Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles honda-clarity

Published on January 23rd, 2016 | by Steve Hanley

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Honda Announces Prices For Hydrogen Powered Clarity

January 23rd, 2016 by  
 

Good news, hydrogen fuel cell fans. You can lease a Toyota Mirai — if you live in southern California and within 25 miles of a functioning hydrogen refueling station — for just $499 a month. You can also lease a Hyundai Tucson FCEV for $499 a month. Now, Honda says its new hydrogen fuel cell powered sedan, the Clarity, will lease for “under $500 a month.” How much you want to bet that means $499?

Honda Clarity fuel cell car

Isn’t competition great? Thanks to the magic of free market forces, three manufacturers, toiling away for years on three different cars with three different fuel cells, have all decided independently of each other that the monthly lease value of their cars is identical. Talk about Adam Smith and the all powerful “invisible hand” of capitalism!

The Clarity is expected to go on sale in America before the end of 2016. Unlike its two competitors, a customer will be able to buy one instead of leasing it, once demand picks up and more hydrogen refueling stations get built. Honda hints the sale price will be right around $60,000, according to Motor Authority. Oddly enough, that is very close to what Toyota says its Mirai would cost, if you could buy one, which you can’t.

Honda says it will build three cars on the newly designed Clarity chassis — the fuel cell car first, then a plug-in hybrid later. That raises the question of whether the Accord plug-in hybrid will ever return to Honda’s product lineup. Ultimately, Honda expects to offer a battery electric car using the Clarity chassis as well. Building multiple cars on the same platform helps spread the costs of development among several models.

Conventional wisdom says manufacturers are losing their shirts on every fuel cell car built, so making the same chassis do double or triple duty makes sense. Hyundai is doing something similar with its new Ioniq. That car will offer customers a choice of hybrid or plug-in hybrid power plus a pure electric powertrain. All three versions are expected in showrooms by the end of the year.

All of this excitement does not make up for the fact that there are less than a half dozen hydrogen refueling stations in the entire country today. Imagine where Tesla would be if its SuperCharger network consisted of only 6 stations? The difference between Tesla and the makers of hydrogen fueled cars is the PHEV crowd expects taxpayers to pony up the money to build the hydrogen infrastructure. Tesla is paying the full cost of its charging network itself.

Toyota says there will be nearly 50 hydrogen fueling stations open in California soon. “I’m pretty confident by the end of the year we’re going to get to 48. It’s just growing pains,” says Jim Lentz, head of Toyota’s North American operations. What he doesn’t say is that Toyota expects California taxpayers to foot the bill. A hydrogen station costs as much as $3,000,000. Multiply that times 48 and then ask yourself if that is a wise investment for Californians. Isn’t there something else it could spend nearly $150,000,000 tax dollars on? Talk about your corporate welfare.

In the meantime, Toyota has told the few dealers who carry the Mirai to stop delivering them to customers until someone can figure out how to refuel them reliably. The hydrogen car revolution, for the moment, appears to be in full retreat.

 


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About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.



  • Ticobird

    Hydrogen fueled personal transportation vehicles are simply a non starter due to the present and future lack of fueling stations.

    • I see hydrogen as a fuel for the future, not as much in the next 20 years. Eventually we will have to go away from petroleum based fuels. A solution like Hydrogen produced during off peak hours using high temperature electrolysis at a nuclear plant might be a nice affordable and clean energy source. We need those nuclear plants built/modified in order to do this, etc.

      • super390

        There are many, many substances that one could choose to produce using excess energy from grid generation. Some years back I read a lot of posts at The Oil Drum about converting excess wind power in the Midwest to ammonia, which could later be either burned as fuel or processed as fertilizer. There’s also the zinc-air cell, which oxidizes harmless zinc paste to produce electricity, and then requires the zinc oxide to be cooked to turn it back to zinc. The cells are already in use by the US Army for portable devices, and their power to weight ratio is comparable to lithium-ion. There’s nothing special about hydrogen in this regard. No matter what you do, you need a conversion machine that only operates when excess electricity is available, which is not a very cost-efficient use of a machine.

