Honda’s North American unit has reacted sharply to US politicians’ suggestions of more favourable federal government treatment for electric vehicles built in the country using union labour.

A statement issued by the automaker’s corporate affairs, industry and government relations chief, Jennifer Thomas, said: “Unfortunately, there are currently efforts underway in congress to enact unfair, discriminatory policies that will favour EVs built by a union workforce that will limit consumer choice.”

Thomas is referring to President Biden’s recent executive order recently derided by Bloomberg: “[Biden] has ordered the federal government to buy electric vehicles made in America with union labour. There’s just one problem: No such vehicles exist.

“Tesla, the leading US electric vehicle manufacturer, has several American-made models, but it isn’t unionised. And while General Motors employs union labour to make the electric Chevrolet Bolt, roughly three-quarters of its components come from outside the US – missing the 50% threshold to be considered American-made under federal procurement law.”

Biden’s move could help drive more domestic electric vehicle manufacturing overall, given the scale of the government’s annual vehicle acquisitions, Sam Ori, executive director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, told Bloomberg.

“The federal government acquires 50,000 to 60,000 new vehicles a year, and, in an EV market where you’re looking at 300,000 to 350,000 units a year, an additional several tens of thousands could have an impact for manufacturers,” Ori said.

The Bolt is the only electric car on the United Auto Workers’ 2021 Union-Built Vehicle Guide, which identifies vehicles that are made in the US or Canada by members of the UAW or Canada’s Unifor union, Bloomberg noted.

Honda’s Thomas: “All American auto workers work hard to support their families, pay taxes and support their communities. Our production [workers] in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, and Ohio deserve fair treatment from congress and should not be penalised for their choice of a workplace.

“By providing fair and equitable treatment for all American auto workers who build EVs and by equally valuing their contributions, we can accelerate our shared environmental goal of achieving widespread EV deployment.

“The transition to EVs will require that we prepare our workforce for change and we are investing in that transformation. We have many talented and highly skilled employees in the US who are designing and will build our EVs in the coming years.

“Our confidence is driven by the fact that, over the past 40 years of building products in America, we have a history of evolving to meet the changing needs of our customers and society. We’ve gone from making small motorcycle engines to the two motor hybrid system in our hybrid electric vehicles, because the strength of Honda all of these years is not the engines we make, but the engineers who develop and make them. This will not change.”

Honda does agree, however with the recent executive order covering US emission standards and EVs.

“Biden recently took a positive step toward new federal vehicle emissions standards that include the administration’s bold objective to advance America’s electric vehicle future. In so doing, the administration is aligned with the similarly bold actions taken two years ago by Honda, BMW, Ford, Volkswagen and Volvo, which entered into voluntary agreements with the state of California to establish progressive new vehicle greenhouse gas regulations.

“When we entered into that agreement with California, we knew it was a bit of a risk, but for Honda, it was the right thing to do for the environment and also for our customers in all 50 states – not just those living in California and the other states that have adopted its standards. So, the administration’s action in getting back on the pathway [after President Trump had relaxed emissions rules] to strong federal fuel economy and GHG emissions standards represents an important milestone.”

Thomas claimed Honda already was “America’s most fuel-efficient, low-emissions full-line automaker, according to the January 2021 US EPA Automotive Trends Report.

“That means our existing vehicle fleet has the lowest CO2 emissions of any full-line automaker. But the future direction of environmental requirements is not low CO2 emissions, it’s zero CO2 emissions.”

Last April, Honda Motor CEO Toshihiro Mibe said Honda aimed for carbon neutrality by 2050 with a completely electrified auto lineup in major markets around the world, including North America, by then.

“We are committed to an increase in our sales of battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles from 40% in 2030, to 80% in 2035, to 100% by 2040,” Thomas said.

“In order to meet our ambitious climate goals, we will need to work closely with state and federal governments to promote policies that stimulate consumer demand for EVs, create electrification infrastructure, and support EV manufacturing jobs here in the United States.

“The Biden Administration has outlined plans in each of these areas, and we encourage Congressional action to enact broad, complementary, and fair policies that will achieve our goal of significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Thomas claimed Honda was leading US auto industry efforts to decarbonise the US electrical grid by adopting renewable energy to slash CO2 emissions and power its operations.

“Our long-term virtual power purchase agreements (VPPA) that went into effect in 2020 are now helping offset the carbon-intensive, grid-supplied electricity being used in our Ohio, Indiana, and Alabama auto plants. More than 60% of the electricity that Honda uses in North America will be covered by over one million megawatt-hours of renewable electricity from wind and solar power generated in Oklahoma and Texas.

“We also are partnering with utilities and energy-sector allies to develop vehicle-to-grid (V2G) integration that is essential to our electrified future. Toward that goal, we have launched the SmartCharge beta program that enables EV customers to reduce their environmental footprint, save money while charging their electric vehicles and maximise use of renewable energy.”