Honda Aims To Go All-Electric By 2040

April 23, 2021  Camila Domonoske  npr.org

Honda said on Friday it plans to sell only zero-emissions vehicles across all its major markets by 2040, becoming the latest automaker to set a concrete target date for phasing out gas- and diesel-powered engines.

In North America, the Japanese automaker said it would aim for 40% of its salse to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2030 and plans to increase the proportion to 80% by 2035.

The company also pledged to be carbon neutral in its own operations by 2050.

"Honda wants to continue to be a company that people want to exist," Honda's new CEO, Toshihiro Mibe, said in a statement. "That is what we want to achieve."

Mibe — previously the company's head of research and development — also said the company would strive for "zero traffic collision fatalities" involving its vehicles, leaning on advanced driver-assistance programs to prevent crashes.

Honda has not been at the cutting edge of battery-electric vehicle development; instead, it bet on hydrogen fuel cells as the future of automobiles, only to watch as battery-powered Teslas took off and hydrogen stayed stuck in neutral.

The company still has hopes for fuel-cell vehicles and includes hydrogen in its plans for future vehicle production. But to accelerate its near-term production of the more popular electric options, Honda is partnering with General Motors, another automaker with an ambitious electrification target.

Using GM's Ultium batteries, Honda is bringing two new electric SUVs to the U.S. market for model year 2024. Then, in the second half of the decade, Honda plans to bring its own brand-new electric vehicles to market, starting in the U.S.

Concerns over climate change have driven regulators and investors to support electric vehicles and frown on gas- and diesel-powered ones, which emit greenhouse gases for every mile they're driven. At the same time, batteries have gotten cheaper and electric vehicle ranges have gotten much longer.

As a result, there's a global race underway to electrify the auto industry. Tesla, the world's most popular electric automaker, has a significant head start, but legacy automakers are gearing up for pursuit. GM is aiming to go all-electric by 2035, Volvo by 2030; Ford is giving up gas and diesel in Europe within the decade, and VW is aggressively investing in a switch to batteries, too.

Electric vehicles make up a tiny fraction of the current world fleet, but major industry players now say, with remarkably unanimity, that they are the future of the automobile — a transformation that will require shifts in consumer behavior, major investments by automakers and a massive build-out of global charging infrastructure.

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Doesn’t all this talk about companies turning to EVs make for a bullish case for natural gas?

It is bullish for electricity demand.  Natural gas will certainly have a place in the generation mix.  The question in my mind is, in future years when EVs increase that demand, what will be the preferred means of generation.  If we got rid of all the coal fired plants today, natural gas would be the major beneficiary.  Will that be the case ten years from now?  Tough call.  I think we will have a better idea over the next two years when federal regulations, investments, incentives and tax policy are in place.  Each year solar and wind gets cheaper and EV batteries more efficient and likewise cheaper.  When the price of a EV with good range and the performance advantages inherent with electric propulsion reach cost parity with similarly equipped ICE vehicles, the transition should accelerate rapidly.  That happens sometime this decade.  If we want natural gas to be a major player in the mix, we need companies and states to get busy cleaning up the infrastructure/supply chain and doing the same for major end users such as LNG and the chemical industry.  From what I read currently, those natural gas associated industries from upstream to midstream to downstream are finally realizing that their continued existence and profitable life is dependent on taking climate change seriously.  The majority of Americans are now on board as are many major financial institutions.  The natural gas industry has a lot of catching up to do.  I hope it moves decisively now to carve out a place in a greener economic future.  Louisiana certainly has a lot at stake as state oil production is in steep decline and in ten years all we will have left is natural gas.  If we lose that we lose so much more. The state needs to get busy diversifying its economy.  That doesn't appear to be a priority for the majority of our elected officials at this time.

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