Honda’s More Powerful Fuel Cell Concept with Home Hydrogen Refueling

19 October 2005
 FCX Concept with the Home Energy System for refueling. Click to enlarge.

Honda’s new FCX fuel cell concept vehicle, unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, is a stylish sedan featuring a redesigned fuel cell system that delivers more power and increased range in less space than the current FCX 2005 model on the road, and a low-floor design that maximizes cabin space.

Enabling the low-floor design is Honda’s new “3V” system: vertical gas flow, vertebral layout, and volume-efficient packaging.

 The V-Flow system. Vertical gas flow, vertebral layout, volume-efficient. Note the cutaway of the rear wheel showing the in-wheel motor. Click to enlarge.

In the 3V schema, oxygen and hydrogen flow from the top to the bottom of the fuel cell stack (vertical gas flow) and the fuel cells are arranged vertically in the center tunnel (vertebral layout) for new, high-efficiency fuel cell packaging (volume efficiency).

Compact enough to fit neatly into the center tunnel but robust enough to deliver 100kW of power, the V Flow fuel cell stack offers both space efficiency and high energy output. The key to fuel cell performance is water management. With vertical gas flow, an innovative process in which oxygen and hydrogen flow downward through the stack, Honda’s new fuel cell stack takes full advantage of gravity to efficiently discharge water formed during electricity generation.

By contrast, the FC stack in the FCX 2005 offers a maximum of 86 kW. (Earlier post.)

This improves system performance in sub-zero temperatures, achieving a new level of system reliability. The problem of cold-weather startup had been a key obstacle to the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles. In 2003, Honda solved the problem with the introduction of the Honda FC Stack, the world’s first fuel cell that can be used at temperatures as low as –20° C. The V Flow fuel cell stack, on the other hand, now delivers ultra-low-temperature start-up performance on par with that of a gasoline engine.

 The 25-kW in-wheel motor

The FCX-V Concept drive train features three energy-efficient motors: one in the front and two in the rear. The efficient delivery of this power through all four wheels and the low-center-of-gravity platform combine to deliver torquey performance and agile handling. The space-efficient layout also contributes to the interior efficiency of the low-floor design, eliminating the need to use floor space for motors.

• Coaxial motor and gearbox. The 80-kW front-drive motor output shaft is coaxial with the gearbox for a more compact package and a shorter front-end.

• Rear in-wheel motors. Each of the rear wheels contains a thin, eccentric 25-kW motor.

To increase the driving range, Honda engineers chose not to increase storage tank pressure, but to use a newly-developed hydrogen absorption material that doubles the capacity of the tank to 5 kg of hydrogen at 350 atmospheres. With the new material, the tanks supply enough hydrogen to extend the cruising range to 560 kilometers (350 miles)—exceeding the DOE’s range target for 2010.

Again, by contrast, the current FCX 2005 model offers a range of 190 miles.

 HES System

Honda also unveiled its current model of the Home Energy Station (HES), a home cogeneration and fueling system that uses natural gas to supply electricity and heat in addition to hydrogen fuel for vehicles.

The system is equipped with fuel cells that generate electricity (5 kW) for the home, and is configured to recover the heat produced during power generation for domestic water heating. The HES can produce 3 Nm3/hr of hydrogen. In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by some 40%, according to Honda’s calculations, the HES system is expected to lower by 50% the total running cost of household electricity, gas and vehicle fuel.

Interesting development from JAPAN. Three hundred fifty miles between refils is getting close to what you get from a large tank of gas in a VUS. Wonder what will be the mass production cost.

Half on one third of that power and capacity would also be a good power generator to extend the range of a plug-in hybrid.

What are the Big Three doing?

Looks groovy but hydrogen produced from reformed natural gas isn't any more sustainable that what we have now.

Why not just run the car on CNG or use the natural gas to produce synfuels via Fischer-Tropsch methods?

Hydrogen will NEVER be a successful motor fuel.

I agree that it is no more sustainable than what we have now. However, I think that this is a great step in the right direction. If systems like this were in place, weather or not they depend on fossil fuels, it will be a much easier shift once other sources of hydrogen become more feasible.

