Honda Debuts Production Version of 2011 CR-Z Sport Hybrid Coupe
Ford to Invest Additional $450M in Michigan for Hybrid and Plug-in Vehicle Production; Battery System Design and Development to Be In-House Core Competency

Honda CEO: Honda Studying Battery Electric Commuter Car, But Holds Fuel Cell Vehicle as the “Ultimate Eco-car”

In his remarks prior to the unveiling of the new CR-Z hybrid (earlier post), Honda Motor President and CEO Takanobu Ito said that the company has taken up the challenge to reduce CO2 emissions through advancing various electromotive technologies.

We understand electric vehicle technology as well as anyone,” Ito said, referencing the development of the EV Plus electric vehicle in the 1990s and its leasing to individual customers in California. Honda is currently conducting research on a short-distance battery electric vehicle as a “city commuter car.” (Earlier post.)

Battery technology continues to be a barrier to mass market use. But we’re studying the US market with a view to introducing this commuter car in the future.

We continue to believe that a fuel cell electric vehicle is the ultimate solution to reduce CO2 emissions. A fuel cell car is a full electric vehicle...The development cost must come down and there must be a major expansion of the hydrogen fueling infrastructure. But make no mistake. As a vehicle, the Honda FCX Clarity [earlier post] is ready now. Further, Honda is unique in making long-term investments to develop the refueling infrastructure for alternative fuel vehicles.

This month, we will begin operation of a next-generation solar hydrogen station at our Los Angeles R&D center. This compact system was designed for daily home refueling of a fuel cell electric vehicle. Honda engineers were able to eliminate the compressor entirely to greatly reduce the size of the system to fit in the user’s garage. The potential of a solar hydrogen station is one reason a fuel cell electric vehicle is the ultimate eco-car—the bast path to reduce CO2.

But in the near term, the most important approach to cut CO2 emissions is expanding the use of hybrid electric vehicles. To increase the opportunity for more customers to choose a hybrid, we must be able to meet different needs with family, luxury and sporty hybrid vehicles. We will apply hybrid systems which are compact, lightweight and affordable to a wider range of products in the near future.

—President Ito

President Ito, an engineer by training, worked on developing the chassis for the first-generation Honda CRX in the early 1980s. His career at Honda has included being appointed Executive Vice President, Honda R&D Americas, Inc. in 1998, and Managing Director of Honda R&D Co., Ltd. in 2000. He was working in Ohio 10 years ago on the development of the first-generation Acura MDX.

Times have changed, but the idea of developing vehicles that are both fun to drive and fuel efficient is alive and well.

—President Ito

Comments

sulleny

Honda studies EVs while real players are BUILDING them. Tesla started it all. GM owns the franchise for now. Japan hangs back unwilling to lead. Which is fine because electrification has rejuvenated American manufacturing.

Next to de-centralize residential electric demand on the grid.

Mark_BC

I have always been skeptical of hydrogen because of its inherently poor economics and energy fundamentals. But this rooftop solar H2 generator idea sounds interesting because PV panels only get like 15% efficiency anyways, if they can do better with H2 production then this may actually work, provided then can get a FCV to market for less than $500,000.....

I think we need to see more info about how such a solar-hydrogen system would actually work, rather than taking their word for it.

Will S

Honda hung on to their IMA system (inferior to Toyota's HSD) hoping that hydrogen would obviate PHEVs, HEV, and BEVs. That hasn't happened, so they are trying to put their best face on a struggling strategy, previously decrying the movement by other manufacturers in the PHEV direction. Indeed, hydrogen generation via electrolysis and recombination in fuel cells is a grossly inefficient energy conversion process, so it's future is questionable, even with replacement of platinum as a critical material.

My IMA drive in my 2000 Insight is still going strong, so I can't complain about Honda engineering and workmanship.

Ben

I would not say IMA is inferior: for long distance driving it has superior efficiency to Toyota's synergy drive.

3PeaceSweet

Solar hydrogen station I assume is PV -> electrolysis to H2 which is going to be the most expensive way to make H2, an order of magnitude more than steam reforming natural gas.

Much better to use PV to generate electricity during the day when it is required and then buy electricity overnight from the grid to recharge the battery or make hydrogen (3x less efficient) Or even use the PV to displace natural gas used in peaking plants and steam reform the saved natural gas.

I think the IMA is a clever bit of engineering and should have been available as an option in far more models than it was.

