## Honda to Put Hydrogen FCX Concept into Production in 3–4 Years

##### 08 January 2006
 The new production FCX will be similar to this concept version.

Honda Motor Co announced that it will begin production in Japan of its next-generation FCX hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) in three to four years, signalling rapid advancement in Honda’s fuel cell technology.

The recently introduced FCX Concept (earlier post), according to Honda President and CEO Takeo Fukui, “is very close to [that] next generation fuel cell vehicle...In fact, this fall ... we will begin limited driving opportunities with a prototype version of this vehicle.

The new FCX Concept uses a new, compact 3V System fuel cell platform that enables the lowest-floor platform in a fuel cell vehicle yet. 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).

The new stack delivers 100 kW of power, compared to the 86 kw of the 2006 FCX. The key to the fuel cell’s performance is water management; Honda’s new system takes full advantage of gravity to efficiently discharge water formed during electricity generation.

This improves performance in sub-zero temperatures, further solving the problem of cold-weather startup that has been a key obstacle to the commercialization of FCVs. With the 3V system, Honda has achieved ultra-low-temperature start-up performance on par with that of a gasoline engine.

The drivetrain uses three energy-efficient motors-one 80kW in the front and a 25kW space-efficient motor in each rear wheel. A newly developed hydrogen absorption material in the tank doubles capacity to 5 kg of hydrogen at 5000 PSI, extending cruising range to 350 miles, equivalent to that of a gasoline-engine car.

Hey hey, a fuel cell car is going into production. How can everyone keep quiet about this one? This is waaay too impressive if they can really roll out a production version of these fancy fuel cell car. And by the way, it is 70 miles per kg of hydrogen, very good figure for a hydrogen car.

So lets see how the price tag will looks like. Since everybody saying that a fuel cell car do not make any money sense.

Some questions:
1. Where and how is this car going to be refueled?
2. Where will this car be available?
3. Will this car's fuel be derived from a clean energy
source?

I applaud them for their efforts and drive.

I think this is great but the major obstacle to Hydrogen Fuel cell vehicles is not the car but the production of hydrogen. Currently, hydrogen is most commonly produced from Natural gas, coal or electrolysis. The first two produce significant amounts of CO2 and do not make it an environmentally friendly option. The latter is expensive, inefficient and if you consider well to wheel, also produces significant C02 as most of our electricity is produced using carbon based fuels. Another issue with these methods is the cost making hydrogen significantly more expensive than carbon based fuels. Even with carbon capture, the cost of producing the hydrogen makes it far more expensive than gasoline or diesel fuel.

For fuel cell vehicles to become common place, a more efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly way of producing hydrogen must be developed. As well as the infrastructure to support it's distribution. The use of next gen nuclear plants that will produce electricity and hydrogen are at least 10 years out. I also know stand alone production facilities are being developed that use solar energy and electrolysis but these are expensive, inefficient (both due to efficiency of current solar cells and electrolysis technology), do not produce enough volume for mass use, and as they are dependant on the sun not practical everywhere.

3-4 years? Wow.
I too wonder the price, anything under $150k USD would be surprising. Did the FCX concept include hydrogen regeneration via regenerative braking? Or Maybe a small capacitor array for minor regen? Honda is going to surprise a few people I think. I see them comming out with a home hydrogen system powered by electricty, from the grid or thier own honda solar cells. I bet the car will be very expensive too but between$70-100k.

It seems like it would make very little sense to produce a hydrogen vehichle that didn't incorporate the hybrid technology that's emerging. My guess is that Honda expects these vehicles will be fueled using hydrogen produced from reforming NG. Honda will also probably be trying to sell their home refueling station to individual consumers. I would expect that a lot of their initial sales will come from fleet purchases where the fueling infrastructure problem is much easier to overcome.

The dependence on fossil fuels is the big issue.  It'll take less than half as much electricity to power an electric car as to electrolyze hydrogen for this FCV, and the new fast-charge Li-ion cells kick this thing's butt for power.  The time to charge is probably as fast as a fill of hydrogen.  Cost?  The batteries are probably better there too.

Some questions:
1. Where and how is this car going to be refueled?