"Hydrogen will NEVER be a successful motor fuel."

If we can find a cheaper, more efficient way of generating large quantities, I feel it will be a successful motor fuel. I dont think Honda and all the other auto companies would be investing this amount of R&D into something that would have such a short usage window. Hydrogen is there, it just needs to be tapped by the next big breakthrough.

There are no breakthroughs coming in Hydrogen production. There's electrolysis, there's thermochemical processes and that's it. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to convert electricity to hydrogen. The result is a net exergy loss. The thermochemical processes either are just another way of burning fossil fuels or require high-temperature nuclear reactors which are no better at producing hydrogen than electrolysis anyway.

There are plenty of breakthroughs coming in the former of ever and ever cheaper solar power Robert. Cheap solar = cheap and 100% pure and clean hydrogen. The president of India recently gave a speech referring to 50% efficient solar using carbon nanotubes. You can see that speech here:

http://tinyurl.com/e2zxs

Stirling Energy Systems has been contracted for up to 1.75GW of solar power...all non-subsidized as it's available for much less than current peaking power.

Wind is now cheaper than natural gas and Excel Energy in Colorado is giving wind customers a cheaper rate now than gas customers for electricity. Cheap wind = cheap and 100% pure and clean hydrogen.

We are on the dawn of better tomorrow. Cheap, clean, renewable, and sustainable energy...limited by the innovation of mankind rather than a limited resource.

The new limited resource is the fusion reactor called the sun. If that ever runs out...energy will be the last of our problems.

"Hydrogen will NEVER be a successful motor fuel."

"There are no breakthroughs coming in Hydrogen production."

C'mon! You guys sound like the U.S. Patent commissioner who said in 1900 that everything that could be invented had been invented.

There have been significant breakthroughs even in the past few MONTHS in hydrogen.

-Cyanobacteria for production
-Ammonia tablets for storage
-Magnesium metal hydride for storage

to name a few.

And there's a lot of money working on it. Obviously, RIGHT NOW, hydrogen doesn't make sense because it comes from fossil fuels. But that doesn't mean it won't make sense later when it comes from biomass, or solar, or whatever.

Too many people keep saying "that doesn't seem like it will ever work, therefore we should stop working on it." The deal is: we have to keep working on it so we can find out whether or not it will work.

What if Edison or Tesla or Pasteur had had such a pessimistic mentality? Personally, I'm sick of it. Let's hear solutions or nothing at all.

