97% since FY2001—from 26.2 kg/auto to just 0.8 kg/auto in FY14.

  • Water used in automobile production in North America reached a three-year low of 710 gal/auto in FY14, compared to 850 gal/auto in FY12.

  • In August of this year Honda opened its first on-site CNG refueling station in Marysville, Ohio, to promote the use of CNG by its shipping partners. The station is anticipated to supply CNG for upwards of 100 suppliers and more than two million miles of truck travel each year, cutting CO2 emissions by as much as 1,000 metric tons annually.

To reduce CO2 emissions from the shipping of finished vehicles and service parts, Honda promotes the use of more fuel-efficient trucks and driving practices, including optimizing shipping routes, working with US EPA Smartway Transport-certified shipping partners and introducing, where possible, more fuel-efficient modes of transport, such as rail cars instead of trucks. Honda also helped in the design of tri-level Auto-Max railcars that can carry more vehicles in a single carload than other railcars, reducing the energy intensity of product shipments.

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Auto-Max railcar. Source: Greenbrier. Click to enlarge.

The CO2 emissions intensity of transporting finished products from Honda factories to Honda and Acura dealerships in the US has been reduced 14.3% over the past seven years, from 0.38 metric tons/auto in FY08 to 0.24 metric tons/auto in FY14.

The CO2 intensity of transporting service parts from Honda warehouse facilities to dealerships has been reduced more than 35% over the past six years, from 56 metric tons/$1 million in parts sales to 36 MT/$1M in FY14.

Honda hosted Green Car Congress for the media briefing in Marysville.

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