Honda has started rolling the first US specification FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell sedans off a production line in Japan to be delivered to a small group of hand-picked high-profile California test customers. Leases to these customers, including Jamie Lee Curtis, are scheduled to begin in July.
The combined sales plan for the US and Japan calls for a few dozen to be leased the first year with about 200 total units leased over the next three years.
The FCX Clarity was designed from scratch as a dedicated fuel cell vehicle and is powered by the relatively compact Honda V Flow fuel cell stack. With a 280 mile range per tankful of hydrogen, Honda claims it has a miles-per-gallon-gasoline-equivalent (GGE) fuel economy rating of 74 mpg (how’s that for a confusing tongue twister of a concept?).
Honda chose California as the starting place for the roll-out because, currently, California has the best liquid hydrogen distribution network in all of the US — with plans to expand the existing network of hydrogen fueling stations even more.
Hydrogen fuel cells create electricity to run a vehicle in the same way as a battery powered vehicle. However, fuel cells need to have their electricity generating substance (e.g. hydrogen) constantly replenished, whereas batteries are a closed system that can be recharged by plugging them into an outlet.
To accommodate the special equipment needed in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Honda has designed and built a new dedicated assembly line. The assembly line includes processes for installing the fuel cell stack and hydrogen tank. Because of the potentially explosive nature of storing compressed liquid hydrogen on board, the attention to detail must be very high.
Obviously, the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at any meaningful level is going to be entirely dependent upon accessibility to compressed liquid hydrogen refueling stations (unless hydrogen can truly be produced in large enough quantities in the vehicle and on-demand by some other means). This is no small road block and it leaves me still wondering if hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will ever really make it big.
But I guess it’s a good thing to research all the different possibilities for cars of the future. Eventually a few technologies will settle out as the winners and the world will be better off for it. I could be eating my words in 10 years, but I just don’t think hydrogen fuel cells are going to be one of those winners though.
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Image Credit: Honda Motor Company