You have to realize BlackSun that so many...have so much to lose. The oil driven world is a system of haves and have nots. The haves control the limited resource called oil. With it...they control the world. They will not relinquish that control without a fight. You can and should expect to hear all kinds of rhetoric about the impossibilities of hydrogen. I can see you've been fighting through them to seek the truth...and you should. The truth will set us all free from the bonds of oil. Enough hydrogen is already produced today...just for the purposes of making gasoline...to fuel 100,000,000 fuel cell vehicles. Stop making gasoline and 100,000,000 FCV's are driving clean. Total hydrogen production today per Air Products website FAQ is sufficient to fuel 250,000,000 FCV's. We can make hydrogen today pollution free from natural gas. That hydrogen would run in pollution free automobiles. Even when you factor in the greenhouse gas CO2...hydrogen from natural gas run through an FCV is still superior on a wells to wheels basis over a gasoline internal combustion engine. But of course with hydrogen...we have a choice. We can choose to not only produce it free from pollution and provide motive power free from pollution...we can derive hydrogen from water and also be greenhouse gas free. Energy Conversion Devices even recently got a $900,000 payment from Excel Energy to prove out it's methodology to derive hydrogen from natural gas without C02. Whether the technology is fuel cells, steam, biomass, or solar - venture capitalists are accelerating the rate of discovery around the globe. A privately funded Swedish lab diligently researching an "ultragreen" steam engine took a laudable step earlier this year when they sought collaboration with a www. community of inquisitive steam engine enthusiasts and research scientists, a win-win for us all. If history is a reliable predictor, The Big Two will not be competing with Japan. Which is just one more reason to put our heads together. More reasons: reduce the incidence of specific diseases through emissions reduction (MIT news office 9/9/2005) maintain auto manufacturing as part of the US GDP Singularity in use and diversity in source! That is how you keep prices down (competition). Now which energy or energy carrier is best for the singular used energy? Both hydrogen and electricity have problems but I'd say hydrogen is closer to the finish line. Forget about the CO2 for a minute and just consider the system wide efficiencies of doing things this way and you start to wonder how primative we will all look in 20-30 years. Two 350 PSI hydrogen tanks - I'm not looking forward to any crashes this thing has. Plus - where's all this hydrogen coming from? I think we need to get real - we need either less cars, or fully electric cars with power coming from more environmentally sound generators - like wind or nuclear fusion. In second place, with electricity from nuclear fission and in definitely last place electricity from our current caveman technologies. And even if we go hydrogen instead of electric cars - we still need to create the hydrogen in a clean way. I'd buy one tomorrow with the HES if available. When you survive a hurricane's aftermath living on 100 mile round trips to buy gas for generators, this package looks very nice. BTW I love it when people tell me something can't be done. I continuously have to laugh at the guy who in 1987 told me with straight face that computers could never exceed 33 MHz because that was the fastest speed you could ever operate the bus. I hope he's still getting good "mileage" out of his 486/33. In 1973 we were also told that cars that regularly got 20 mpg would never accelerate faster than a VW Bug. My 1993 Civic got 40 mpg and was a great performer. As far as breakthroughs in H2 production, some company was working on a way to use bacteria to do it? Plants do it pretty effectively during photosynthesis, so some nice green goo in big fields might produce H2 in usable quantities cheaply. You guys are really dreamers. Do you really think you will produce cheap hidrogen in the backyard? The same corporations that control the oil now will control the hydrogen in the future. We are just little ants that are brainwashed to consume and consume and consume. Just read here: http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/ and get serious about all this mambo jambo stuff with hydrogen and so on. Yeah it will be nice to have it but until mass production its still a long way and its all about profit. If the corporations can profit from this we will have it if not we will have to buy some bike's. The two biggest problems with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at this point as far as I can tell is that 1) they cost$1 million and up at this point, which few can afford and 2) Fuel cells still depend on platinum, and the world supply of platinum is not enough to replace the fleet.

Solve those two problems and you're a lot closer to making FCV a reality.

And of course, there is a problem of the imminent North American peak in natural gas production. The price of natural gas has quadrupled in the last few years, shutting down fertilizer production left and right. There's tons of natural gas in the world (Iran for example) but shipping it is very tricky.

For those individual who live outside of the city restrictions, one can buy/build their own hydrogen cracking plant and run it off the household water and solar powered. Excluding Honda's home fueling station, there is one other non-petrolium based hydrogen, below the earth's crust. See:
http://www.californiasolarcenter.org/solareclips/2002.05/20020514-8.html

Of course, the question is if those who depend on tax dollars generated at the pump, will allow individuals to skate on paying taxes. Not enough revenue means budgets get cut and projects get deleted. So when the pundents poopoo hydrogen based economy, one has to ask if it's technical or political.

The zinc fuel cell cycle has already solved all the problems h2 is struggling with. Zinc is roughly 4200 times denser than h2 and has greater energy density than gasoline. The "exhaust" is solid zinc oxide. An automated fuel cell swapping system has been developed that only takes 8 minutes. The swapping system gets around the problem of battery replacement as the vehicle ages because you only rent a power pack for a short time. Zinc's biggest problem is political. It cannot be made from fossil fuels so our bought off politicians ignore its many advantages.

You guys listen to too many naysayers on Coast to Coast. You should pay more attention to the rest of the story George, Art, and Ian are encouraging. The world is owned by banks and oil companies who seriously want to murder 5.5 billion of us, including one (or more) leader of a certain democratic nation. They keep us from believing that there are alternatives and that a hydrogen economy is viable. The fact is that there already ARE people splitting hydrogen in their back yards with solar cells and using that hydrogen in a metal halide (read: safe) storage medium to power their cars. Someone did it to a corvette just to show that you didn't neet a teeny engine to be efficient. The first-cost is not cheap, but it isn't a million bucks neither.