        • Right now they do things like pump water above a hydro dam at night so they can sell the electricity during day time hours at higher rates. Doesn’t seem like the best use. Zinc Air cells have been used for ages in hearing aids, rechargeable Zinc Air are starting to show up. Yes, batteries will get better, but my point is hydrogen is a viable energy carrier for long range vehicles in the future.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Hydrogen is energy lossy. It’s a poor storage technology.

            Battery capacity is likely to keep growing, Tesla is talking 400 Wh/kg by 2020. That means that for those who really want a long range EV it should be available and affordable.

            Most people don’t really need more than a “solid” 200 mile range and access to supercharger speed recharging for long trips.

    • Jim Smith

      not to mention how inefficient they are

  • DrRoblee

    Hydrogen is the ultimate in clean air technology. The fueling issue will be surmounted as all car manufacturers are, in fact, developing the newer breakthrough systems that make it feasible. When electric came out everyone was equally sceptical. But Tesla simply made it sexy.

    The ultimate car will be hydrogen, self driving made of super lightweight Formula 1 materials that are easily customizable by each customer.

    • Jim Smith

      Hydrogen is not. Solar + Wind powering a BEV is.

    • James Rowland

      The “ultimate car” is a BEV. Hydrogen cars are already obsolete.

  • guzmana

    The amount of electricity it takes to make the hydrogen car go 50 miles can instead be used to make an electric car go 300 miles. Do you see why hydrogen is stupid?

  • One-Of-A-Kind

    Why bother write about hydrogen, when your whole goal is to just trash talk it, and then slide in some endorsements for Tesla?

    So far, Tesla had collected HUNDREDS of MILLIONS in ZEV credit sales, state subsidies, federal subsidies, as well as back door loans from the DOE after generous contributions from elon musk to the Obama camp. All of this to benefit ONE manufacturer and one type of plug. Yet, the tax dollars for a universal system that supports all manufacturers: apparently that’s not fair?

    I wish news aggregates would quit picking up this blog grade, tesla sales propaganda.

    • Steve Hanley

      I see why you use the name one-of-a-kind. You’re the only one here who thinks your POV makes any sense.

      Tesla did not invent the emissions credit market. CARB created it. Tesla merely figured out how to play the game regulators put in place better than anyone else. It’s simple to play, really. Build electric cars. Voila! You win!

      Bashing Tesla for playing by the rules is idiotic.

      • One-Of-A-Kind

        I’m just saying – you wanted to “Talk about your corporate welfare.” … The subsidies for Tesla only help Tesla. The grants for the drivers are worthless as far as EV incentives, because its mostly the top 1% who buy these things anyway.

        Back to the subject at hand (which your article is blatantly against) is the hydrogen spending. It tallies much less than all of the tax payer dollars gone to Tesla alone, yet it can be benefited by all manufacturers. Do you understand the irony?

        • Steve Hanley

          My article is blatantly against hydrogen power because its “clean and green” qualities are an illusion. It’s not to strong to say they are a lie.

          Yes, the only byproducts of a fuel cell are water vapor and heat. So far, so good. But commercial hydrogen in the US comes mostly from reforming natural gas. As you may know, the majority of our natural gas comes from fracking, a process that is so egregiously “dirty” that it makes burning coal look almost earth friendly.

          Not only does fracking poison our groundwater and contrbute to earthquakes, it also releases large quantities of methane, which is 40 times more damaging to the atmosphere as a green house gas than carbon dioxide.

          Lastly, it takes more energy to create commercial hydrogen than is contained in the hydrogen once the process is complete. The whole hydrogen thing is a charade, one that is promoted by charlatans.