In all likelyhood the first few cars will used for fleet trials and feasability studies. So I would imagine that the first cars will be sold through utilities companies and energy suppliers, similar to the way many CNG cars are marketed today.

But refueling stations already exist. There's one at Munich airport, Germany, as BMW started to sell hydrogen-capable combustion engines some 10 or 15 years ago, albeit in microscopic numbers.

2. Where will this car be available?

Most likely only in areas that have or will have by then the necessary infrastructure. San Francisco / Silicon Valley and other parts of California come to mind.

3. Will this car's fuel be derived from a clean energy
source?

Hydrogen production is governed by market laws as is oil. Right now, hydrogen for cars is merely a byproduct of industrial hydrogen production and is mainly derived from natural gas or coal. As demand will increase, other sources will be tapped.

Pie in the sky.

Pie in the face, more like. (Ours.)

Engineer is right. Battery powered cars are a much better idea for several reasons:

1. Efficiency
2. Infrastructure already exists or is much easier
to modify.
3. Hydrogen generation is dirty if derived from
fossil fuels. Reforming from natural gas at point
of demand (ie. your home) offers no means to
sequester CO2.

Only problem is there's no future for big oil in a battery powered world.

I was right about the home fueling station, but it is powered by natural gas. They are cutting the fuel companies out of the picture.

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/10776681/

Fuel cells are alot closer to prduction ready then most expect. As for the fuel depending on local costs for natural gas and other feedstocks it can be cheaper then gasoline in many parts of the world. Remember many places already have 7 dollar a gallon gas due to taxes.. home hydro thus avoids alot of that.

I'm feeling pretty annoyed hearing folks trotting out the "dirty hydrogen" argument yet again....And worse yet, the "this is just another way for oil companies to screw us more" conspiracy theory.

How many people do you think will have these cars initially? And hello? How efficient is that ICE burning gasoline we have to fight everyone in the Middle East to keep flowing... Compared to fuel cells. Wheels to wells this is a serious improvement even if you're making H2 from coal.

Certainly we have to reform H2 from a better source than CNG, and yes, someday we'll need to be storing the H2 at night off big wind turbines or during the day from a home solar system... But getting a hot looking fuel cell car like this on the road and letting people reform H2 in their garages from CNG is what I would call on balance a pretty damn good start on the road to really clean, sustainable car technology.

The only sensible reason to pay high prices for a fuel cell car is to lower CO2 emissions. Right now Hydrogen is made from natural gas (methane actually), a fossil fuel. Advantage: nil. Some dreamers have thought that we will, in the future, produce hydrogen from electrolysis of water. Electricity being produced by WTGs (wind turbine generators) or nuclear power plants. The only trouble is that when you start figuring out the efficiency of such a route: electrolysis, compression (loss by heat plus much energy to run the compressor) or liquefaction (at 11°K with even more energy consumption to refrigerate at such low temperature), transport, decompression (more losses) plus the fact that hydrogen has a tendency to leak from just about any container, you end up with a global efficiency less than 5%. Yes, 5%. The morale of a little thermodynamics is that the only way to run a car with zero emissions will be to use batteries, better than now; gas stations will turn into battery-packs exchange and the batteries will be recharged using renewable ways of producing electricity, such as WTGs or solar photovoltaic panels, where the main drawback of such sources (output varies with sun or wind) plays no role whatsoever.

Excerpts from a copyrighted newsletter published December 2005 (sent to me in an email so I don't have the original source handy):

"Even the most advanced mobile fuel cell stacks are still plagued by serious durability hurdles, according to DOE hydrogen program experts meeting in Washington recently. They say the inability to completely shut down -- and thus cool -- all the cells in a stack is taking a massive toll on life cycles, and is consequently threatening developers’ ability to meet even the most basic durability goals.

"Researchers and company officials, including industry leaders GM and Honda, came together earlier this month to present findings related to fuel cell durability. The problem they framed was fundamental: the length of time a mobile fuel cell can function optimally before failure is short. Given conditions of extreme temperatures and more demanding vehicle drive cycles, the prospects of malfunctions, i.e membrane ruptures and overall failures, increase dramatically with use, according to data presented by a broad array of DOE research partners at the December conference hosted by the Knowledge Foundation.

