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Hybrids Growing, Diesels Too? (6/22/2003)
Uncertainty reigns in Detroit over which higher-mileage option will win the day.
Preview: Honda FCX by TCC Team (4/21/2003)
A drive in a very drivable fuel cell vehicle.
Listen to enthusiasts for hydrogen fuel cells and you’d think all the technical problems will be easily overcome, that cheap cold fusion will come soon after, and that will be followed in quick succession by first contact with the Vulcans, formation of the Federation, the birth of James T. Kirk and construction of a fleet of faster-than-light starships.
Listen to the detractors and it’s obvious that fuel cells are ludicrously impractical and we may as well prepare for a future where roving biker gangs fight each other with chains, sawed-off shotguns and razor-sharp Mohawk haircuts over the remaining precious drops of gas.
Driving the hydrogen-fueled Honda FCX fuel-cell vehicle indicates that reality is ambiguous. Yes the FCX runs well and drives like a real car, but it’s also incredibly complex and hideously expensive. Of course there’s huge potential in fuel cells and hydrogen, but breakthroughs are needed to exploit that potential and breakthroughs tend to come in their own sweet time — and sometimes they don’t come at all.
But if any company can put innovation on a schedule, it’s probably Honda.
Familiar yet different
Of course the FCX isn’t a regular production vehicle, but it’s not quite correct to say it’s not in production either. One FCX has already been leased to the city of Los Angeles (for just $500 per month — including service and fuel) and maybe 40 more will wind up with other governmental bodies as a demonstration of the concept. So Honda is making the FCX — painstakingly and by hand — but not a lot of them.