Source: Pixabay
A Civic Type R is one diesel offering frm Honda. Source: Pixabay

Japanese carmaker Honda has announced it will move to transition its vehicle sales in Europe from diesel to electric, starting from 2021 with an eye to selling only electrified vehicles by 2025.

Diesel versions of the Japanese carmaker’s Civic and HR-V are on the chopping block, as part of a broad re-alignment of the carmaker’s European operations that will also see its only British car plant (where the Civic is made for the US market, oddly enough) closed by 2021.

It is understood that the decision – announced this week – is in response to European Union targets which in 2020 will put further restrictions on emissions by vehicles built and sold by automakers, down to 95 grams per kilometre from the current 201.5 gram average.

Honda is not exactly at the forefront of full electric vehicle design and development – to date, it has only unveiled one fully electric vehicle, the cute retro-inspired Honda e which is slated to go on sale in Europe from 2021.

That’s a shame, because it was on one of the few automakers on the low emissions cutting edge when it introduced its Insight hybrid in 1999 (this was even available in Australia for some time as far back as 2001).

What the new announcement signifies is Honda’s acknowledgement of the need to stay competitive up against other automakers, such as Volkswagen who have pledged to kill off all diesel development from 2026, making sweeping changes to lineups in face of the tightening EU emissions laws.

When it announced the closure of the British plant in February, Honda chief executive Takahiro Hachigo impressed that the plant shutdown was not influenced by other factors, such as Brexit in the case of the UK.

“We had to consider the rise of electrified vehicles, and the different speeds at which electric vehicles will be taken up in North America and Europe,” he said.

A similar trend in the US has also informed Honda’s strategic decision revealed by Green Car Reports in August, which will see the carmaker allocate its entire US-bound Clarity plug-in hybrid (PHEV) inventory to California.

Although US dealers can still order the Clarity PHEV in other states, the decision as told by Honda spokeswoman Jessica Pawl in an email to Green Car Reports is because:

“California is the largest market for plug-in hybrid vehicles. In order to meet customer demand, we are currently prioritizing supply of the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid in California, rather than allocating units for dealer inventory in other markets.”

Demand for zero and low emissions vehicles is huge in California; one in two US electric vehicle sales are in the progressive western state according to US-based electric vehicle sales tracker Veloz.

California has paved the way for the transition to electric vehicles – which is sorely needed to address transport-related carbon emissions contributing to anthropogenic climate change – with, you guessed it, emissions regulations.

It’s regulations such as these which have guided financial incentives aimed at accelerating uptake. In the US for example, a tax credit of up to $US7,500 (just over $A11,000) applies to electric vehicle purchases.

A report published by the International Council on Clean Transportation in December 2018 noted that: “Together with emission limits, taxes can help accelerate reductions by giving consumers incentives for buying low-emission vehicles, creating a market-pull effect”.

In Australia there are no such emissions standards and it has been noted by several experts that it is at risk of becoming a dumping ground for inefficient vehicles should this not be addressed post haste.

If this does not happen, it will make it even more difficult for Australia to meet the Paris targets required to ensure it is not instrumental in the irreversible demise of the planet and all that live on it.

The good intentions of Australian representatives of carmakers who say they are putting their hands up low and zero emissions models in Australia is not enough when the demand overseas – lead by policy and the acknowledgement that action must be taken – means that carmakers defer stock to those markets first.

As for Honda, it’s clear that its strategy to cut diesel in Europe in preference of electrified vehicles is either counting on its cutesy Honda e appealing to a wide audience (doubtful) or is planning to lean heavily on its plug-in hybrid and hybrid models.

The latter hardly sounds ambitious or market-leading, the former simply naive – but more importantly, neither sounds serious.

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