How Sustainable Are Honda Cars? A Life-Cycle Analysis

How Sustainable Are Honda Cars? A Life-Cycle Analysis

By
Eli Boles

Read Time:29 Minutes

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Honda is the 4th largest automotive brand by sales in the United States. They have made a name for themselves in the marketplace as a producer of affordable and reliable economy cars that are sold all over the world. They are also known for being a technological innovator who looks toward the future with their designs. So, we had to ask: How sustainable are Honda cars?

Honda cars are generally not very sustainable. They have been slow to adopt electric vehicles and renewable energy, and their supply chain is responsible for significant environmental damage. Their cars themselves are also responsible for significant emissions and waste.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the life-cycle of Honda cars by examining material sourcing, manufacturing, consumer usage, and their end-of-life. Then, we’ll evaluate their sustainability, and how this contrasts with their public messaging. Finally, we’ll show you tips for evaluating the sustainability of any car you may be thinking about buying, and how to make your current car more efficient.

Here’s How We Assessed the Sustainability of Honda Cars

Honda cars have been increasingly integrating hybrid powertrains to increase fuel mileage, but fully electric vehicles have only recently become a segment of their production. As this is planned to increase, the concept of a sustainable supply chain is more important than ever. This means considering the impact of every step of the production process, as well as the impacts these vehicles have out on the road after purchase. 

“Sustainable: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level | Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”

Oxford Dictionary

It is vital for automakers like Honda to take up sustainable practices if we are to stand any chance of avoiding the worst potential effects of climate change and environmental damage. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the form of CO2 might be the most prominent polluters. But it is also important to consider the resources to produce Honda cars, their manufacturing, and their transportation networks and, finally, how our usage of Honda cars impacts our environment and local communities.

To understand the sustainability of Honda cars, we must assess their life-cycle and each stage’s sustainability. This life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a method to evaluate the environmental impacts of products and materials. Over the years, companies have strategically used LCA to research and create more sustainable products. So, let’s have a look at the LCA of Honda cars!

The life-cycle stages of Honda carsEach stage’s sustainability
Sourcing of materials and components for Honda carsThe sourcing of materials and components for Honda cars is not especially sustainable. Sustainable materials such as aluminum and recycled plastics are utilized for certain parts, but other unsustainable materials such as traditionally refined steel and rare earth metals are also commonly used.
Manufacturing of Honda carsThe manufacturing of Honda cars is largely unsustainable. Their supply chain is a major emitter of GHG emissions and the materials used are standard for the automotive industry. Some steps have been taken to increase sustainability including increased recycling and capacity for EV models, but these steps have progressed slowly.
Transporting of Honda carsThe transportation of Honda cars to their point of sale is mostly unsustainable. Their usage of international shipping is a major source of GHG emissions despite Honda’s efforts to increase the use of rail transport.
Usage of Honda carsThe usage of Honda cars is not especially sustainable. While they do have longer than average life spans due to good reliability, their model lineup is still primarily gasoline-powered with new EV production planned for the future.
End-of-life of Honda carsThe end-of-life of Honda cars is fairly sustainable in the North American market, but information is lacking for other regions. Honda cars do have a high potential for being recycled.

As we can see from the LCA chart above, the life-cycle of a Honda car is not a simple process. There are many different materials and processes utilized that can result in direct and indirect environmental damage when not used responsibly. Below, we’ll dive into each one of these stages in detail to determine how sustainable a Honda car really is.

How Sustainable Is the Sourcing of Materials and Components for Honda Cars

The sourcing of materials and components for Honda cars is not especially sustainable. Sustainable materials such as aluminum and recycled plastics are utilized for certain parts, but other unsustainable materials such as traditionally refined steel and rare earth metals are also commonly used.

The materials that make up a car are one of the most important aspects when it comes to a vehicle’s sustainability. If the materials being sourced are scarce or require long-distance transport, then they can pose more environmental risks. With that said, let’s take a look at what goes into making a Honda car.

How Sustainable Are the Materials and Components Used for Honda Cars

The materials and components used in Honda cars are only somewhat sustainable. Expanded use of aluminum and recycled plastic increases the recyclability of their cars, but dependence on traditional steel producers and petroleum-based plastic is not very sustainable.

Honda uses a large variety of materials in their cars, but some make up a larger percentage of the final product than others. Let’s take a look at the primary materials used in Honda cars, and see how sustainable they are.