          In theory, a hydrogen economy sounds like a pollution free dream. In reality, it is a nightmare. Once the process is in place to make hydrogen in a way that does not actively damage the environment, I’ll be all for it.

          Many people suppose that excess electricity can be used to make clean hydrogen, but let’s think about that. The world is many, many decades away from having the luxury of lots of excess electricity lurking about.

          The promise of hydrogen is an illusion, and a dangerous one at that.

          • One-Of-A-Kind

            Steve,

            Some things you fail to see.

            Fracking is NOT for the sake of natural gas. If you know much about the industry, natural gas is surprisingly easy to get. It ‘unconvential oil’ is what the real enemy is. By the time the fracture enough shale to produce the oil they want (the easily transported and traded product) – the natural gas becomes an unwanted byproduct. This is so blatantly evident, the night sky above the Bakken and Eagle Ford are lit up like tri-city metro area’s.

            If you want to get on some kind of high-horse against natural gas, you better put your plug away until the solar revolution takes full swing. For all the coal power generation being taken offline, it is mostly getting replaced with CCNG generators.

            If you want to get on a tangent about the best way to use that NG, fuel cell cycles and CCNG -> battery cycles are nearly identical at around 40% total lifecycle efficiency. Whenever you change the form of energy, you will always lose some of it.

            You want to come down on SMR, but you fail to see that literally HALF of the H2 molecules in the SMR process come from water molecules. If the external heat in the process comes from something else like solar thermal energy, you have more H2 come out, than you had NG go in…..

            Rag all you want on the efficiency of hydrogen – it is still orders of magnitude better than the current paradigm of ICE vehicles which settle in at under 20% efficient by the time we get power to the wheels.

          • Steve Hanley

            I agree with your last sentence! ; – )

          • One-Of-A-Kind

            If you agree that h2 vehicles are much better than ICE; than why hate on them?

            Are they as efficient as battery vehicles? No. but the plus side is you don’t need constant access to electricity, and the range does not come in the form of huge amounts of added weight.

            I don’t mind BEVs one bit. In places where they work, their application is amazing. I don’t suggest replacing golf carts with more expensive fuel cell vehicles when the need does not exist. But in the transport industry, most of the fuel and pollution comes from freight, not the everyday drivers. We must start from the opposite direction. Instead of replacing already low emission, fuel efficient vehicles like the Honda Fit, we need to focus on the long haulers that have 200 gallon capacity for diesel. At ~40kwh / gal of diesel; how could you create a battery vehicle to be able to do this?

            The point is Steve, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Converting away from oil dependent fuels and moving to natural gas dependent fuels is much, much better than the current paradigm we have today. By the looks of it, we’re probably burning enough natural gas (just as waste product) to easy fuel 1 million+ vehicles.

            By the time the market has shifted directions; hydrogen is so much more promising than anything else because we can very easily produce it from pretty much ANY source of energy. When you look at where the really smart scientists in the world are working to help make a better tomorrow; it’s in fusion energy. Despite different concepts / methods to do this, the one thing they all have in common is the requirement for deuterium (heavy hydrogen) as a fuel. If you know much about the science of gathering large amounts of this rare form of hydrogen, you’ll realize that protium is actually a waste product of this (funny enough). Post the fusion process, they used harnessed energy to re-generate the hydrogen needed, again, with more protium as a waste throughout the cycle.

            In a way, it’s the stored energy in a byproduct of the cycle.

            This is not sci-fi either. In addition to the ITER which is a multi-national joint venture with some of the worlds greatest scientists, there is also Mitsubishi Heavy working towards a feasible LENR reaction to make use of otherwaste toxic radioactive caesium. This isn’t theory; the process has already been confirmed by Toyota R&D labs. (no wonder Toyota has so much faith in H2 as the future)

          • Joe Viocoe

            “the plus side is you don’t need constant access to electricity”

            No, just constant access to something harder to come by. The logistics for distributing electricity is orders of magnitude easier than distributing gaseous hydrogen which wants to leak out of everything, is useless without first compressing it to limb-severing pressures, and more expensive than jet fuel.

