Honda Engineer Promotes Hydrogen, Has No Idea How Renewable Energy Works

Speaking to the press at the Geneva auto show, Thomas Brachmann, chief project engineer of research & development in Europe for Honda, tried to explain why his company continues to invest time and money in fuel cell cars powered by hydrogen. Honda believes battery power may be fine for smaller cars in the future but hydrogen is the way to go for larger vehicles.

Honda Clarity hydrogen car


Three Cheers For Electrolysis

But before we get to that, Brachmann had this to say about hydrogen production and renewable energy. “Photovoltaic electrolysis as a means of producing hydrogen is feasible, because it’s the only means we have of converting renewable energy electricity into a usable fuel and, even more important, into a proper storage media for renewable energy.

“For example, wind and sun can produce too much power during some days so either the wind-power generators are stopped, or they run and we have to sell the electricity to the grid for a very low price and, possibly, even have to pay the grid to take it because it may not be ready to accept more than it can handle.”

“This means we have to find renewable energy storage. If we have bi-directional charging that’s fine with batteries, or else the other solution is hydrogen. Then we have to look at what is the value of the hydrogen and for which industrial purposes?”

Hydrogen Makes The World Go Round

So, apparently Honda’s official position is that making hydrogen through the use of excess renewable energy is something humanity needs to do in order not to keep all that free solar and wind power from being wasted. Interesting.

Brachmann also dredges up the old bugaboo about battery degradation. “Even if you have all-battery EVs, we have to consider very carefully the lifetime of the batteries. When does the degradation start by excessive charging and recharging, and what is the benefit for the customer?”

Batteries Have Their Place

“As we said in our study of 2010, we see the smaller cars using battery power and the bigger cars using fuel-cell systems. So we need to look at where does the battery end and the hydrogen car start. We see the Honda Civic growing bigger and bigger, more or less for the European taste (and) replacing the Accord, and so we need to see if we can integrate this platform with this model level.

“The Clarity is larger and developed for the U.S. and targeted as a chauffeured limousine as it would be also in Japan. It could fit into Honda’s European portfolio, too, and we have to see what is the development of (fueling) infrastructure. This is why we need to ramp up the availability of hydrogen fuel stations first.” Just out of curiosity, Thomas, how many Americans are shopping for chauffeur driven limousines these days?

Infrastructure Is Infrastructure

Brachmann claims the cost of building hydrogen fueling infrastructure and the cost of building EV charging infrastructure are basically the same, so why not go the hydrogen route? One answer is that any electric car can be conveniently recharged at home overnight. Home hydrogen refueling stations? Yeah, we’re going to need lots of those.

The cost of an EV charging station with multiple chargers is about $300,000. The cost of a hydrogen refueling station can go as high as $3 million. Might be time to check your math, Herr Brachmann. It might be time to start shorting Honda stock and mark it as one more legacy car maker starting to circle the drain.

Source and photo credit: Ward’s Auto

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.