  • Metals: Honda cars utilize steel, aluminum alloys, and light metals such as zinc and magnesium in their construction. The steel industry is a major contributor to carbon pollution due to the high transport emissions created by transporting steel, as well as GHG emissions produced during the smelting process. Aluminum is a more sustainable option, as it is lighter and can be effectively recycled endlessly. Aluminum is primarily utilized in chassis subframe components, brake parts, and wheels, while steel is found in major drivetrain components and structural components.
  • Plastics and Resins: Resins include plastic materials for cosmetic components such as bumpers and interior trim, but are also found in drivetrains and EV electric components that are not exposed to high heat or pressure. These resins can be recycled, but many are derived from petroleum products that are not sustainable by producing GHG emissions during production and do not degrade easily if they end up in nature. Honda does not currently state any plans to introduce bio-plastics or other more sustainable options. 
  • Platinum Group Metals and Rare Earth Metals: Platinum group metals include platinum, rhodium, and palladium which are used in the construction of emissions control devices such as catalytic converters. While these devices reduce tail-pipe emissions, their use has been connected to damage to plant and animal life as they scatter particulates along roadsides. Honda accounts for over 5% of the global industry volume of these materials. Rare earth metals such as lithium and cobalt are commonly used in the production of EV batteries and can have damaging effects on the areas in which they are mined. Honda does not disclose their use of these, but it would be expected to be low as Honda does not sell many EV vehicles. This will likely increase as Honda introduces more EV models. 

In short, the materials and components used in Honda vehicles are only somewhat sustainable. Most materials used are producers of GHG emissions in their production or transportation, and recycling efforts have been limited.

Where Are the Materials for Honda Cars Usually Sourced From

The materials for Honda cars are sourced through Honda Trading, which does not disclose the geographic sources of their materials in detail. We know from published data that Honda is responsible for significant amounts of GHG emissions, but the proportion of this that comes from material shipping is unknown. 

The location that materials are sourced from has a large impact on the sustainability of the final product. Some materials can damage the surrounding environment when collected or must be refined through processes that create carbon emissions. They can also be responsible for high travel emissions if the sources are far from the factories. Let’s take a look at where the materials used in Honda cars come from. 

  • Metals: Honda sources metals through their international trading network known as Honda Trading. They do not publish information regarding the amount of raw resources used, the usage of renewable energy sources during production, or the degree to which factories use metal sourced from overseas. We do know that in 2023 Honda reported 3.82 million tons of GHG emissions through their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, which includes direct facility emissions and emissions from purchased power. 
  • Plastics and Resins: Honda also sources their plastic and resin components through the Honda Trading Corporation, which does not disclose information regarding the total usage of petroleum plastics, the amount of recycled plastic used in production, or whether the materials used are shipped from overseas sources or from local sources. Honda Trading does source some recycled plastics from collected front bumpers, which are in turn sourced from trade-in vehicles and production defects, but the exact amount used is unknown. 
  • Platinum Group Metals and Rare Earth Metals: Honda’s platinum and rare earth metals are sourced by the Honda Trading Corporation which owns mining companies, refineries, and smelters, and manages the distribution of platinum group metals internationally. In March of 2023, Honda announced a partnership with US-based company Ascend Elements which specializes in EV battery recycling to establish a stable supply of recycled lithium-ion battery components for Honda North America’s electric-vehicle production. This only includes gas-electric hybrid vehicles, however, as Honda’s Prologue full-electric SUV goes on sale in 2024, with other upcoming EV models yet unannounced. 

In short, Honda cars use materials from all over the world, and it is unknown how much this impacts their total GHG emissions. We can assume that some materials are sourced more locally in the interest of cost savings, but details have not been published.

How Transparent is Honda About the Sustainability of Their Supply Chain

Honda is not very transparent about the sustainability of their supply chain. They maintain their suppliers and distributors internally through the Honda Trading Corporation which does not publish detailed information regarding the usage of renewable energy, gross material use, or the amount of long-distance travel required to supply their factories. 

To be able to assess the sustainability of a supply chain, we need to have access to detailed, trustworthy data to ensure that every link has been accounted for. Unfortunately, Honda’s public disclosures only paint a general picture of their environmental impact.