            “the range does not come in the form of huge amounts of added weight”

            Yet the Mirai is 4,100 lbs. The biggest trick gullible people fall for, is thinking the weight comes from fuel. It doesn’t, it comes from the container. 5 kg is light… but it takes 30x – 50x more weight to contain each kilogram at 10,000 PSI.

            “If you agree that h2 vehicles are much better than ICE; than why hate on them?”

            Read why. Because precious, and limited resources are being diverted to FCVs instead of the more practical application of BEVs.

            “But in the transport industry, most of the fuel and pollution comes from freight, not the everyday drivers…. how could you create a battery vehicle to be able to do this?

            Very difficult… but still easier than Fuel Cells. There are already buses, trucks, ships, and trains that are battery electric.
            There have been a few FC buses, but even some of those were too underwhelming to keep, as BC Transit sold them off to buy diesel buses.

            The lobbyists lied to you… Fuel Cells don’t have the heavy duty applications as natively theirs. While batteries cannot yet do that job… CNG, LPG, and Hybrid electric wins.
            Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good? Indeed. There is no reason why every application need to have zero local emissions at all. So why lose energy on the conversion process and just use natural gas directly. It is already far cheaper and the infrastructure is already far along.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The Tesla S is a larger car than the Toyota Mirai, 23% larger. But it weighs only 14% more.

          • Joe Viocoe

            Don’t get excited about hydrogen byproduct of the fusion process. With or without optimization of the tokamak, the waste products are not going to be industrial scale.
            This isn’t fission, this is highly efficient fusion… where the mass is extremely low.

            They get 500 MW of power from about 0.0005 kg of hydrogen. They aren’t dealing with chemical reactions… but mass converting to energy. The square of the speed of light means that the mass that they are dealing with is extremely small.

            Each ITER sized reactor may produce enough hydrogen in a month, to take an FCV completely around the facility. Enjoy.

          • James Rowland

            A clarification: It’s the isotopic separation of deuterium from hydrogen that leaves you with surplus hydrogen, not the fusion process itself. You are right that the quantity is inconsequential as a chemical energy source, though.

            Deuterium-tritium fusion produces helium 4, plus some rather alarmingly high energy neutrons which will be used to breed more of the required tritium from a lithium blanket. (Yes, the D-T fuel cycle eats lithium.)

            As an aside, I expect ITER will fail to meet its goals for validating a commercial design (for some rather obscure technical reasons I’d rather not try to explain here.) Hope I’m wrong about that, but several generations of very smart engineers have underestimated how hard fusion is.

            Apparently, Elon Musk may be among them too; there’s an interview where he’s (IMO) quite naively optimistic on the prospects for successful fusion power.

          • Joe Viocoe

            I am more hopeful for smaller projects using inertial confinement.
            Polywell and Focus Fusion are two of my picks.
            I especially like Focus Fusion because it allows the device to run on anuetronic fuels. Instead of most of the energy being recouped from boiling water, it comes out as charged particles and x-rays. Easier to convert straight to electricity.

          • James Rowland

            I do like the simplicity and elegance of FF, but the yield issues presumed to be caused by metal vapours contaminating the vacuum do call the viability of the device into question. If it’s that sensitive, will it ever be able to fire thousands of times a day without stopping to purge contaminants?

            (If not, they do at least have a really powerful x-ray generator that might be useful for something.)

            It’s also rather suggestive that, given the relative simplicity and low cost of the Polywell concept, nobody has a viable device working.

            A small-scale fusion reactor would be a really neat thing to have, but I hold little hope of one appearing. There’s just been so much bad news in fusion over the past few decades.

            Fission, on the other hand, is something we definitely can do – and it needn’t have the drawbacks it currently has. I’d rather see more effort put into things like LFTR; at least nearly all the technology has been demonstrated already.

