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Honda Unveils Production Fuel Cell Vehicle: FCX Clarity

by Jack Rosebro

Fcxclarity
The Honda FCX Clarity.

At the Los Angeles Auto Show, Honda today unveiled the FCX Clarity, a production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle based on the FCX Concept. (Earlier post.)

Honda will lease the vehicle to customers in selected areas of Southern California beginning in summer 2008. The lease will be three years long, with a monthly cost of $600 per month, including service, maintenance, and collision insurance. Customers will be able to drop off their vehicles at a Honda dealership for service, and Honda will then transport the vehicles to a dedicated service facility. Honda declined to disclose the amount of FCX Clarity vehicles that will be leased, and said that they would be announcing that figure next year.

Fcx_clarity_107
The V-Flow stack for the FCX Clarity. Click to enlarge.

For the Clarity, Honda has replaced the ultra-capacitors used in the FCX Concept with a lithium-ion battery pack. The Clarity uses the same V-Flow fuel cell stack as the FCX Concept, and the stack can start at temperatures as low as -22° Farenheit.

The vertically-oriented stack achieves an output of 100 kW (versus 86 kW in the current Honda FC stack) with a 50% increase in output density by volume (67% by mass). Its compact size allows for a more spacious interior and more efficient packaging of other powertrain components.

Compared to the current-generation FCX, the FCX Clarity offers:

  • A 20% increase in fuel economy to the approximate equivalent of 68 mpgge (miles per gallon gasoline equivalent) combined fuel economy (about 2-3 times the fuel economy of a gasoline-powered car, and 1.5 times that of a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, of comparable size and performance);

  • A 30% increase in vehicle range to 270 miles;

  • A 25% improvement in power-to-weight ratio, in part from an approximate 400-pound reduction in the fuel cell powertrain weight, for superior performance and efficiency despite a substantial increase in overall vehicle size;

  • A 45% reduction in the size of the fuel cell powertrain—nearly equivalent, in terms of volume, to a modern gas-electric hybrid powertrain;

  • An advanced new lithium-ion battery pack that is 40 percent lighter and 50 percent smaller than the current-generation FCX’s ultra-capacitor; and

  • A single 5,000-psi hydrogen storage tank with 10% additional hydrogen capacity than the previous model.

The fuel cell stack operates as the vehicle’s main power source. Additional energy captured through regenerative braking and deceleration is stored in the lithium-ion battery pack, and used to supplement power from the fuel cell, when needed.

Tetsuo Iwamura, American Honda president and CEO, stated that the Clarity “will be EPA-certified, with the miles-per-gallon equivalent displayed on the window sticker.”

Honda has launched a consumer website for the vehicle at www.fcx.honda.com.

Comments

Richard

So, this model is good enough for Lithium Ion batteries but the Prius is not? I'm confused.

Roger Pham

Wow! A very exciting development. A very aesthetically-pleasing machine. Sure hope I can get my hands into one of those. $600/month is quite affordable. I hope that Honda also lease out the home H2 producer using home NG supply, and/or the home solar H2 producer as announced recently. This will bring FCV into equally green footing and practicality as BEV, or even better, given the 270-mi range of the FCV, for the 130-mi range or so of the Phoenix BEV, regardless of whether local H2-filling insfrastructure exists or not.

Richard,
A123 Lithium is very good, but Toyota prefer to use their in-house-developed lithium cobalt chemistry which is not as safe as nano-tech Lithium phosphate. Honda probably uses a safer lithium battery chemistry.

NBK-Boston

The Li-Ion pack is probably smaller than the Prius main battery. Plus, Toyota dead-ended in their choice of Li-Ion chemistries and is back to the drawing board, while Hondo probably chose right and got lucky.

To an extent, I'd compare this program to Ken Livingston's plan to buy 10 hydrogen buses for London at a cool $2,000,000 a pop. This has the hallmarks of a serious and commercially viable program -- a major manufacturer behind it, initial units sold (fine, leased) at a price that is not orders of magnitude away from a comparable conventional model, etc. Honda has also been working on their home fueling appliance for a while -- a natural gas burning thing that sits in your garage and generates electricity, hot water and pure hydrogen if you like. It's supposed to be relatively efficient as these things go, so even if the hydrogen in this FCV ultimately comes from fossil energy, it should be pretty clean and have a lower well-to-wheels CO2 number than a regular car would have.

My one concern is that this program is founded on a distortion. The CARB ZEV mandate gives an absurd amount of extra credit to manufacturers who put FCVs on the road, relative to those who put BEVs on the road. Honda may have concluded that subsidizing a smaller number of FCVs is better than paying for a larger number of BEVs, but without such technology-specific rulemaking they probably would not have gone for either.

Who pays? We all do, by spending more for our regular cars so Honda and all the rest can have the cash they need to subsidize ZEVs. If what you want is a reducting in carbon emissions, just tax carbon directly. If FCVs were the best way to reduce emissions, that tax would naturally lead Honda to launch this program. But looking over at Europe, where they've taxed carbon (gas) very highly for a long time, I get the feeling that FCVs are not the most effective way to cut gasoline consumption. The ZEV mandate seems to be infatuation with gadgetry just for the sake of infatuation with gadgetry.