  • Honda shares general information about the spread of their supply chain, their energy usage, and GHG emissions produced: Honda’s supply chain is primarily obscured within the Honda Trading Corporation, which only details general information. They provide maps showing how many countries their supply chain is active in (every continent except Antarctica is represented), their total direct and indirect energy usage figures (over 43,000 terajoules in 2023), and their Scope 1, 2, and 3 GHG emissions (3.82 million tons of Scope 1 and 2 emissions in 2023). They also detail that in their largest market, North America, 80% of materials are sourced “locally” to minimize transport emissions. 
  • Honda does not share specific information regarding supply lines, transportation methods, material usage, or renewable energy usage: Despite Honda’s large sustainability report, most of their reporting could be seen as the bare minimum. Statistics, such as their GHG emissions, are for the company as a whole and are merely broken down by region. They do not detail where materials come from for each plant, which could mean that some materials are shipped internationally, creating emissions from either ship or air transport. Furthermore, their energy usage is once again only representative of the company as a whole, and they do not disclose what percentage of their energy usage is coming from renewable energy sources, or their short-term goals to increase said percentage. 

In short, Honda is not very transparent about the sustainability of their supply chain. The lack of detailed information in their environmental report means that conclusions can only be drawn based on their company-wide environmental performance, which is unsustainable.

How Sustainable Is the Manufacturing of Honda Cars

The manufacturing of Honda cars is largely unsustainable. Their supply chain is a major emitter of GHG emissions and the materials used are standard for the automotive industry. Some steps have been taken to increase sustainability including increased recycling and capacity for EV models, but these steps have progressed slowly.

How and where a car is manufactured can affect its carbon footprint, its local resource load, and can also be a source of other hazardous byproducts. It’s important for all parts of the manufacturing process to be considered in order to effectively determine overall sustainability. 

How Sustainably Are Honda Cars Generally Manufactured

The manufacturing of Honda cars is not especially sustainable. While some efforts are made to source locally, their supply chain has been slow to decarbonize, and their complex international shipping routes are largely unpublished. 

During the manufacturing stage, there are several potential risks to the environment: CO2 emissions from electricity use, transportation, air pollution, and landfill waste are just a few. Let’s take a look at how sustainable Honda’s manufacturing is.

  • Raw Materials Distribution: The materials distribution network of Honda Trading is not especially sustainable. They utilize cargo ships and air transport to move materials internationally, and they have no stated programs to improve the efficiency of these transport methods. For 2023, Greenpeace gave Honda its lowest ranking for both supply-chain decarbonization and resource reduction and efficiency. They also do not publish information regarding recycling efficiency in their supply chain. 
  • Parts Production: Honda parts are made in factories all over the world including North America, China, Japan, South America, and Europe. Since many of these factories specialize in making parts to be exported to assembly facilities, this stage produces excessive transport emissions from ship and air transport. The production itself is also not very sustainable, as Honda created 3.82 million tons of GHG emissions in 2023 from direct sources and purchased power for their facilities.
  • Final Assembly: Most Honda cars are assembled at factories in Asia, primarily within China and Japan. The next largest region by production numbers is the US. These manufacturing facilities produce GHG emissions through direct energy use and through purchased power from local power companies if they produce GHG emissions. Honda produced 3.82 million tons of GHG emissions in 2023 from these two sources. Honda also exports vehicles to other regions primarily through cargo ship transport which, as an industry, produces 3% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. 

In short, Honda cars are not manufactured in an especially sustainable way. Their supply chain generates high amounts of GHG emissions along with their production facilities. Reports have shown that Honda has been slow to decarbonize their manufacturing.

Where Are Honda Cars Usually Manufactured

Honda cars are mostly manufactured in China, the US, and Japan. Their Chinese plants have faced reports of utilizing forced labor and emitting higher levels of GHGs than other regions. US production has begun expanding EV capacity for future Honda models.

  • Most of Honda’s cars are produced in China, followed by the US and Japan: In 2022, Honda produced roughly 1.4 million cars in China, 831,000 cars in the US, and 640,000 cars in Japan. This means that Chinese production accounts for 37% of total Honda production worldwide. 
  • Honda’s Chinese factories are their biggest polluters, and have been exposed to supply chains that utilize forced migrant labor: Honda operates several factories, including their joint venture Dongfeng Honda Automobile Ltd. in the Hubei province and GAC Honda in Guangzhou. Both regions produce batteries and metal products and reports have cited the use of migrant labor that is made up of forcibly relocated minority populations. Chinese factories also account for a large portion of Honda’s direct and indirect GHG emissions.
  • Honda’s North American factories have expanded greatly with efforts to increase their capacity to produce electric vehicles, but most factories still underutilize renewable energy sources while creating harmful emissions: In 2023, Honda announced a total of $700 million to be invested into existing powertrain production facilities to retool them for producing EV cars and batteries. Until these renovations are completed, however, these plants produce gas-powered models like the Honda CR-V and Acura MDX. They have also purchased carbon offsets to offset the electrical use of their Ohio plants, but the plants have not been converted to renewable energy. 

