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Honda Leases FCX to First Individual Customers


American Honda Motor today announced the lease of its FCX fuel cell car (earlier post) to the world’s first individual customers, the Spallino family of Redondo Beach, California.

The Spallinos, who signed a two-year lease, will drive the FCX in everyday normal use, including the work commute from Redondo Beach to Irvine (approximately 41 miles each way over the 405). Honda chose the Spallinos for the test in part because they already own a CNG-fueled Honda Civic GX and are more accustomed to dealing with a limited number of fueling stations.


The Spallinos will have access to several hydrogen fueling stations (via the California Hydrogen Highway refueling initiative), including one at Honda’s headquarters in Torrance. An additional fueling station is available at LAX, to the north of Redondo Beach.

The family will pay $500 a month to lease the FCX—considerably cheaper than the $7,300+ per month charged to its Japanese customers (earlier post). The fee includes maintenance and insurance on a car costing more than $1 million.

Honda intends to lease several more FCXs to individual customers over the next year. Currently, the automaker has a fleet of 13 FCX fuel cell vehicles in regular daily use with six public municipal customers in California, New York and Nevada.

The FCX is the only hydrogen vehicle to date to be certified by both the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California’s Air Resources Board (CARB). The EPA certified the 2005 FCX as a Tier-2 Bin 1, and CARB certified the FCX as a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV).

The 2005 FCX model uses Honda own fuel cell stack (Honda FC Stack). The 2005 FCX carries an EPA city/highway rating of 62/51 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent and a range of 190 miles. (More specs here.)

Honda’s announcement came on the same day that GM released a survey on American’s Views of Emerging Automotive Technologies from which the company concluded, among other things, that:

...while the survey shows that Americans support the same goals that are at the heart of GM’s overall advanced technology strategy for improving efficiency [i.e., hydrogen], it’s troubling what little credit we’re getting. Clearly we’ve got our work cut out for us in communicating GM’s accomplishments and our commitment to developing advanced technologies.

Honda just widened that gap. While the leasing of the car to a private family will likely provide useful engineering and design feedback, the publicity attendant to it will further strengthen the popular perception of Honda as one of the leaders of emerging technology.



What happens if this car is in a crash, a rear end crash? Are other drivers in any higher danger than behind a gas powered car?


Given the extra safety design put into the FCX, probably less. Honda provides a quick overview of the safety approach and design for the FCX here.

In brief, they are particularly concerned about leaks and hi-voltage electricity handling; safety measures during fueling; and withstanding collisions from any direction.

To the last point, and with specific focus on the hydrogen tanks, Honda uses a rigid rear sub-frame with extruded aluminum members attached to the main rear frame. In a rear collision, the back part of the rear frame first effectively absorbs the impact. Then the two-stage construction of the sub-frame and rear frame restrains the impact’s force to protect the high-pressure hydrogen tanks.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there is considerable experience with gaseous-fueled vehicles on the road—e.g. CNG cars and buses, propane fueled vehicles. So a baseline set of safety protocols and approaches exists, and those will be augmented over time with further testing and experience.

Ford commissioned a hydrogen vehicle safety report back in 1996 that essentially concluded that in a collision in open spaces, a properly-engineered hydrogen fuel-cell car should have less potential hazard than either a natural gas or a gasoline vehicle. In a tunnel collision, a fuel cell vehicle should be nearly as safe as a natural gas vehicle, and both should be less hazardous than a gasoline or propane vehicle. The greatest potential risk appears to be a slow leak in an enclosed home garage, which is why Honda’s first listed safety priority was leak detection and response.

If you want the Ford study, here is the info: C.E. Thomas, Preliminary Hydrogen Vehicle Safety Report, prepared by Directed Technologies, Inc. for Ford Motor Company, contract No. DE-AC02-94CE50389, US DOE, 1996.


Do they add something to the H2 so that you can smell it, like they do with natural gas?


Not yet, although the industry is working to figure out what odorant could work. Mercaptan, the sulfur compound used in natural gas as an odorant has a dampening effect on fuel cell performance. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be consumed in combustion as with natural gas in an engine, so it could accumulate, leading to a false positive.

Some initial research has been done in Japan on possible alternatives (summary here). More work needs to be done. And there are some start-ups working on solutions.

But for now, leak detection is dependent upon the sensors.

Further discussion on odorants from the National Hydrogen Association here.


I am extremely disappointed that Honda has put so much effort into hydrogen fuel cell, and likewise disappointed that Honda's Hybrid drivetrain cannot become a Plug-in Hybrid.

