A new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle from Honda

Clarity

Japan and California already have two-hundred FCX Clarity hydrogen cars on lease where there are adequate refueling points. The numbers are limited simply to test the technology. Hence, with full insurance cover thrown in, the rental is $600 per month. This is a realization of the FCX Concept car that was shown in 2006 and Honda are promoting the vehicle as a practical fuel cell vehicle. It takes five minutes to refuel and has zero emissions. If the technology proves reliable and a full infrastructure of hydrogen fuel distribution is put in place, this could represent a major step forward in environmentally friend vehicle design.

How does it work?

hydrogen-fuel-cell

The hydrogen fuel cell stack supplies electricity on demand. It also captures kinetic energy from braking and stores that in lithium ion batteries. The EPA now certifies the driving range at a maximum 240 miles on a tank of hydrogen. The hydrogen is made from natural gas and costs between $5 and $10 per kg in California. It takes 4 kg to fill the tank. The power output generates 134 horsepower and high torque.

2013 LA Auto Show

The next model of the Clarity is to be unveiled at the LA Auto Show and will formally be launched in the US and Japan in 2015. Indeed, as a theme, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will feature in LA. Hyundai has also been testing its Tuscon fuel cell car in California and Toyota has a vehicle in an advanced development stage. This emphasis is coming despite the shortage of hydrogen refueling stations. But it’s a driver of change. With three manufacturers lining up their vehicles for the market, it gives the fuel distributors a reasonable opportunity to build the infrastructure. If that part of the equation can be solved, the manufacturers can then satisfy the regulator’s demand for low or zero emission vehicles. Better still, this is a cheaper and more convenient power source than battery power which either requires significant time to recharge or exchanging batteries at each stop. With hydrogen, the drivers get the benefit of the latest electric engines without the hassle of recharging. With a range expected to exceed three-hundred miles in 2015, this is significantly more efficient than battery power.

Isn’t hydrogen dangerous?

Hindenburg-disaster

Those of you who remember their history will know there was a move to use hydrogen in airships until there were fires and explosions. The expectation is there will be about thirty hydrogen filling stations in California by 2015, But there are serious regulatory hurdles to overcome if large quantities of this gas are to be stored close to residential areas. That the fuel is very efficient does not mean it’s safe.

Is it going to be expensive?

Once the infrastructure is in place, it’s very cheap to produce hydrogen. The retail price on the vehicles will not be so cheap. The expectation is there will be a premium over conventional gas-powered vehicles.

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