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Honda Introduces Experimental Home Energy Station IV

Honda has begun using the Home Energy Station (HES) IV at its Honda R&D Americas, Inc. facility in Torrance, California. This fourth-generation experimental unit is designed to provide fuel for a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle, as well as heat and electricity for a home.

HES IV and FCX Clarity.

The new system is more compact and efficient, with a lower operating cost than previous models. (Earlier post.) The announcement coincides with the world debut of the all-new FCX Clarity hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Honda’s Home Energy Station technology is designed to facilitate the broader adoption of zero-emissions fuel cell vehicles, like the FCX Clarity, by developing a home refueling solution that makes efficient use of a home’s existing natural gas supply for production of hydrogen, while providing heat and electricity to an average-size home.

Compared to the average US consumer’s home with grid-supplied electricity and a gasoline-powered car, a home using Home Energy Station IV to help produce heat and electricity and also to refuel an FCX Clarity can reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 30% and energy costs by an estimated 50%, according to Honda.

Working with technology partner, Plug Power, Inc., Honda began operation of a Home Energy Station in October, 2003. Home Energy Station IV represents the latest evolution of the technology with a 70% reduction in size compared to the first unit, making it even more suitable for household installation. By combining gas purification and power generation components, overall size reduction and efficiency gains are achieved, while enabling it to switch from hydrogen refining to power generation when needed.



How is it "designed to facilitate the broader adoption of zero-emissions fuel cell vehicles" if it runs on natural gas?

[scratches head]


The cars themselves emit nothing on the road. This can help local air quality, especially in city centers, as these things will be dispersed around the 'burbs. The appliance itself is probably very clean-burning, and can be run at night, so it's not adding anything to the atmosphere when peak pollutant concentrations are reached during rush hour.

One way in which some of the cost savings may be artificial, though, is the fact that the pump price of gasoline contains a fair amount of tax aimed at funding roads. If enough people use fuels on which road tax has not been paid, government revenues will suffer, and the state will eventually have to extract the money at some other point -- raising general taxes, imposing higher sales taxes on cars or yearly registration fees, highway tolls, city-center congestion charges, something.

One option that would most closely mimic our current policy would be to have a meter record how much hydrogen is dispensed each month (or quarter -- whatever) from this appliance into a vehicle. One would then pay a per-kg charge to the government for using hydrogen as a road fuel, and this would be on top of the cost one pays for the natural gas that is fed into this machine. We already use house-side meters for electricity, water and natural gas utilities, so this sort of thing should clearly be workable if we wanted it.



I agree. As the trend to filling up at home (with natural gas, H2, electrons or whatever) takes hold, government will have to deal with the road tax issue.

Mikael Johansson

But if the price of natural gas will rise as much as the gasoline price will rise after peak oil, what´s the point.


These economic issues while iportan also withimplications as to the melding of economic projections with implementation timeframes and hence influence the feasibility and rate of intrduction.
I wonder If Greencarongres site could run a three theaded discussion, say, tech,eecoomic and concerns stream.
Good to see pogress on this part of the Jigsaw Puzzle
I will be interesed to see the discusions raised to the next level analysis of technologies relative to the real 0 fossil fuel or carbon nuetral objective.
By seperating the threads we could save some of us being sidetracked and confused.

The Impoosible we can do today, Miracles take a little longer.

Harvey D

Taxation is not a major problem, may it be gasolene, diesel, NG, electricity, property etc. However, the perception of being overtaxed or unfairly taxed has to be addressed.

OTOH affordable NG availability may soon be a major problem. Peak (USA) NG happened many years ago. It will be difficult to tax what is no longer available.

A carbon tax may be more acceptable and appropriate in the future. It could replace many of the existing taxes. $100/tonne may be a good starting point. It would be a smart way to favour/promote the production of cleaner energies and the use of cleaner vehicles.


@stomy, mikael:
This is a way to get hydrogen-powered vehicles onto the road. You can't buy one if there's nowhere to fill up, and nobody is going to put a hydrogen pump in at the corner gas station if there aren't already hydrogen vehicles on the road. And nobody will buy a fuel cell car if there isn't a hydrogen station on the corner, unless they can make their own. It reminds me a lot of Honda's teaming with FuelMaker to offer a device that can refuel their compressed natural gas cars at home; they suffer from the same chicken-and-egg problem when trying to get a market established and functioning between alternative fueled vehicles and fueling stations to service them.