In California, Gov Schwartenegger's "Million Roofs" solar panel program is being thwarted by partisan bickering. Rooftop solar panels are a perfect match for Plug-in Hybrids. I have little doubt that California's congress are deluded about hydrogen fuel cell becoming an applicable vehicular technology, or they are coerced into opposing rooftop solar panels by the auto and energy lobbies. Meanwhile, California is investing in the "Hydrogen Highway" boondoggle.

Honda, take your FCX and shove it where the sun don't shine.


Furthermore, the Spallino's will use this crapbox FCX to commute 80 miles a day. Since its driving range is 190 miles, fillups will be every other day. I suppose this is just fine with the California legislature rubbing their hands greedily over the tax potential.

If the Spallino's owned a Plug-in Hybrid and had a more reasonable and responsible driving limit of say 30-40 miles a day, their fuel costs would be a tiny fraction of hydrogen.

Tony B.

Way to go Honda! Leave it to a Japanese company to wave it in the American dinasour (GM) face. As a former leasee of two (GM CRUSHED) EV1's a current owner of an electric chevy s10 and an owner of a Toyota Rav4 EV, I beleive that Fuel cell vehicles will emerge as the Popular choice for a widely accepted alternative to the oil dependency that the public will accept.
We love our cars! Especially in California. This step by Honda is OUTSTANDING! Somebody has to start somewhere. GM should take note... Give me a break with a hybrid silverado that gets worse MPG than the full gas equivlilent.


Why H2?

The H2A costing models and case studies have been updated to version 1.0.10. These models have tremendous industry wide input and a very significant and stringent peer review process.

The new case studies can be found here:

Current Forecourt Hydrogen Production from Grid Electrolysis (1,500 kg/day) version 1.0.10
= $5.88/kg

Current Forecourt Hydrogen Production from Natural Gas (1,500 kg/day) version 1.0.10
= $3.49/kg

I'll utilize the forecourt models because it represents the easiest and most straight forward deployment model for a hydrogen economy. It would allow for easy deployment of the "lighthouse" approach proposed by Shell Hydrogen without having to make huge capital outlays. Each new H2 station can be setup individually utilizing existing natural gas and electricity capabilities without any need to create large centralized plants, new underground piping, or long distance transportation scenarios for hydrogen. If large capital investments are made in this infrastructure for centralized production then even better economics can come into play in the long run, but better economics are not necessary...they are just a bonus.

If we utilize Honda's best selling full size sedan, the Honda Accord, and Honda's newest innovative full size fuel cell sedan, the Honda FCX Concept, we can find out some pretty interesting things. The 2 vehicles have very similar dimensions...

Honda Accord V6
- 191.1 L / 57.3 H / 71.6 W
Honda FCX Concept
- 185.8 L / 56.3 H / 73.6 W

The 2 vehicles have very similar ranges...
Honda Accord V6
- 354 miles
Honda FCX Concept
- 350 miles

The 2 vehicles both have some pretty decent power on tap...
Honda Accord V6
- 244 hp
Honda FCX Concept
- 174 hp

The Honda FCX Concept does have less (but still adequate) horsepower, but that will be somewhat offset by quicker off the line acceleration from the near instantaneous peak torque available through the electric drive system versus the internal combustion engine which requires 5000 rpm before reaching peak torque. Additionally the low center of gravity on the Honda FCX Concept and the 4 wheel drive system with individually adjustable in wheel rear motors will provide maximum agility in handling. If this is not enough, then one can factor in the emission free nature of the Honda FCX Concept, the potential convenience of home refueling, the superior cabin volume, and the fact you can provide backup power for a small neighborhood.

Now lets utilize these vehicles and compare the fuel costs.

Fuel Price.............Tank Capacity..........Cost For 350(4) miles

$1.02/gallon..........17.1 gallons..............$17.44
$1.72/gallon..........17.1 gallons..............$29.41
$2.40/gallon..........17.1 gallons..............$41.04
$3.00/gallon..........17.1 gallons..............$51.30

The price of gas must be $1.02/gallon to be price competitive with hydrogen from H2A forecourt reformed natural gas.

The price of gas must be $1.72/gallon to be price competitive with hydrogen from H2A forecourt electrolysis.

With today's gas prices of $2.40 per gallon, gasoline is 135% more expensive than hydrogen from reformed natural gas and 40% more expensive than hydrogen from electrolysis.

Source for Honda FCX Concept tank size, range, and other information:

Source for Honda Accord V6 tank size and range:

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