Honda to recycle rare earths to be green

TOKYO — Honda Motor Co said Wednesday it will start recycling rare earths and other key materials in hybrid auto batteries this year—a key innovation in the Japanese automaker’s effort to be green.

Japan is dependent on imports, mostly from China, for rare earth elements, which are essential for making high-tech products, but a steady supply has been periodically threatened over political disputes with China.

Honda officials said the company was targeting September or October to begin recycling of rare earths. They said it would be a first for the auto industry.

Honda President Takanobu Ito said:
“In the long term, we hope to move to renewable energy sources that won’t harm the environment.”

Ito outlined Honda’s efforts to reduce pollution and global warming, including experimental projects to combine solar with its fuel-cell cars—what he called the Honda “dream” to derive energy solely from nature and emit just water.

Fuel cells are powered by the energy created when hydrogen combines with oxygen to produce water. They are still too expensive for commercial use and remain experimental.

Ito said Honda’s roots lie in its determination to develop a fuel-efficient gasoline engine to clear U.S. pollution-control regulations of the 1970s. Honda’s CVCC engine was the first in the world to clear the standard. Japan later adopted similar pollution regulations.

Honda recovered from last year's earthquake and tsunami, which disrupted the supply of auto parts and sent sales plunging.

January-March profit rose 61% from the previous year, and it’s projecting record global sales of 4.3 million vehicles for this fiscal year.


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