Honda's 2014 Plug-In Accord is the first car to be approved by
California's new standard, the most stringent in the US for smog emissions.
The car produces only 20 milligrams of smog-forming emissions per mile, meeting the SULEV20 standard, which requires a third less emissions than the previous state standard.
It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an impressive 50% from current required levels, bringing it to levels not mandated until 2025.
As a result of the advanced technology in its design, the full-size sedan achieves the equivalent of 124 miles per gallon (mpg) city / 105 mpg highway in hybrid mode, and 47 mpg city / 46 mpg highway in standard (gas only) mode.
"Once again, Honda is the first to comply with ARB's most stringent standard," says Tom Cackette, ARB's Deputy Executive Office and head of the mobile source program. "Honda has demonstrated that a dedicated commitment to the environment and advanced engineering at every level of the company can deliver the cleanest cars well ahead of schedule."
Honda has a history of being the first manufacturer to comply with California's strict emission standards. The 1996 Civic was the first certified Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) gasoline vehicle; the 1998 Accord was the first ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) gasoline vehicle, and the 2000 Accord was the first certified Super Ultra-low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) gasoline vehicle.
The 2001 Civic GX natural gas vehicle was the first certified Advanced Technology Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle (AT PZEV) and the 2003 Civic Hybrid was the first certified Advanced Technology Partial Zero-Emission hybrid Vehicle (AT PZEV).
The low emissions standards that this Honda model meets are part of the state's Advanced Clean Cars package of regulations, adopted in January 2012, that will ensure increasingly cleaner cars for sale in the state, and provide for increased choices of zero-emission vehicles.
When fully in force in 2025, the new set of standards will reduce smog-causing pollutants from low-emission vehicles 75% from current levels, and greenhouse gases by 34%. This will result in less overall vehicle emissions and cleaner air, along with more efficient cars that will ultimately require less fossil fuel to operate. The new requirements will save California drivers $5 billion in operating costs in 2025, and $10 billion by 2030 when more advanced cars are on the road.
Honda has won the title of "Greenest Automaker" many consecutive years and stands out for delivering its cars via rail. Several models have the highest indoor air quality in the industry. It also leads the industry on LEED-certified buildings and has basically eliminated sending waste to landfills in the US. Its latest initiative is a green dealers program and recycling rare earth metals.
How Does Chevy Volt Compare?
While the 2014 Plug In Honda Accord meets the new LEV III SULEV20 tailpipe emission standard, the 2013 Chevy Volt meets the LEV II SULEV EATPZEV tailpipe standard.
The Accord has an electric range of about 13 miles and the Volt, about 38 miles.
They both qualify for state tax incentives and solo driving in HOV lanes, but Honda's standard requires it to keep smog emissions a third less than the Volt. Both cars have near zero evaporative emissions, but since the Volt has a greater electric range it may need to be refueled with gas less often, resulting in less refueling emissions.
"When comparing emissions standards, please note these numbers represent very small actual amounts of emissions and are designed to make impacts based on thousands if not hundreds of thousands of vehicles meeting these numbers," says John Swanton of ARB.
Deciding which vehicle to purchase is more about how much you drive. Because the Volt has a 38-mile all-electric range, many drivers basically use it as an EV, rarely fueling with gas. The same applies to the Honda if you drive less than 13 miles or have easy access to re-charging.
"The Accord may be the better choice for drivers that routinely drive distances beyond the Volt's 38 mile range, as its overall miles per gallon equivalent and mpg are better than that of the Volt, so not only does it pollute less, you will use less fuel to go longer distances," Swanton explains.
"What I find is most important is to get the cleanest vehicle that meets your needs, as soon as possible. An additional year or thousands of miles in an older vehicle simply waiting for the "perfect" car can wipe out a big part of the emissions you will save in either new plug-in hybrid," he says.