In short, Honda cars are mostly manufactured in facilities that pollute the air, and as of yet are not producing enough fully electric models. Concerningly, their Chinese partner facilities have been linked to human rights abuses against the Uyghur people

How Transparent is Honda About the Manufacturing of Their Cars

Honda is not very transparent about the manufacturing of their cars. Their public disclosures offer some empirical information, but detailed information about their production remains unpublished. 

  • Honda provides data regarding their direct emissions, direct energy use, and where their vehicles are produced: Given the regional production statistics, regional GHG emissions, and regional energy usage statistics, we are able to conclude that Honda’s Chinese facilities are their least sustainable. 
  • Honda details how much renewable energy is used in production, but regional information is not available: Honda manufacturing sites worldwide utilized 1,498 GWh of power derived from renewable energy sources. This only accounts for roughly 12.5% of their total energy use. 

In short, Honda is not very transparent about the manufacturing of their cars. They make some public disclosures but lack the detailed information needed to draw conclusions. Their overall energy usage is high and primarily powered by unsustainable sources. 

How Sustainable Is the Transportation of Honda Cars to Their Point of Sale

The transportation of Honda cars to their point of sale is mostly unsustainable. Their usage of international shipping is a major source of GHG emissions despite Honda’s efforts to increase the use of rail transport. 

The sustainability of the transportation of Honda cars along the supply chain:

  • Building materials are acquired by the various regional branches of Honda Trading and then shipped to factories around the world. This means that Honda can get materials where they are needed quickly, but also that materials are sometimes shipped long distances overseas to keep up with demand, which is not a sustainable practice.
  • Honda has pushed for an increase in the use of rail lines to transport finished vehicles, which is a more efficient method than over-the-road trucks. Rail emissions only account for 1% of total transport GHG emissions globally. However, it is unknown exactly what portion of Honda vehicle transport is still dependent on diesel trucks, but parts production and vehicle assembly including transportation account for 16% of Honda’s total CO2 emission. 

The sustainability of the transportation of Honda cars to their point of sale:

  • Honda cars are primarily built within the regions in which they are intended to be sold. This limits transport emissions from international shipping and allows for more sustainable methods such as rail transport to be used to move more cars with less energy. 
  • Honda cars get to their point of sale through a mix of rail and truck transport. Honda has expanded their rail usage to reduce emissions during transport to dealerships. 

In short, the transportation of Honda cars is largely unsustainable due to their usage of cargo ships. Their programs that increase rail use are an effective step toward decarbonization.

How Sustainable Is the Usage of Honda Cars

The usage of Honda cars is not especially sustainable. While they do have longer than average life spans due to good reliability, their model lineup is still primarily gasoline-powered with new EV production planned for the future.

Arguably, the most impactful stage in a car’s life is the time it spends actually being used! Not only is this the time when dirty emissions can add up over time, but when a car is done being used, it can end up being disposed of sooner. Let’s take a look at the life of a Honda car to see how sustainable it is.

What Is the Typical Lifespan of Honda Cars

The typical lifespan of a Honda car is longer than average owing to their good reliability and ubiquity of repair parts. They maintain their value over time, which keeps them on the roads longer rather than being disposed of.

When considering the lifespan of a vehicle, it is important to look at both its impact while in use and its impact after it is considered unusable. The longer a car stays on the road, the longer it avoids being treated as waste, but it is also important that it is not polluting excessively during its life. 

The longer a car lasts, the longer it avoids joining the thousands of cars that clog our landfills around the world—and the less environmental strain added from producing a new car as a replacement. 

  • An extended life for a car also means that the owner is less likely to purchase a new car. 
  • The production and distribution process for making a car can be very damaging, so a higher demand for new vehicles could lead to even more CO2 being released. 
  • Honda cars are known for their above-average reliability, which can extend the amount of use the owner is able to achieve before needing major repairs. In 2022, Consumer Reports ranked them the 6th most reliable car brand. 
  • Other Honda models such as the Ridgeline and Accord were given a 9.2/10 rating for reliability by iSeeCars.com, with the Ridgeline being the most reliable mid-size truck in their study.

