The fight to improve air quality may not sound like fodder for a typical Hollywood blockbuster, but Honda has done its best to make the topic exciting.

The latest short film in the company's Environmental Short Film series--this one titled "Never Ending Race"--depicts Honda's efforts to respond to the far stricter Federal and state environmental legislation in the 1970s that resulted from efforts to improve the heavy air pollution in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

It was just like racing, the filmmakers say.

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While Los Angeles was experiencing around 100 Stage One smog alerts a year, Honda had just ended several years of competition in Formula One racing.

According to Honda, the tightening of emissions standards that followed the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 was a challenge similar to the competition of top-level racing.

1975 Honda Civic CVCC.

1975 Honda Civic CVCC.

Both involved extracting maximum vehicle performance from a strictly defined set of rules.

While many other automakers balked at the idea of cleaning up vehicle emissions, Honda's engineers took a "positive attitude" and dove into the challenge.

The climax of the film is the launch of the CVCC engine in 1975, which met California emission standards without the addition of an expensive catalytic converter.

Honda continued to keep pace with ever-stricter emissions standards through the final decade of the 20th Century: The 1996 Honda Civic was the first production car to be certified as a low-emission vehicle under California regulations.

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This was followed by a number of other firsts, up to the latest 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid, the first car with any kind of gasoline engine to meet the California Air Resources Board's super ultra-low emissions vehicle 20 (SULEV 20) standard--the strictest so far.

Talk about a happy ending.

Or is it?

While U.S. air quality has vastly improved since the Nixon Administration, other areas of the world--in particular China--are just now starting to address similarly horrific levels of airborne contamination, and the public-health impacts that result.

Even more important, greenhouse-gas emissions still need to be controlled.

The end of this particular race isn't in sight just yet.


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