...

"PEM fuel cells being used by the automotive industry, according to data presented at the conference, are not exceeding 600 hours of operation before membrane failure. Most cannot exceed 400 hours of operation before membrane failure (a little more than one hour a day of driving over one year)."

Note that Honda's announcement above says nothing about COMMERCIAL production; rather, they will produce this next generation PROTOTYPE in 3-4 years.

We have a publicly-accessible hydrogen pump in Washington, DC, owned and operated by Royal Dutch Shell. Currently, only GM vehicles and the appropriate agencies can use it, but it's there, along with a snazzy information office.

I foresee this vehicle being released in California and here in Washington. I've personally seen 3 hydrogen vehicles in regular traffic, and have driven the GM minivan in traffic about a year ago.

California is an ideal site for testing hydrogen vehicles. See http://www.cafcp.org/fuel-vehl_map.html for the locations of existing and planned fueling stations. There are already 8 in the greater Los Angeles area with 11 more planned. San Francisco/Sacramento has several as well. Someone driving in this part of the country would have little trouble refueling his hydrogen car.

Fuel cell researchers from Nedstack in the Netherlands
www.nedstack.nl, reported that fuelcell production costs halved every 12 months.
And that by 2010 the production cost of a 50 KW fuel cell would math that of an ICE, for a small passenger car ICE.
So, its just logical that carmakers are gearing up to that typs of motor cars, whe they can afford the development.

On durability the fuel cell stacks have been incresasing in lifespan each generation even as they have been getting cheaper and more compact per power output.

The reason the timeline recently changed then changed again is some recent news on how far the new push for fuel cells has taken us.

In short just recently they have made fuel cell stacks that last and are much cheaper then before. The result is a scramble to get in the game ahead of the stacks meeting the final goals and the fuel cell car race taking off.

THAT is why all the hoopla has started snowballing. They HAD expected it to take 30 years but everything has changed.

A zinc-air fuel cell system has already been sucessfully demonstrated in Germany and Sweden. It is more efficient than hydrogen, the "exhaust" is zinc oxide meaning zero emissions, the fuel is 4200 times denser at room temperatures than hydrogen, and does not require the use of platinum. The reason it is not being pursued is that it can't be made from oil.

I agree that batteries will eventually replace fuel cells, But I think we will see fuel cells as an in between step from ICE to pure battery powered. Mostly due to factors such as, the drive of industry behind hydrogen fuel cells; the bad reputation of pure EVs; and the cost of li-ion and up comming li-air batteries;
As for interchangable battery packs, that's highly unlikely, No one is going to convince every auto manufacturer to use the same battery pack. No one is going to want to exchange a 150Lb+ battery pack/set of batteries. Conveinient stores aren't going to stock 20+ types of battery packs just so they have one for your car; etc.

Batteries will need to become much cheaper; with higher capacity per weight, and achieve a ~6min recharge time before they are going to be able to take over. Sure you can charge overnight more slowly; but what if you have to drive from LA to New York?

Granted hydrogen via infrastructure is very inefficient for the reasons pointed out earlier; but it's energy density per weight is still better than batteries right now.

So, short term, hydrogen > batteries; long term batteries will win out I think.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Honda launch a car similar to this FCX as a premium luxury auto targeted at the environmentally consious high end consumer (Acura). As an option, buyers could select Honda's PV modules as part of a grid tied package with their home based H2 electrolysis unit. Regarding fuel cell reliability, Honda has had small fleet of fuel cell cars on the road in California for the better part of a year, the data should be out there. If any manufacturer can make this technology suceed, I'd bet on Honda.

Bring it on.. Keep the progress coming.
YES!

Bpb

Realistically speaking, wouldn't the hydrogen refuelling stations just sell you sealed canisters in exchange for your empty ones? You know, like a barbecue cylinder. They woundn't trust people to manually refuel using hydrogen. thats madness.

The respective tanks would be like 10-15 litres weighing something like 25-30 kg. They can train some young guy to carry and install the replacement cylinders for the old ladies. :)

The comments to this entry are closed.