While it can be beneficial to keep a car on the road for a long time, older cars are typically less efficient and emit relatively more CO2 than newer ones.

  • Honda’s fleet of vehicles is almost entirely gas-powered, and only recently have they announced new EV models coming in 2024 and 2025.
  • Honda cars are known for having above-average fuel economy, such as the Accord and Insight models, which helps them to be more sustainable. 
  • Owing to their reliability, older Honda cars that are not as efficient or have fallen into disrepair can stay on the road for years, producing harmful GHGs. In 2023, customer use of Honda products resulted in over 226 million tons of CO2 emissions
  • Also, their lack of fully electric models means that even new Honda cars are still polluters.

In short, Honda cars are only somewhat sustainable in their usage owing to their longevity and above-average MPG ratings. However, the majority of Honda cars are gasoline-powered, with full EV models to come in the future, which is not sustainable. 

How Quickly Do Honda Cars Depreciate in Value

Honda cars depreciate in value slightly less than the industry average. This is primarily due to the increased reliability that makes expensive repairs less frequent. 

Depreciation of car prices over time can be an indicator of the expected lifespan of a car, but it is not a perfect indicator.

  • Depreciation can be influenced by many factors, including the original price of the car, the make and model, the condition of the car, and market demand.
  • Many used cars are holding their value longer as the number of total used cars available has decreased following the decrease in new car production during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • This has challenged what some regard as a rule of 15% depreciation per year that a car is on the road.
  • And while cars with a lower depreciation rate may indicate a longer lifespan or higher quality, this is not always the case in such a seller’s market. 
Average depreciationHondaIndustry Average
After 3 years14.5%16.9%
After 5 years30%33.3%

As we can see from the chart above, Hondas depreciate only slightly slower than the national average. While this does mean that Honda cars hold their value better than some other low-performing brands, their cars are not especially good at holding their value. Some standout models include the Honda Ridgeline truck that ranks best in class for reliability, as well as the Honda Pilot crossover SUV. Unfortunately, these vehicles are still gas-powered in all models. 

Maintaining their value for longer increases the time that they are being used on the road, which eases the demand for new cars. This not only reduces resource demand but also prevents an old car from ending up in a landfill. However, in the case of Honda cars, which have been gas-powered until 2023, many older Hondas still being used are much less efficient than their modern hybrid counterparts. Moreover, the amount of pollution produced by these cars is greater due to their longer lifespans on the road as well. 

In short, Honda cars hold their value slightly better than average owing to their numerous models that have been recognized for good reliability. 

How Circular Are Honda Cars

Honda cars are not very circular. Despite efforts to design vehicles with recycling in mind and limited introduction of renewable energy programs, the overall production, distribution, and use of Honda cars creates significant waste and pollution. 

As we look for new approaches to tackle the challenges posed by global warming, designing consumer products through the lens of the circular economy can be an effective method for producing more sustainable products. Cars that are designed to be used and repurposed without creating waste or pollution can help to stop the millions of pounds of automotive waste that end up in landfills every year. 

“Circular economy: The circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution”

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Embracing the principles of the circular economy is a necessary change for industries that pollute as much as the automotive sector.

The three key principles to building a circular economy are to

  1. eliminate waste and pollution, 
  2. circulate products and materials, and 
  3. regenerate nature. 

More specifically, a circular business model in the car industry refers to a system that aims to keep car components and materials in use for as long as possible, reducing waste and the extraction of new raw materials. And the term “circular car” refers to a theoretical vehicle that has maximized materials efficiency.

In practice, this could mean designing cars that can be easily repaired and refurbished, using recycled materials in car production, and implementing practices that promote closed-loop systems, where waste from one process becomes inputs for another. The goal is to create a sustainable and regenerative system for the car industry, rather than the traditional linear model of “take, make, waste.” 

Examples of circular business models in the car industry include electric vehicles that can be powered by renewable energy, car sharing and subscription models, and closed-loop supply chains for car parts.

Let’s see next how circular Honda’s business and operating model already is!