          • Steve Hanley

            Well, this has turned into quite a discussion! Lots of strong opinions, that’s for sure!

            I will make you a proposition, sir, Since you have strongly help views on hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles, write up your thoughts just as if you were writing an article for Gas 2. Do it it in Google Docs and share it with me.

            (schanley45@gmail.com)

            I will publish it (I reserve the right to make minor edits for style and to link to other articles) as a rebuttal to the EV enthusiasts out there. Hopefully, it will prompt even more vigorous debate on this issue.

            Is that fair?

          • One-Of-A-Kind

            Sounds Fair. I will get that emailed within the week.

          • Joe Viocoe

            I disagree with his last sentence. You have to compare TODAY’s ICE technology (including non-plugin hybrids) that are indeed comparable to FCVs available today.

            The 2016 Mirai vs. the 2016 Prius. Bot have similar size, utility, and performance.
            50 MPG vs. 66 MPG

            That is saying something.

          • One-Of-A-Kind

            It’s a relative statement, sir.

            Well to wheel efficiency on most vehicles is less than 20%. Well to wheel efficiency of H2 vehicles is between 40-45%. Efficiency aside, do you not understand how much better it is to not have combustion happening? In our archaic way of using fuels, by compressing and combusting ambient air, nitrogen gets into the cycle and it’s basically impossible to prevent the emission of some of it no matter how many post-catalysts we throw at it. I’ll have you know, NOx is 298X more potent of a greenhouse gas than CO2. Is that not ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE enough, when you consider that not only is it more than 2x the efficiency, but the fuel cell is incapable of producing any NOx…

          • Joe Viocoe

            Haha, do you went back and stretched to find anything that could relate to an order of magnitude.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The question is not gasoline or hydrogen. There’s a third, and much better, option.

          • Joe Viocoe

            “If you want to get on some kind of high-horse against natural gas, you better put your plug away”

            Or just buy RECs or put up solar panels.
            With BEVs, we’ve got plenty of options. With FCVs, you’re stuck, again.

        • Joe Viocoe

          It is the top 20% who can afford a Tesla. And with Used Tesla prices coming down as they age…. even more will benefit from the reduced resale value made possible from those subsidies.

          The driver’s aren’t the ones who get to keep the money… the automaker does. And considering that the Model 3 is becoming available only because so many people were able to buy the Model S/X…
          I’d say the subsidy is actually working for the middle class too.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Exactly, the federal subsidy for EVs has enlarged the group of people who can pay for an early generation long distance EV and the first gen builds the desire for affordable EVs and grows the business to the stage where they can build the cars in large numbers.

    • James Rowland

      Now, I think that narrative you’re spinning is more than a little unfair. Tesla is not dependent on subsidies, and clean vehicles incentives are available to anyone.

      Tesla had one government loan, under the ATVM program. They used it for the intended purpose and paid it back seven years early. Overall, the DoE made a seven-figure profit on the deal.

      ZEV credits are not money; awarding them is not a subsidy. Credit trading is an exchange between manufacturers of credits for actual cash. Any manufacturer can benefit; Tesla has only because other manufacturers failed to make their quota of qualifying vehicles. Besides, it has only accounted for at most 2% of Tesla’s revenue.

      Purchase incentives actually are a subsidy, but again they are available for any qualifying vehicle in territories that have them. They are awarded to protect public health from the effects of air pollution – the costs of which are effectively a giant subsidy for all combustion-related industries at the present time.

      Tesla vehicles can be charged from nearly any mains outlet. The socket in EU and Chinese markets is compatible with existing standards for AC couplings. US market Teslas have a proprietary connector, but are supplied with adapters.

      The Supercharger network is proprietary in all markets. It’s also much better than any existing fast DC standard, and available to any manufacturer willing to pay for access and make compatible vehicles.

      As for lobbyist spending, if that bothers you (and it should) then you have far bigger problems to worry about than Elon Musk.

