Advertisement
Find a Car
Go!

As Others Focus On EVs, Honda Sticks With Hydrogen

Follow Bengt

Honda’s FCX Clarity is one of the few hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles built and sold to the public by a major carmaker

Honda’s FCX Clarity is one of the few hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles built and sold to the public by a major carmaker

Enlarge Photo

Earlier this year we got the chance to drive the production 2009 Honda FCX Clarity, which is the first publicly available hydrogen sedan.

The FCX can't yet be considered a mass-produced vehicle. Looking at our test vehicle and its rough edges underneath, it was clear that the FCX is hand-fettled, even if it now drives without a hitch.

Despite recent blows to hydrogen infrastructure development, Honda this week reaffirmed that it will be mass-produced. The automaker still has plans to make a future version of the FCX on a mass-production scale within ten years.

California has kept with that long-term vision, along with a short-term one to build up the infrastructure before the vehicles. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been bullish on hydrogen, pushing ahead for more hydrogen vehicles and an expanded infrastructure, and even declaring his love for the FCX. And that was after the Obama administration had made some strong moves away from federal funding of hydrogen projects and toward battery technology and charging infrastructure, with Energy Secretary Steven Chu declaring that hydrogen vehicles were still 10 to 20 years from viability.

2009 Honda FCX Clarity

2009 Honda FCX Clarity

Enlarge Photo

Already, there are at least 26 stations in the state and an emphasis on public access; that's more than a third of the 62 hydrogen-refueling points nationwide. Under a plan called the Hydrogen Highway—with the state of California, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, and Shell—a chain of hydrogen stations will be built to allow passage from Southern California to Vancouver in time for the 2010 Olympics.

According to Autocar, hydrogen-development head Takashi Moriya recently stated, "Fuel-cell cars will become necessary. We're positioning it [the FCX Clarity] as the ultimate zero-emission car." The FCX is now offered in the U.S. on a limited lease.

Toyota president Akio Toyoda last week said that the company also plans a publicly available fuel-cell car within six years, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi and Nissan are betting on electric cars, with Nissan recently unveiling its LEAF, a car that will be mass-produced in the U.S. beginning in 2012. General Motors is preparing its much-publicized extended-range electric vehicle, the Volt, but it's also still moving ahead with fuel-cell development, says Automotive News, despite tremendous cost hurdles to overcome.

An important point to remember is that these two technologies aren't completely independent. However, a Honda engineer explained to TheCarConnection.com earlier this year that electric-vehicle technology is a building block for hydrogen tech. Honda is working on lithium-ion batteries, motors, and charging as part of its fuel-cell development, so if electric vehicles end up being the popular solution, the company will be prepared.

Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (4)
  1. Ahem, the Honda hydrogen fuel cell vehicle IS an EV.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. Honda knows that the Holy Grail is hydrogen, and so does GM – its efforts on the Volt notwithstanding. In fact, it seems GM merely wants to use the Volt as stepping stone to the hydrogen car, since they both use electricity for propulsion.
    Let us not forget, however, that electric vehicles, and battery storage in particular, is a confining technology. Though electrics share the same drive elements with hydrogen cars, and use the regeneration principles of hybrids, our ultimate focus is on hydrogen vehicles, as nothing else comes close to their manifold benefits.
    Yet to the extent that electrics ease us away from the internal combustion engine, they will be helpful to hydrogen cars — besides them refining the shared electric motors, capacitors, and drive logic controllers.
    Public perception is proving to be an unforeseen obstacle to hydrogen. Indeed, if cheep hydrogen cars were available today, their greater problem may not be that there is nowhere to refill them, but that many folks see them as Hindenburgs on wheels. This was the reckoning Toyota had last week when it introduced plans of its high-tech and super-safe hydrogen fueling station in California. Torrance city council welcoming committee had to tone things down when the nearby homeowners started objecting. It might blowup, they said, and then what will happen to the property values?
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. Aside from the lack of availability nationwide for large sources of compressed hydrogen, there is another problem. Those NIMBY property owners are correct. Leaking liquid fuel is one thing. Leaking vaporous fuel is another thing entirely. Worse, the hydrogen must be kept under pressure and fed out through a regulator which is sort of like the old fashion carburetor. I wonder how well it works under 100 degree and or 0 degree climate conditions. Oh sure, all problems can be solved. But for now, I see gasoline/diesel -hybrids as the trend for the near term.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  4. It should be borne in mind that Honda & GM are nowhere near being alone in their R&D of Fuel cell cars. Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai & most importantly, Mercedes, have all been refining their FC prototypes. Battery tech is very important & small gains in energy density are still being made, but their are limitations on too much further improvement, imposed by chemistry itself. Recognising that buying one battery-powered car for short-haul [i.e., commuting] trips and another for longer trips, is not within the financial reach of all of us, the motor manufacturers are right in their continuing efforts to build a Fuel Cell car with the range that will allow that car to be used for any range, similar to our expectations for the cars we drive now.
    Regarding the alarmist thinking about the problem of leaks of gaseous hydrogen being a more sever hazard than petrol, it should be recalled that in many countries, methane [natural gas] is compressed & stored on site for sale in petrol stations & that is a flammable gas. So is LPG, another very commonly available flammable gas commonly used in gas barbecues. I wonder how many people are frightened by their barbecue gas bottle!
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement
Advertisement
Try My Showroom
Save cars, write notes, and comparison shop with hi-res photos.
Add your first car
Take Us With You!
   
Advertisement

 
© 2014 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by izmo, Inc. Send us feedback.