  • Honda has altered the designs of their cars and their materials to create cars that are easier to disassemble and require less energy to recycle.
  • Honda motorcycles have been voluntarily collected by dealers and sent to recycling facilities since 2004. In 2023, this program resulted in 1,128 models collected.
  • Honda has invested in new recycling facilities to handle EV battery recycling. Partnered with Battery Resources, the new facility is expected to recycle 20 million pounds of lithium-ion batteries annually
  • Honda has adopted limited renewable energy for their facilities including wind and solar. In 2023, Honda produced 1,498GWh of power through renewable energy for their business facilities, which only accounts for roughly 12% of their total energy usage for 2023. 
  • Honda’s powertrain options are not very circular, as they primarily produce vehicles that depend on fossil fuels in some way. They are not able to offset this use either, as they do not currently have any planned carbon-recapture facilities to produce synthetic gasoline. 
  • Honda’s international supply chain is not circular, emitting large amounts of greenhouse gasses. Rather than sourcing materials from near the production point, Honda still utilizes unsustainable transport methods across vast distances to serve their numerous manufacturing facilities. In 2023, Honda’s business activities resulted in over 3.8 million tons of CO2 emissions.

In short, Honda cars are not very circular. Honda’s business model still depends on many unsustainable practices that create waste and pollution. Honda cars have increasingly integrated sustainable materials, but they are far from being completely circular. 

How Sustainable Is the End-of-Life of Honda Cars

The end-of-life of Honda cars is fairly sustainable in the North American market, but information is lacking for other regions. Honda cars do have a high potential for being recycled. 

The end-of-life (when a car is no longer usable) of a car is critical in determining its overall environmental impact and is a key consideration in the development of circular business models in the car industry. This stage marks the final disposition of a car and its components, either through reuse/repurposing, recycling, or disposal.

Are components of Honda cars made to be reused or repurposed at their car’s end-of-life?

  • Honda has announced efforts to focus on vehicle designs with recycling in mind, and increased implementation of more sustainable materials. They operate programs that recycle plastic bumpers from older cars.
  • Honda’s use of aluminum encourages recycling, as aluminum parts can often be melted down and repurposed. Aluminum is present in chassis subframe components, engine components, brake systems, and several other uses
  • Components made from reusable materials do not make up the entirety of a Honda car. Other materials used can include newly produced petroleum plastics, and steel that was not sourced from nearby recycling facilities. 

Are Honda cars made to be recycled at their end-of-life?

  • Honda cars have been designed to utilize recyclable materials and to minimize the energy cost of disassembly. This includes increased use of aluminum, recyclable plastics, and reutilization of body panels. 
  • Since implementing preliminary recyclability analysis of new car models in 2001, they have achieved a 95% recyclability rate for all cars and motorcycles. 

Do Honda cars largely have to be disposed of at their end-of-life?

  • Honda cars do not typically have to be disposed of at their end-of-life. Roughly 95% of the materials used can be recycled. 
  • As most of their cars are gas-powered, they will consume oil and other fluids that will be disposed of instead of recycled. 

In short, the end-of-life for Honda cars can be sustainable, and in some regions exceeds 95% recycling of material used in a car. However, detailed information about their regional recycling programs is unpublished. 

What Are the Sustainability Efforts and Goals of Honda

Many governments around the world are now requiring automakers to take quantitative steps toward decarbonization that force them to either act or face consequences. However, fighting climate change requires truly innovative companies that can lead the way forward.

Previous sustainability efforts of HondaIn 2013, Honda launched the Green Dealer Program to reduce the energy consumption of dealers 
In 2022, Honda’s North American manufacturing plants achieved 98.6% landfill-free production
Current sustainability efforts of Honda30% electrification for all car models by 2030 
First carbon-neutral production plant to be established in 2026
Honda maintains in excess of a 95% recyclability rate in Japan
Future sustainability goals of HondaCompletely carbon neutral business activities by 2050
100% use of sustainable materials by 2050
Reduce total waste generation 14.5% in 2031

What Are Honda’s Previous Sustainability Efforts

Honda has always been known for producing cars that achieved above-average MPG, but their production itself has only recently begun seriously evolving to become more sustainable.

  • Honda’s Green Dealer Program has been active since 2013 and has assisted dealers in lowering their energy usage through services that allow them to track their energy usage, assist in navigating the renewable energy marketplace, and recommend policies to reduce water use.
  • Honda has made efforts to reduce landfill waste in their North American manufacturing facilities, resulting in 98.6% of waste being recycled instead of disposed of. 

Honda was an adopter of more sustainable business practices in small ways at first but has prioritized minimizing landfill waste for a long period. 