Ender

Surely this would have the same range if the fuel cell, tank and small battery where replaced with an AltairNano 75kWh battery pack.

I still have not got a suitable answer from any fuel cell car person why this FC electric car with a chemical battery is superior to a battery electric car with a solid state battery.

The only thing that I have got is that the FCV preserves the current driver experience. Its a pretty high price to pay just to emulate an IC car more closely.

Nick

What's the mass of a full H2 fuel tank plus the fuel cell itself? What if you swapped those out for same mass in batteries? What would the range be?

Just wondering...

Lad

God, it's taking a long time for BEVs to move into mass production! We know that's the answer; but, the car companies seem to be tripping all over themselves not to rush BEVs into production too fast. I guess this is all part of the same old game of slow evolution instead revolution. And, certainly costs and maintaining a profit is part of the reasons not to move too fast. Too bad because I think the American people are ready for the ALL Battery Car.

Lou Grinzo

This is one heck of a technological achievement, but I'm not the least bit impressed with its implication for our transportation future.

Where will the clean, affordable hydrogen come from to fuel the mainstream use of such vehicles? EV's, especially those using quick-charge batteries, will likely be very competitive in two to four years--exactly when HFC vehicles are set to go mainstream. Once that happens, EV's win, hands down. (It will be much easier to add quick-charge capability to local gas stations than build an entire hydrogen generation, distribution, and dispensing infrastructure. Plus, the per-mile cost will likely be far less for EV's than hydrogen.)

yesplease

$600/month is quite affordable.
:o

EV Drone

EVs rool! Foll cells drool!

EV Drone

EVs rool! Fool cells drool!

philmcneal

i hope its still a 0-60 car in 7 seconds.

So who can buy this? Although one has to think 600 INCLUDING maintainence is pretty damn good, but it sounds like they have to keep your car when they are doing it :S

"The lease will be three years long, with a monthly cost of $600 per month, including service, maintenance, and collision insurance. Customers will be able to drop off their vehicles at a Honda dealership for service, and Honda will then transport the vehicles to a dedicated service facility."

$21600 just to drive a FCX whoo! That does not include the cost of hydrogen as well, in terms of 1 KG (which equals 1 gallon of gasoline) per $ I have a feeling 1 KILOWATT is going to cost much less... espically when i'm paying 6.5 cents.

But given the recent "go hydrogen, i'll spend your tax dollars" gung ho we have here in British Columbia, I'm sure finding a station isn't going to be too shabby... I think?

philmcneal

forgot to add, after 3 years, it going to be another 1-EV one hahahaha, what?? want the car? its going to cost you more than million bucks than what the pity ev1 drivers were offering.

Roger Pham

NBK et al,

Skepticism is understandable regarding so revolutionary as this, and coming somewhat sooner than expected.
But, let's look at beyond the technicalities.

Let look at the PASSION that Honda is putting into this thing! The whole body sculpture is a piece of art! Far exceeding that of the Prius I and II. Like it's coming out of the finest Italian design studio. Look at the internal layout...a perfect blend of ultra-modernity with artistic passion. Even every internal details is finely sculpted to the last detail...reflecting absolute faith of the company in the car's mission. Look at the leap in performance between this model vs. previous generation.

There is no doubt that Honda is passionate about the future of FCV, just as Toyota was and still is passionate about HEV being the future of personal automotive. This is much more than just a company's attempt to satisfy CARB's ZEV mandate!
Gentlemen, don't just think...FEEL the emotion behind the design and the execution of this masterpiece of engineering and design! FEEL, or thou shall miss the spirit and the passion that life has to offer! This is what living is all about.

Andrey

NBK:

California ARB ZEV mandate has nothing to do with reduction of GHG emissions. It has nothing to do with reduction of gasoline consumption. It is even not about reduction of harmful automotive emissions: there are numerous other legislations to address it. It is about development of zero-emission (harmful to human health emissions) personal transportation vehicles.

It is strictly business of people of California how they manage such a endeavor. As for technology-specific rulemaking, this is exactly approach which worked marvelously in the past (three-way cats, or OBD for example) in California, and was adopted all over the world afterward. You are seriously misinformed if you think that government regulation is not technology specific. In 90% of cases it is. Take a look at building codes, or nuclear power stations safety regulation, for starters.

George

Roger Pham wrote: Sure hope I can get my hands into one of those.

Good luck with that...

Gentlemen, don't just think...FEEL the emotion behind the design and the execution of this masterpiece of engineering and design!

Roger, I went to the website and checked it out. It made me FEEL like throwing up! It looks like everything that's come out of Japan in the last couple decades, all mixed into one car. A little Prius, a little Solara, a little (very little) Insight, even a little of that ancient Subaru rod... Lots of zoomy styling cues, not much soul. Now don't get me wrong, I'm impressed that they've been able to deliver this much, but we can only speculate as to the true cost of the car. Several hundred thousand, if not approaching a million. The real reason for it to be out now? Many things, I'm sure, not the least of which would be marketing and halo effect. When it gets down to competing (non-subsidized) against real cars in the real world, I don't expect to see FCVs for quite a while.

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