It's not the end-solution, it's just a bridge. This will be super-clean with respect to air pollution other than CO2, uses a 'home-grown' fuel, and should be at least moderately better than a regular vehicle on CO2 intensity. The setup also produces useful coproducts (heat/electricity) and is another way to encourage installation of the Home Energy Stations, which was a nifty way to heat and provide electricity to a home even before they developed a synergy with the FCX. In the long run, other hydrogen sources will have to be developed, but only if there is mass demand for hydrogen.


I like the idea of having a 'home-source' fueling option as it is likely to lessen the transition to a widespread infrastructrue, at least somewhat.
Though, along with the other idealists, I am disappointed that natural gas is the main energy conveyance - being a carbon-based energy form.
I suppose that in a big-picture view, we have the source, distributor, and end-user. I would argue that getting widepsread acceptance at the end-user stage of a zero-emission solution is far more difficult that at any other stage - and therefore widespread acceptance of this is probably a huge step towards sustainable emissions and fuel-source security.
Perhaps this fuelling solution could be part of a household redundancy system when added to an electrolysed water-hydrogen source - powered of course by electricity from a renewable, carbon-neutral source and distribution system (however picky we want to be on those definitions).
With all other technical considerations overcome, on a basic economic footing only - perhaps this system could be widespread in the 2012 to 2015 timeframe?


It is much easier and cheaper to produce bio-gas than to produce liquid biofuels (the poorest communities in the world make most use of it). Since in the west, there is a pipeline-distribution of natural gas to every little town, it is very easy to produce bio-gas anywhere, and deliver it to the end-user anywhere else.
If one can drive a car by this fuel, it's carbon-neutral. Since most of the 'lost' energy in the reforming process is used in the house for heating, the efficiency is much higher than in a methane-powerd ICE.
Since it costs only a few hundred dollars to buy your own fermentation tank, you can easily make your methane at home.
Great invention.


Exactly right Alain,

Bio-gas powered fuel cell generated hydrogen would be closer to optimum. The potential at a condominium like community where start-up costs can be spread out and economies of scale realized would be an excellent place to start. As more waste & sewage is locally treated and converted to useful products the savings in infrastructure for piping and treatment, plus the potential for less combined sewer overflow pollution would be fantastic.

There would probably need to be increased registration fees. I would hope that these would be tied to annual miles driven -- that would hopefully encourage more bike, pedestrian, and mass transit travel.

fred schumacher

I'm sorry, but I can't get excited about this idea. It looks like it adds a lot of complexity and conversion losses to an already efficient system. Natural gas is an excellent heating fuel. My furnace operates at 95% efficiency. Why convert natural gas into hydrogen to operate a complex, expensive, heavy fuel-cell vehicle, when if you want to use it as an auto fuel, just use it directly?

Look at the results of the Bibendum Challenge listed elsewhere on the GCC website. A modified low-cost Eurosedan, the Renault Logan Eco2, just set a record for lowest CO2 output in the trials. It beat the hybrids and fuel cell cars entered. That's doable technology using existing infrastructure.


There have recently been several high-profile projects that demonstrate the progress being made by the hydrogen community. At the National Hydrogen Association, we’re able to see first-hand the strides being made by a diverse group of organizations to make the hydrogen economy a reality.

Honda, for one, has several incredibly promising developments in the works for using fuel cell technologies. Honda’s progress developing it’s fuel cell car and home fueling center provides tangible ways that consumers can benefit directly from hydrogen technologies. The fact that the Home Energy Station provides a two-in-one solution providing both a fueling and a home energy solution gives additional opportunities for home owners to reduce their carbon footprint.

That’s especially important, considering that Plug Power and Ballard Power Systems recently released a report proving that fuel cell applications can reduce green house gases with today’s hydrogen technologies and production systems. As new systems are developed and production from renewable resources evolves, we can anticipate these environmental findings will improve.

In addition to the developments made with the Home Energy Station, Honda announced it will begin leasing the FCX Clarity in Summer 2008. Honda executives allowed the editor for Jalopnik to test drive. The FCX Clarity has the capacity to go 270 miles without refueling and emits only water.

Collectively, the automotive industry is making steady progress developing fuel cell vehicles to resolve our energy needs and reduce carbon emissions to improve our environmental outlook. General Motors and BMW have also made progress in developing hydrogen vehicles and each of their models will soon be in the hands of the public.

lenard c.

I do beleive hydrogen production and uses are in the future, but at what cost. This home fueling station is a step in the right direction. But don't forget the potential customers that don't have natural gas available at home. Where can a person purchase a fueling station for these locations or at least the plans to build one? One cannot start without a starting line. There are many rural locations that hydrogen generated through solar power would be an ideal solution. Unless water goes to $4.00 a gal.

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