What Are Honda’s Current Sustainability Efforts

Honda is currently working toward their 2030 sustainability goals focussed on GHG reduction, renewable power for manufacturing facilities, and the electrification of their road cars. Let’s take a look at what steps Honda is currently undertaking to reduce their environmental impact. 

  • Honda will begin selling their second fully electric model, the Prologue, in 2024. They have set a goal to introduce 10 EV models in China, aiming for 30% of all models to be electric by 2030. Compared to other companies, this is not a very ambitious goal for EV production.
  • Honda has set out to establish their first carbon-neutral production plant in Saitama, Japan by 2026. Work has already commenced on this project, which could be replicated at other Honda factories. 
  • Honda has continued to achieve the goal of a 95% recyclable rate within Japan, but this only refers to the recycling potential of their products. 

Honda has set some short-term goals to make their products more sustainable, but progress has been slower than some other automotive brands. A quick and dramatic change will be necessary for Honda to limit their environmental impact. 

What Are Honda’s Future Sustainability Goals

Honda’s future sustainability goals are focused on long-term goals. They have agreed to similar long-term goals as other manufacturers, and like other manufacturers, the implementation of these goals is likely too late to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Let’s take a look at how sustainable Honda views their future activities. 

  • Honda has set a goal to be a completely carbon-neutral company by 2050. This is similar to the goals of other major auto manufacturers and is not very ambitious. 
  • Honda has also set a goal to use 100% sustainable materials in all vehicles by 2050. Once again, this is an impactful goal that is not very ambitious in its speed of implementation. 
  • Honda has also set a closer goal of reducing their total waste generation by 14.5% by 2031. This is a very concrete and attainable goal with a near deadline, but much more is needed for Honda to be a sustainable company. 

As a whole, Honda’s future sustainability goals do not go far enough or come soon enough to ensure a safe sustainable future. If their target dates for carbon neutrality and sustainable materials were significantly sooner than 2050, then they could be taken more seriously. 

How Aligned Are the Sustainability Marketing Messages of Honda With the Sustainability of Their Cars

Honda’s marketing messages are not very aligned with the sustainability of their cars. Their achievements and goals only account for minimal change in the right direction, and reports cast doubt on their self-reporting measures. 

Many auto manufacturers want to be seen as industry leaders who are taking the challenge of man-made climate change seriously. However, most major auto manufacturers are at best in a transition phase towards being sustainable transportation companies. Some could even be said to be engaged in greenwashing, or publishing data that attempts to put their business in a more positive light regarding their environmental impact. Let’s take a look at Honda’s marketing claims, and how they align with their actions.

“Greenwashing: behavior or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is”

Cambridge Dictionary

Honda touts their increased use of renewable energy as a sign of their increased sustainability. In 2023, they increased renewable energy use by 86% over the previous year. Unfortunately, the limited nature of their renewable energy use means that a greater increase is needed. Their 2023 use only accounts for roughly 12.5% of their total energy use, with the rest being purchased from traditional non-renewable energy facilities.

Honda has also been one of the slower automakers to introduce fully electric models that would produce no tailpipe emissions. They have planned to introduce the Prologue in 2024 with more EV models to come. Plans have been announced for 10 new EV models to be sold in China by 2027. Honda’s overall goal is for 30% of all automobiles sold to be electrified by 2030, which would take a substantial increase over their current 0.66% of automobiles sold being electrified in some way. Honda’s goals in this area are not very ambitious but would still require a massive overhaul of their products to achieve.

Honda also states in their annual sustainability report that concerns over human rights have been taken into consideration with their suppliers and subsidiaries and that there were 0 reported incidents in 2023. The United Nations recognizes due diligence in investigating reports of human rights abuses in the supply chain as a key part of their Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Unfortunately, Honda was one of many manufacturers cited in the Driving Force report from Sheffield Hallam University and the Helena Kennedy Center for International Justice whose supply chains had been exposed to forced labor in the Uyghur Region of China. This reporting casts doubt on Honda’s self-reporting model.