Wind/hydro/nuclear charged PHEV's would be a better long term choice than solar hydrogen. Liquid fuels would still be available for long range trips, but the battery range would cover 30-80% of miles driven depending on size and driving patterns.

Will S

I would not say IMA is inferior: for long distance driving it has superior efficiency to Toyota's synergy drive.

1. Please elucidate in engineering terms.

2. What percentage of driving miles would you consider to be long distance?

SJC

Honda has done an amazing design job on the Clarity fuel cell. I have my doubts about 10,000 psi hydrogen storage. We are seeing evolutions from the hybrid to the plug hybrid and beyond, these are all good developments. I too think that the IMA is a good design, very practical and cost effective.

Roger Pham

Anyone care to comment on this quote from the article:
"Honda engineers were able to eliminate the compressor entirely to greatly reduce the size of the system to fit in the user’s garage."
By this, I suppose that electrolyzer is itself capable of producing the thousands of psi of pressure directly into the storage tank. This can greatly reduce the cost associated with H2 production at home, since the high-pressure compressor itself cost thousands of dollars, noisy, and must be serviced and replaced at intervals.

Now, let's discuss the efficiency of home H2 generation and direct use.
A modern, high-efficiency electrolyzer can get near 80% efficiency. The Honda FCX Clarity is capable of above 60% efficiency tank-to-wheel. Thus, from the PV-panel-to-wheel efficiency would result in ~50% efficiency.

A PV panel used to charge a bank of stationary lead-acid battery would result in 80% efficiency. This battery is then used to charge a lithium car battery at 90% efficiency, then a BEV is generally 75% efficient battery to wheel. So,0.8 x 0.9 x 0.75= 0.54, or 54% efficiency from PV-panel-to-wheel. If you don't want to store day-time electricity from your PV panels in batteries, but sell it back to the grid, and use the grid electricity to charge your battery at night, then you must redo the math: 90% efficiency from power plants to the grid, then 90% efficiency in charging your car's lithium battery, then 75% efficiency battery to wheel, so: .9 x .9 x .75= .6, or 60%. This is not 3x the efficiency of the BEV or PHEV vs FCV as someone has suggested in earlier posting.

Honda have done their math correctly when they said: "The potential of a solar hydrogen station is one reason a fuel cell electric vehicle is the ultimate eco-car—the best path to reduce CO2."

SJC

Roger,

Well articulated as always. People may just like the idea of running their car using energy from solar panels. That concept may appeal to more people than one might think.

arnold

will the "all electric machine" - -honda FC" have regenerative braking as an efficiency measure? If so will that not be stored in a battery?

The same could store directly from any electrtic supply - renewable wind etc fom a primary source.
-That makes sense.

Arne

Ben,

I would not say IMA is inferior: for long distance driving it has superior efficiency to Toyota's synergy drive.

How do you know that? Show me the data you based that assumption on.

I think you are guessing it, because in the HSD the power partly follows an indirect path (generator-electronics-motor) to the wheels. But it is only a part, the rest flows through the planetary gears, which are more efficient than a belt-type variable gearbox as used with the IMA, which has to transfer ALL power. So it all depends on the fraction of power that flows indirectly.

Read this explanation of the HSD to better understand why it is not so simple to make such a statement.

Arne

I think a new generation of automotive engineers has to emerge to get beyond the orthodoxy that cars should run on some substance available only at designated refuelling areas.

sulleny

Anne - I think you may be right. Or at least the engineers should consider a path to a more ubiquitous source of energy. Hmmm... way down on the quantum scale we have certain effects capturing fluctuation in the vacuum. Orthodoxy dies hard.

Lucas

PV will not ever be practical in some parts of the US unless the climate changes.

Where I live, in western Wyoming, we get about 60 sunny days a year. Folks out in Washington and Oregon don't do that well.

I wouldn't even waste my time thinking about solar.

Will S

Lucas, I power my house with PV and heat it (in part) with passive solar, so solar is very practical in wide areas of the US.

Mark_BC

"PV will not ever be practical in some parts of the US unless the climate changes."