      The hydrogen economy? Obsolete before it happened. Maybe if manufacturers had pulled their finger out even ten years ago there’d be some value in HFCVs, but today there’s no point. Batteries are already passing grade and getting better every year. “Fool cells” is exactly right.

  • So what you’re saying is: alternative transportation got only a fraction of the gov’t subsidies gas and oil companies do, and only a fraction of the bailouts that GM, Chrysler, and Ford (yes, Ford took bailouts – more than GM, in fact https://www.cars.com/articles/2010/12/report-ford-took-federal-funds-too/ ) took? Good job, alternative transportation! Way to do more with less!!

  • Dries V

    CA will not spend 150,000,000$ this is an utterly biased way of portraying that number. Yes a station could cost up to 3,000,000$ but the total budget for these 48 station is 98,000,000$ of which half of it will be paid by the industrial partners. In fact the CA government pledged to only support hydrogen stations with 20,000,000$ a year until there are 100 stations.

    This is something you must know. But to put a negative spin on hydrogen choose to be dishonest in reporting this information.

    FYI Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the bill (AB 8) on September 30, 2013.

    • Bob_Wallace

      ” In 2013 Governor Brown signed AB 8, a bill to fund $20 million a year for 10 years for up to 100 stations.” – Wiki

      $20 million x 10 = $200,000,000

      $200,000,000 > “150,000,000$”

      • Dries V

        Really Bob?

        The original statement made by Steve was 3,000,000 a station, 50 station, total 150,000,00.

        Now you are talking about 10 years not about 50 stations? You are comparing two different things here to make a point and put a negative spin on a technology.

        But the grant also stops when 100 stations are delivered. And in 2 years they have funded 50 stations. Do you suggest now that it will take another 8 year to fund the remaining 50 stations?

        And for these 50 station funded, CA only paid 40,000,000$ < "150,000,00$" (claim by steve) < "200,000,000$" (claim by you).

        So how much of yours and Steve other statements are a twist of reality so it fit's you opinions better … oh well I don't want to know.

        • Bob_Wallace

          i gave you information on AB8. Is it incorrect? If so, take it up with Wiki.

          Here is your claim – “CA will not spend 150,000,000$ ”

          Now, that may be true. There’s a very good chance that H2 FCEVs will be dead well before ten years are up.

          • Dries V

            Well I fixed their broken link and corrected the information.

            But don’t put words in my month. My claim is in reaction of Steve’s statement, you are picking words again …

            I’ll come back in 8 years … and we will see.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Strange claim that I’m putting words in your mouth when I copied and pasted what you wrote.

          • Dries V

            You only copied part of it, placing it out of context so it suits your needs.

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, I’ll copy it all.

            “CA will not spend 150,000,000$ this is an utterly biased way of portraying that number. Yes a station could cost up to 3,000,000$ but the total budget for these 48 station is 98,000,000$ of which half of it will be paid by the industrial partners. In fact the CA government pledged to only support hydrogen stations with 20,000,000$ a year until there are 100 stations.

            This is something you must know. But to put a negative spin on hydrogen choose to be dishonest in reporting this information.

            FYI Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the bill (AB 8) on September 30, 2013.”

            Next I’ll copy my reply.

            “” In 2013 Governor Brown signed AB 8, a bill to fund $20 million a year for 10 years for up to 100 stations.” – Wiki

            $20 million x 10 = $200,000,000

            $200,000,000 > “150,000,000$””

          • Dries V

            Nothing changes in your reply you keep on mixing 2 types of information…

            so where do you stand 10 years or 100 stations or do you take the side of Steve and go for 50 stations? Because I can multiply 2 numbers and come lower or higher depending what I want.

            The truth is that up to now only 40,000,000$ has been invested by CA on a total budget of 98,000,000$. And this is not what Steve suggested. When he wrote “Toyota expects California taxpayers to foot the bill.” he is just bluntly lying …

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