The value of this new Honda car isn't that it in itself is sustainable, or cheap, or practical. The value is that it is a step forward. We cannot change to an H² economy without steps like this. It might be more damaging to the environment now. But don't be too short sighted. Greater demand for hydrogen will encourage more investment in new technology.

Plus, this is only a concept.

Neither corporations nor governments gave hydrogen the characteristics that make it expensive, inefficient, bulky and dangerous to use. It's just the nature of the beast.

Practical electrolysis means throwing at least 40% of input energy away in useless heat and it's expensive to operate and maintain bulk electrolyzers. The resulting hydrogen will always be less efficient and more costly to use than the electricity from which it was made.

The common perception of fuel cell efficiency is an urban legend. The only fuel cell practical for use in a vehicle is the PEM fuel cell. If anyone can provide information on a PEM fuel cell that renders better than a one to three ratio of electricity to heat (25% electrical efficiency) under normal FCV operating conditions, PLEASE DO!!

The problem is that we dont have any real resource to replace the oil. With so many things that depend on oil right now there is no real resource to replace it. Yeah we will drive hydrogen cars but maybe just a few of us who cand afford one. The price for a car like this will be huge because the production cost is not low like it is now on oil based cars. Yes i agree that maybe you can build youself a hydrogen engine (not sure because i am not a scientist) but how many people know how to do that? We should think that no material resource (like platinium) is not inifinte. So as soon as people plunge into hydrogen cars we will face a lack of platinium in the world. So get serious, these guys just want to get a slice of the future car market (if it will be one) so they all start building alternative cars even if they dont know for sure if they dig in the right direction. Why dont Honda guys tell us, Hey guys dont buy a damn oil based machine because you will end up growing flowers in it soon because the oil comes to an end :)? Because they just want to sell, and they found the right people, you who just wants to buy a slice from the future :)

Don W. is getting to the point I've been wanting to make to all those that believe it's the corporation and government. There is no efficiency gain from taking solar electricity and electrolyzing water to make hydrogen. You might as well just put big batteries in the car and plug in your 12V solar panel directly to the battery - that would be probably the most efficient way.

Unless someone finds a way to get more energy from burning hydrogen than producing it - OR - we find a large deposit under the Earth's crust (which I really dislike the idea of, and only the evil oil companies have the money and expertise to obtain it...), the hydrogen based economy is kind of backwards. Do you want more coal burning plants? how about more nuclear plants? Just to be used for obtaining hydrogen from water?! What a waste of electricity ... just run the cars off electricity then!

Eitherway - I like the concept car, I like the idea, it's a short term solution to some problems, and of course it'd be coming from Honda.

Where are the North American manufacturers? What have the made and what concept cars do they have?

Re: Hydrogen

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.09/china.html

Hydrogen will be a by-product of what looks like a very promising energy alternative (nuclear using a pebble-bed reactor). Two problems solved!

Re: how about more nuclear plants?

www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.09/china.html

Seems fairly safe, from the article:

In a conventional reactor emergency, you have only seconds to make the right decision," Zhang notes. "With HTR-10, it's days, even weeks - as much time as we could ever need to fix a problem."

This unusual margin of safety isn't merely theoretical. INET's engineers have already done what would be unthinkable in a conventional reactor: switched off HTR-10's helium coolant and let the reactor cool down all by itself

In a world with cheap electricity (be it from solar, wind, nuclear, etc.), then hydrogen is not useful as an energy source, but an energy distribution mechanism. Even if it is lossy to crack the water, it's still a win because the energy density of the hydrogen is much higher than batteries. Lugging around huge batteries is completely inefficient. Not to mention an environmental disaster.

The real value of gasoline is it's energy density. It has a density of 31 MJ/l. Nothing else comes even close. Pound for pound it has more explosive power than dynamite. Hydrogen can get around 10MJ/l. Good NiMH batteries get around 220kJ/kg which explains why pure electric cars are DOA.

Distributed gas to hydrogen generation sounds to me like a bad idea because it doesn't exploit any new energy sources and we've just moved the pollution problem from our cars to our houses.

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