That is true where I live, Vancouver, for half the year. There is not enough sunshine to make enough H2 to drive your car. In summer it's great but in winter you'd have millions of cars all lining up at a H2 filling station, so the problem hasn't gone away. But in California it would work fine -- produce enough H2 to last a week in case you get bad weather, but you can't produce and store enough H2 to last 5 months thru the winter.

wintermane2000

Mnay people make the mistake of thinking batteries and fuel cells both have the same capcity to get cheaper due to mass production. Batteries have already gone through a huge cost reduction due to mass production. Fuel cells have never been mass produced at all.

vbstenswick

I do not know what the cost of a FCV will be, but Stanford did a study on the operating cost of driving a FCV, using a best case, worst case for various factors using wind generated electricity to produce the hydrogen via electrolysis, and they came up with a cost of driving a FCV of the equivalent of gasoline being between $1.20 and $3.20 per gallon. If the cost of the FCV becomes reasonable, it will put the oil companies in a bad position. As for other green technologies not related to cars, I heat my house with a geothermal heat pump and buy only green electricity from our local "WindSource" program, and my heating bills are considerably less than they would be for a comparable house with the best furnace available.

Arne

Lucas,

First of all forget about the myth that solar panels only produce energy when the sun shines.

Secondly 'practical' in this context means 'economical'. The price of pv is falling rapidly. You can now buy panels below $2 per Watt. It is not unthinkable that two decades from now a solar roof is not much more expensive than a shingled roof, and you can have any energy it produces almost for free.

Nobody will let a chance of free energy go by, even if it is a source that is only available during the sunny spring and summer months. Never say never.

SJC

If the FCV is fueled at home, when the sun is not shining during the day for PV, the grid can be used at night to create the H2. The whole high pressure storage could be replaced with an adsorber in the tanks to lower the pressure required.

Wintermane makes a good point, when you look at the cost curves of batteries versus fuel cells, the fuel cells have a ways to go yet. It is the balance of system total package that matters in the car. The one advantage to a FCV is quick refills.

Roger Pham

Thanks, SJC for the support, and thanks Anne for the insight into PV panels.
The prices of fossil fuel can only go up while the prices of PV panels can only go down. The time will come when it will be more economical to build a new house (in certain regions) with embedded solar panel on the south-facing roof. If so, perhaps the local building code will require that solar PV panels to be built-in to all south-facing roofs for new construction. It will be much cheaper to build a new house with solar PV panels embedded and all the wirings then to retrofit a house later on. This will help conserve fossil fuel used for electrical generation in sunny regions, so that not-so-sunny regions can use fossil fuel at more affordable prices.
The reserves of fossil fuel are finite so we must conserve as much as possible.

Henry Gibson

Every body who reads this site and believes that solar energy can power their car should first buy and install a hundred watt solar cell panel and keep track of the energy produced by it. Then they should keep track of all of the fuel that they use for their car in a year. Then they should keep track of all of the electricity that they use every year, and then they should account for all of the natural gas that they use or any other fuel.

They will discovery that powering a full electric or plug-in-hybrid car from the grid is very cost effective compared to solar. The batteries in an electric car are expensive right now so it would be cheaper to buy the cheapest operating junk car and buy all the fuel it needs.

The conversion of solar cell electricity to hydrogen to use in a fuel cell is very expensive and inefficient. Good flywheels can be made for high efficiency storage of electricity until it can be put into vehicle batteries, but it is best to just put it into the grid.

Cogeneration at home is now the easiest and most cost effective way for a person with natural gas supplies to reduce his use of fossil fuels. Eventually Climate Energy systems will be more widely available or Honda will use othe US and UK partners for their cogeneration systems with now over 50,000 installed units. Where available, the use of these units is the easiest and cheapest way of reducing CO2 release.

As a check on how much energy a person realy uses, the entire energy consumption of the country where the person lives should be divided by the population for a first estimate. And then the energy inputs of all net imports into the country must be considered. ..HG..

SJC

Yeah, but you do not count the cool factor :) People buy leather seat, sunroof and other features they enjoy and do not think of payback..other than the pleasure that they derive.

A 10 foot by 20 foot array of PV will generate 10 kWh of electricity per day and allow an EV to travel 40-50 miles. Think of cruising along the highway with the top down on a spring day in a quiet EV powered by the sun...way kewl.

Roger Pham

@Henry,
You may think that solar PV is not cost-effective now, but that will subjected to change quickly in the near future. An investment in solar PV today will be an insurance against inflation of fossil-fuel energy cost in the future, for the life of the solar PV investment, which may last up to 30 years.

But more importantly, how can you put a price on having a clean conscience, a clean environment and a sustainable energy policy?

Arne

Henry,

The batteries in an electric car are expensive right now so it would be cheaper to buy the cheapest operating junk car and buy all the fuel it needs.

The cheapest is to sell all your stuff and live in a cardboard box under a bridge.

Progress is never free.

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