Sustainability marketing messages of HondaSustainability of Honda cars
Honda’s business sites across the world used 1,498GWh of power derived from renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, in FY2023Power from renewable energy sources for FY2023 only accounts for roughly 12.5% of their total energy consumption. 
Honda has set the target that 30% of their cars sold will be electrified by 2030, and 15% of motorcyclesIn 2023, only 0.66% of Honda cars sold were electrified, and only 0.62% of motorcycles. A significant increase is needed to achieve their stated goal. 
Honda’s human rights due diligence reported zero incidents within joint ventures and local subsidiaries. Honda is listed as a client of the Minth Group, which was connected to Chinese labor exchanges by the Sheffield Hallam University and Helena Kennedy Center for International Justice report Driving Force

In short, Honda’s marketing claims regarding its supposed sustainability do not accurately describe Honda’s environmental impact. Their efforts have been lacking in ambition, and their current business model is not conducive to sustainable production. Further concerns raised regarding Chinese production partners are in disagreement with their corporate assurances. 

Why Is It Important to Buy More Sustainable Cars

Sustainable cars have many advantages in addition to reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For example, they are quieter to drive and can be recharged at home. But did you know that EV cars can even save you money compared to the ownership costs of gas-powered cars?

Let’s have a look at the environmental, economic, and public health benefits of more sustainable cars next!

What Are the Environmental Benefits of More Sustainable Cars

Driving a more sustainable car is an important step toward reducing your impact on the environment and preserving natural resources for future generations. And it is especially crucial in reducing transporting-related emissions.

The average passenger car generates 4.6 metric tons of CO2 a year, with many generating much more than that. Along with GHGs, the exhaust of dirty cars can release large amounts of carbon monoxide and methane as well. All of these accelerate global warming, and can even lead to rain acidification.

Illustration of where CO2 emission from transport come from
Our World in Data: Cars, planes, trains: where do CO2 emissions from transport come from?

In total, transportation—personal, commercial, and otherwise—accounts for around one-fifth of global CO2 emissions.

In short, sustainable cars benefit the environment by emitting significantly less CO2 than traditional gas-powered cars, with some electric vehicles emitting no tailpipe emissions at all. Ideally, sustainable cars are fully circular and produced with parts that can be reused rather than discarded, minimizing total life-cycle emissions and waste generated.

What Are the Economic Benefits of More Sustainable Cars

Many popular electric cars on the market have a high price tag, which has led some people to believe that owning a sustainable car is not a cost-effective option. The truth is, there are many factors that reduce the cost of ownership over the lifetime of the vehicle!

  • Lower fuel costs: For starters, you’ll save money by not having to fill up at the gas station every week! Fueling an electric car for an entire month is estimated to cost less than $60. Depending on the fluctuating price of gasoline, you could spend more than twice that in a month on gasoline.
  • Reduced maintenance costs: You also won’t have to worry about keeping your oil tank filled, as electric cars don’t use petroleum or synthetic motor oil like a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE).
  • Higher reliability: EVs also lack other traditional failure points like timing belts or multi-speed gearboxes.
  • Government subsidies: In some countries, the government will pay you to purchase an electric car. The US, as well as several countries in Europe, Australia, and even China all have incentive programs to help cover the cost of a new EV for consumers.
  • Job creation: The shift towards sustainable cars is creating new jobs in the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, as well as in the production of batteries and other components. For example, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the shift to EVs could create over 150,000 jobs in the US alone by 2030.

If you’re not able to afford to replace your gas-powered car at this time, keeping your older car maintained and efficient will also save you money through higher gas mileage and less frequent repairs. To keep your car operating as intended, get regular oil changes, don’t idle your engine, and make sure your tires are filled to their recommended PSI. 

In short, changing to a more sustainable EV can save you money over a traditional gas-powered car—especially over the lifetime of the vehicle. They are cheaper to fuel and maintain, and many countries offer financial incentives to purchase an EV.

What Are the Public Health Benefits of More Sustainable Cars

Driving your car directly affects the air quality around you. All gas-powered cars produce harmful emissions, and many aging cars are prone to higher emissions due to faulty or failed equipment, and outdated engine designs. In addition, examples from Los Angeles to Beijing show the negative effects of smog build-up when these emissions get out of control.

In short, driving sustainable cars not only has a big impact on protecting the planet but also directly benefits your health and that of the people around you. Making the change to a sustainable, zero-emissions car reduces air pollution and helps everyone around you to breathe easier and healthier. Not to mention the reduced noise pollution from EVs has positive effects on your mental health and well-being.

Final Thoughts

Our life-cycle analysis of Honda cars shows that Honda has unfortunately put production success ahead of their environmental responsibility. Modern cars have such highly specialized materials and components that it can be hard to be sure of what is happening at every stage of a vehicle’s life. Regardless, it is still more important than ever to do the research so you can make an informed decision and not be part of the problem.

Stay impactful,

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