Earlier this month, Honda headlined Vanity Fair Italia’s ‘Garden of Ideas’ event in celebration of design, innovation and sustainability at Museo Diocesano. Honda showcased its evolving approach to more sustainable product design with the European premiere of its latest electrified urban vehicle concepts – the SUSTAINA-C Concept car and Pocket Concept motorcycle – at Milan Design Week from 16-21 April.

Both starred alongside the SH125i ‘Vetro’ scooter to demonstrate the innovative material use and unique design aesthetics that can be created while reducing the CO2 emissions arising from the manufacturing process at Honda Italia Industriale’s factory in Atessa, Italy. This is one way in which Honda is pursuing its target of achieving carbon neutrality across all products and corporate activities by 2050.

As first shown at the 2024 Japan Mobility Show, the SUSTAINA-C Concept explores how society could be freed from the constraints of finite resources. It comes paired with the Pocket Concept, a compact motorcycle that can be stored in the luggage compartment and provide last mile mobility.

The panels are manufactured using recycled acrylic resin sourced from second-hand taillights to create exterior panels that do not require painting, allowing Honda to create a unique, unpainted finish that would not be possible with traditional materials. This material approach could reduce emissions during production by up to 45 per cent – partly via the recycled materials in use, but also in leaving the panels unpainted, which can account for as much as 80 per cent of the CO2 emissions from an automobile factory.

The model on show in Milan features a black and white marble effect, achieved by mixing colours with different melting points into the panels as they are moulded – leaving a marbling behind as the material settles into the mould.

Alongside their eye-catching appearance, not only are the vehicle panels crack resistant and able to return to their original shape following light collisions, but they also offer a high level of weather resistance with minimal degradation from sunlight.

At the rear, the acrylic resin’s excellent transparency has allowed for the SUSTAINA-C Concept’s tailgate to be formed out of a single panel that acts like a smartphone screen. The mini-LED display has been designed to communicate with other road users via simple text or imagery, thereby offering a potential new dimension for the exterior design of future vehicles.

Finally, the acrylic resin being used demonstrates a possible approach to future resource circulation. Developed in partnership with Mitsubishi Chemical, when the second-hand taillights are sourced from end-of-life vehicles, they are crushed and treated, before being moulded into the panels required for the SUSTAINA-C Concept. This is one way Honda is looking to reduce resource extraction and part of its exploration into more energy-efficient, low-carbon, cost-effective advanced recycling technologies and the creation of a vehicle-to-vehicle circular value chain.

“The SUSTAINA-C is proof of the possibilities available when we think more sustainably. This is not only true of the panels themselves, but also those elements that are not visible from the outside. Whether that is sourcing more environmentally friendly steel for the chassis, or recycled materials for the interior, there are so many ways in which we can start to make a difference in the way we manufacture vehicles. And none of this needs to come at the expense of how our products look – utilising new materials to create a unique aesthetic and deliver enhanced value for our customers.”

Kento Ishii, SUSTAINA-C spokesperson

Honda is already finding ways to reduce the CO2 emissions of its product manufacturing here in Europe, as demonstrated by the ‘Vetro’ version of its immensely popular SH125i scooter produced at Honda Italia Industriale. The ‘Vetro’, Italian for glass, is a special edition model that features distinctive semi-transparent unpainted green fairing panels. The processes around the use of these panels at the Atessa factory reduce CO2 emissions by 9.5 per cent when compared with the manufacturing processes for standard painted fairings.

Developed in partnership with Honda Motor in Japan, the new material is a substitute for the ABS plastic traditionally used for non-structural parts and components, helping to form a sleek, unified body style and premium presence.

The SH125i Vetro’s elegant looks are matched by its effortless practicality and efficiency, as the first Atessa-built Honda model to meet new EURO5+ emissions targets – a legal requirement for all new model types by the end of 2024.

“The SH125i Vetro demonstrates how small changes in the materials used can have a tangible environmental benefit. We work hard at our Atessa factory to streamline the efficiency of our production methods, and this extends to how we reduce the emissions we create. We are therefore excited at the potential to further contribute towards Honda’s global carbon neutrality targets via continued innovation and product development.”

Marcello Vinciguerra, Managing Director, Honda Italia Industriale

Honda’s reduction of CO2 emissions via innovative material use, as demonstrated on the SH125i Vetro, is just one step it is taking here in Europe to contribute to the company’s global target of achieving carbon neutrality across all products and corporate activities by 2050.

Central to this pursuit is Honda’s ‘Triple Action to Zero’ initiative, which covers carbon neutrality, clean energy, and resource circulation – the latter of which will see it aim to establish vehicle-to-vehicle resource circulation and the application of up to 100 per cent sustainable materials. Both the SUSTAINA-C Concept and Pocket Concept are early examples of what this could look like in the future.

“The SUSTAINA-C Concept, Pocket Concept, and SH125i Vetro embody the change we are looking to make as we accelerate our transition from a mass consumption business model to one of circularity. This cannot happen overnight, but by identifying the small steps we are able to make now – such as those being made at our Atessa factory – we can implement increasingly impactful measures that will help us on our way to carbon neutrality across our products and corporate activities by 2050.”

Victoria Friend, Head of Product Compliance & Sustainability, Honda Motor Europe

Headlining Vanity Fair Italia’s ‘Garden of Ideas’ exhibit during Milan Design Week, the Honda stand will sit within the courtyard of the Museo Diocesano. Its mirrored exterior walls have been designed to blend into the historic surroundings, with a full-width iridescent window that helps create an organic space, rich with nature and accentuating the sustainable themes on show.

Inside, visitors can see the three models on display, alongside examples from the manufacturing process of the SUSTAINA-C Concept, demonstrating the journey the acrylic resin takes from second-hand taillight to vehicle body panel.

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