When I was in college, every student at my school was required to take Natural Resources 171 with Dr. Robert Miller, a pioneering environmentalist and a great storyteller. One day a student hurried into the large lecture hall and dropped the empty can for his morning caffeinated sugar buzz into the trash. Dr. Miller began that day's lecture by asking the student: "Do you know how many joules it takes to extract the aluminum from bauxite ore for one soda can?" He answered his own question, then extrapolated the number of aluminum cans manufactured, filled, distributed, and recycled per year in the United States, and compared the energy needed for bauxite ore versus recycled aluminum.
These and similar lectures about the use of hair dryers, running tap water while brushing your teeth, and many more, instilled in me a sense of responsibility to our planet, and a desire to understand the connections and consequences between our actions and the ecosystems we live in. At the same time, I love cars, especially performance cars that are fun to drive. There's also the important role personal mobility serves in economies around the world, and our daily lives. It's the combination of these seemingly disparate values that attracted me to Honda from a young age and has fueled my career here for the last two and a half decades.
Honda recently took three big steps within a single week in North America that illustrate our commitment to achieving our global goal of carbon neutrality – net zero emissions – for all products and corporate activities by 2050:
- We broke ground for our new joint venture EV battery plant in Ohio with LG Energy Solution. The batteries from this plant will power future EVs we make in North America.
- We announced a basic agreement with U.S.-based Ascend Elements, Inc., to collaborate toward our goal of achieving a stable supply of recycled lithium-ion battery materials necessary for our future EVs in North America.
- And we began demonstration operation of a stationary fuel cell power station at our headquarters in California that provides zero emission backup power.
The Limitless Potential of Zero
Today our industry is focused on electrification, and Honda has announced our clear vision to have 100% of new Honda and Acura vehicle sales to be battery-electric or fuel cell electric by 2040.
The EV Hub we're establishing in Ohio will lead the way to our electrified future. However, to achieve carbon neutrality as a company will take more than electrifying our products.
We will deliver our carbon neutral commitment through our Triple Action to Zero approach.
Every End Creates a New Beginning
Our Triple Action to Zero approach is critical to our effort to have zero environmental impact. The concept is simple: by using clean energy, along with reusing and recycling all of the materials in a product we make, we will no longer have to dig holes in the ground for finite materials and energy sources or bury spent materials in a hole in the ground at the end of their usable life.
That doesn't change the values that go into our products – clean, safe, and fun vehicles that are high quality and of good value. We create vehicles for our customers to enjoy and to find new value in them for as long as possible. Even after a vehicle is purchased, by Honda and our dealers maintaining a relationship with successive customers and the vehicle, we aim to reclaim the product at end of life. This will enable us to recycle or reuse every bit of the materials from our vehicles, reprocess them back to raw materials and reuse those materials in the creation of new products. In short, to make a new Honda vehicle out of old Honda vehicles.
Collaborating with Ascend Elements, POSCO, and other resource recycling businesses is one way we intend to reuse finite materials, toward achieving a consistent supply of recycled nickel, cobalt, and lithium to utilize in our EV battery supply chain from and for vehicles we will make in North America. When we have enough BEVs in circulation, we should be able to create such a closed-loop recycling system.
New Applications for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology
Our plans don't focus only on our mobility products. We also strive to realize zero environmental impact for all of our corporate activities. For that, we believe in using the right energy, in the right place, for the right purpose. Our new stationary fuel cell power station is a great example of this approach.
Honda has been a leader in research and development of hydrogen technologies and fuel cell vehicles for more than 30 years. That gives us a lot of know-how we can apply in new zero emission applications and we are collaborating with others to create new energy solutions to maximize the benefit for society.
We just announced the next-gen fuel cell system, co-developed with GM to be manufactured in Michigan, that we will apply to the Honda CR-V FCEV next year. Our goal is to use this technology to help facilitate the decarbonization of society through the use of hydrogen.
Hydrogen has unique characteristics compared to energy stored in batteries. It has higher energy density, and refueling is faster than recharging. That makes it more suitable than batteries for large mobility vehicles like commercial trucks and in power sources for large infrastructure.
That's why our new zero emission stationary fuel cell power station is such a significant development. Data centers require high-quality and reliable power, where any disruption can lead to downtime or problems such as data corruption and damage to servers. Typical stationary backup generators use diesel fuel, resulting in higher carbon emissions and local air pollutants. Utilizing hydrogen fuel cells offers a promising future for clean, reliable and high-quality electricity, especially when operating on "green hydrogen," produced using renewable resources.
Our first fuel cell power station is a proof of concept using recycled fuel cell stacks from previously leased Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles. By connecting multiple fuel cell systems, our demonstration stationary fuel cell unit has a capacity of about 500 kW. But as we expand this concept toward commercialization, we will utilize our next-gen fuel cell system, with plans to apply it to Honda production facilities and data centers in North America.
I now find myself in a role at the intersection of our past and our future: Sustainability, building on what we know to create a new future, and developing new business models to enable that future. That's what is so exciting about the combination of announcements we've made in recent weeks. By increasing the use of renewable energy and establishing the ability to make a new Honda out of old Hondas, we are taking tangible steps toward achieving our Triple Action to Zero and our challenging global goal to achieve net zero emissions. That will benefit everyone.
Sustainability & Business Development
American Honda Motor Co., Inc.