[Such things happen: Yesterday, two of our trained typing-monkeys wrote posts in parallel about the same thing. What are the odds? Next we'll get Shakespeare plays... Since the two posts differ sufficiently, we print the second one here. The first can be found here. -Ed] A couple of weeks ago, little was known about the 2006 Honda FCX fuel cell concept. Now we know a bit more about it: The very low floor (and increased cabin space) is possible thanks to Honda's "3V" system. Vertical gas flow, Vertebral layout, and Volume-efficient packaging. "In the 3V schema, oxygen and hydrogen flow from the top to the bottom of the fuel cell stack (vertical gas flow) and the fuel cells are arranged vertically in the center tunnel (vertebral layout) for new, high-efficiency fuel cell packaging (volume efficiency)."
Compact enough to fit neatly into the center tunnel but robust enough to deliver 100kW of power [2005 FCX was 86kW], the V Flow fuel cell stack offers both space efficiency and high energy output. The key to fuel cell performance is water management. With vertical gas flow, an innovative process in which oxygen and hydrogen flow downward through the stack, Honda’s new fuel cell stack takes full advantage of gravity to efficiently discharge water formed during electricity generation.
Both 25kW rear motors are housed in the car's wheels, as you can see in the picture above. This frees the space between the wheels for the hydrogen storage tanks.
The new fuel cell also has a cold-start capacity that is similar to that of a gasoline engine, basically removing a big problem that older fuel cell concepts had.
The FCX-V Concept drive train features three energy-efficient motors: one in the front and two in the rear. The efficient delivery of this power through all four wheels and the low-center-of-gravity platform combine to deliver torquey performance and agile handling. The space-efficient layout also contributes to the interior efficiency of the low-floor design, eliminating the need to use floor space for motors.
The car's range is 560 kilometers (350 miles) on a 5 kg (11 lbs) tank of hydrogen at 350 atmospheres (5,150 psi). The current FCX has a range of 190 miles.
Honda also unveiled its current model of the Home Energy Station (HES), a home cogeneration and fueling system that uses natural gas to supply electricity and heat in addition to hydrogen fuel for vehicles.
The system is equipped with fuel cells that generate electricity (5 kW) for the home, and is configured to recover the heat produced during power generation for domestic water heating.
The HES can produce 3 Nm3/hr of hydrogen. In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by some 40%, according to Honda’s calculations, the HES system is expected to lower by 50% the total running cost of household electricity, gas and vehicle fuel.
Of course natural gas (NG) is not ideal for environmental reasons, even if it is one of the cleaner-burning fossil fuels. Availability would also be a problem, especially in North-America where NG production is peaking and where the liquefied natural gas (LNG) capacity is almost non-existent. But at least this system seems to make the most out of it and integrates well with a house - it could have been worse. Eventually hydrogen would have to be produced with clean energy (along with waste H2?) if fuel cell cars are to be used on a large scale.
Honda is listening:
One day Honda hopes to find a way to power cars with no emissions.
"Ultimately, what we should aim for is to circulate zero-pollution energy through solar panels," Honda president Takeo Fukui told reporters.
"There are many methods (to achieve the goal). En route to that, we will use natural gas, which is conventional infrastructure, and gradually add use of solar-panel energy," he said.
There is one problem with that: If we can make enough clean electricity (via solar or something else) to produce hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles, why not use that electricity directly in electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids with extremely long battery range, and an internal combustion engine that runs on biofuel for extended trips? The only way that I see for "clean" hydrogen to be viable is if we produce it using bacteria or other biological processes that don't need anything else than biomass and solar input.
Otherwise, there is no reason not to spend at least as much time and money on battery technology and electric vehicles as we do on fuel cells. We must not put all our eggs in the same basket.
For more information about fuel cells you can read this older post.