Honda Unveils Production Fuel Cell Vehicle: FCX Clarity
14 November 2007
by Jack Rosebro
|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.
|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.
So, this model is good enough for Lithium Ion batteries but the Prius is not? I'm confused.
Posted by: Richard | 14 November 2007 at 03:52 PM
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.
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.
Posted by: Roger Pham | 14 November 2007 at 04:14 PM
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.
Posted by: NBK-Boston | 14 November 2007 at 04:14 PM
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.
Posted by: Ender | 14 November 2007 at 04:22 PM
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?
Posted by: Nick | 14 November 2007 at 04:24 PM
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.
Posted by: Lad | 14 November 2007 at 06:53 PM
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.)
Posted by: Lou Grinzo | 14 November 2007 at 07:20 PM
$600/month is quite affordable.
Posted by: yesplease | 14 November 2007 at 07:34 PM
EVs rool! Foll cells drool!
Posted by: EV Drone | 14 November 2007 at 07:42 PM
EVs rool! Fool cells drool!
Posted by: EV Drone | 14 November 2007 at 07:42 PM
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?
Posted by: philmcneal | 14 November 2007 at 08:16 PM
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.
Posted by: philmcneal | 14 November 2007 at 08:34 PM
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.
Posted by: Roger Pham | 14 November 2007 at 09:18 PM
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.
Posted by: Andrey | 14 November 2007 at 10:15 PM
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.
Posted by: George | 14 November 2007 at 10:43 PM
Emotion doesn't mean much if the costs of the technology put in to this thing are not within reach of, say, the buyer of an Accord. How much would this car cost to buy, not lease? As improved as this fuel cell is, I'm sure it still uses platinum, which is a limited resource in itself.
Yes, we're skeptical. And rightly so. Unless costs come down dramatically, it'll go nowhere.
Posted by: Cervus | 15 November 2007 at 12:23 AM
Honda appears to lead the race on fuel cell cars. I can’t wait to hear more about the home refueling station they also develop for their FCX. Can they make an affordable (less than $10000) 5000 psi home hydrogen station? If so then hydrogen cars would start selling on commercial terms some 5 years from now and not 10-15 years from now I think.
I still don’t understand why they use a 100000 W fuel cell and a small lithium battery. Why not a 33000 W fuel cell and a 16 kWh lithium battery? You would get a PHEV with a fuel cell range extender. It should have the same acceleration as the current model and it should be able to do 80 mph with the 33kW at the highway. The costs would probably do gown from this downsizing because the fuel cell is more expensive still than the battery.
Posted by: Henrik | 15 November 2007 at 01:32 AM
Just read this at Financial Times. Honda considered selling the FCX for $103000. If this is the current commercial selling price then I am even more certain that a reconfiguration into a PHEV with a fuel cell range extender will make a better car at a much lower price. With this price the 100kW fuel cell can’t be long from costing about $70000. Reduce it to 33kW and it will cost about $20000. Add this 16kWh battery and it cost about $15000. In other words, the price of this car made as a PHEV FCX is $68.000. By 2013 they should be able to make such a configuration for about $45000 in volume production (minimum 50000 per year). It will sell not because it is cheap but because it is novel, clean and expensive and other people knows it so the bragging power is enormous. It will probably even sell for sound economic reasons as well to taxi fleet owners because of huge fuel savings.
Posted by: Henrik | 15 November 2007 at 02:21 AM
I have little faith in the claims about FCX Clarity: 1.5 better fuel economy compared with gasoline electric hybrid, that cannot be true. Honda is probably silent about the huge energy loss during conversion of gasoline (or other type of fuel) into H2. The true fuel economy is probably much less compared with an advanced gasoline/hybrid car that has an electric engine and electric generator. A gasoline/electric-engine hybrid can have a range of over 1000 miles, easily.
Honda got rid of their Honda Insight and replaced it by this lame inefficient hydrogen fueled "FCX Clarity"; this is the opposite of clarity.
Posted by: koen | 15 November 2007 at 05:33 AM
Better brace yourself for the imminent rain of hydrogen bashing! The FCV's keep getting better and better, and people here still don't want to face it. Toyota just ran a Highlander 340 miles on one fill of H2 in Northern Canada, GM has the Project Driveway real-world testing going on as we speak. Now Honda with this announcement... With as forward thinking as members of this group would like to appear, the Hydrogen paranoia sure sets us backwards.
Posted by: Schmeltz | 15 November 2007 at 06:02 AM
$600/month for the FCX? Out of reach!
$100,000 for the Tesla? BEVs rock!
EVs rool! Fool cells drool!
Posted by: EV Drone | 15 November 2007 at 06:43 AM
"EVs rool! Fool Cells drool"
Man, that's clever! Umm, hate to point this out, but Fuel Cell Vehicles technically ARE E.V.'s...you know that, right?
Posted by: Schmeltz | 15 November 2007 at 06:54 AM
Granted, CARB's mission was originally aimed at controlling local air pollutants, and not GHGs, but they have recently taken an interest in that topic as well. Just visit their website. In any event, my remarks earlier about GHGs apply equally strongly to their original mission of reducing PM, NOx, SOx and other such pollutants.
After a brief search, I have not found support for your proposition that CARB mandated specific technologies (such as a three-way catalytic converters, or a certain kind of such converters) in their rulemaking. While they may have set standards in such a way as to make it improbable that anyone would attain them without, at minimum, a three-way catalytic converter, I didn't see any command-and-control language dictating specific technological solutions.
Instead, I found this little gem in the California Health and Safety Code:
43011. (a) The state board shall establish criteria for the evaluation of the effectiveness of motor vehicle pollution control devices. After the establishment of such criteria, the state board shall evaluate motor vehicle pollution control devices which have been submitted to it for testing.
(b) The criteria established by the state board pursuant to subdivision (a) shall include, but need not be limited to:
(1) Provisions for the testing of vehicles on which a device is installed, when an engineering evaluation of the device indicates such testing is warranted.
(2) A requirement that independent test data be supplied to the state board for each device it is requested to test.
If you read through all that, it basically says "set some standards, let manufacturers submit vehicles designed to meet those standards, and test them independently to see if they work."
That's what I'm talking about.
Posted by: NBK-Boston | 15 November 2007 at 07:57 AM
if i'm refueling my car using hydrogen produced at my house from natural gas, why not simplify the process and just use a fuel cell that runs on natural gas or (horror of horrors) an energy dense, easily stored liquid fuel (like a diesel SOFC)?
is this what CARB really wants? to move the CO2 output from the road to my house?
Posted by: shaun | 15 November 2007 at 08:15 AM
The reason that SOFC are not used is that they are too heavy and too costly to make it into a car ever. For example Ballards fuel cell for residential use Mark 1030 cost $45000 for a 1,32kW system and it weights hundreds of pounds. Honda’s FCX is a 100 kW PEM system.
Posted by: Henrik | 15 November 2007 at 08:27 AM