Honda FCX Clarity Fuel Cell VehicleHonda has begun commercial production of the FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, a car we've been writing about for a few years (see links at the end). We're not quite talking about mass production yet: Only a few dozens at first, and about 200 units within a year, but it's still a milestone for Honda and hydrogen-powered cars.
How Much Will it Cost?Honda is not selling the FCX Clarity yet, only leasing it to a select few in California (and Japan next Autumn). The three year contract will be $600/month, including maintenance and insurance, and only those living close enough to the few hydrogen refueling stations in Torrance, Santa Monica, and Irvine can qualify. As expected, Hollywood stars are among the first customers: Jamie Lee Curtis and her husband Christopher Guest, actress Laura Harris, film producer Ron Yerxa, as well as businessmen Jon Spallino and Jim Salomon.
The Hydrogen ProblemThe downsides of using hydrogen to power vehicles are well documented. In short, hydrogen is more an energy carrier than a primary fuel. Functionally, it is closer to a battery than to oil that you extract from the ground. So while using hydrogen in a fuel cell doesn't produce emissions other than water at the tailpipe, if that hydrogen was made by water electrolysis or by reforming natural gas, that's where the environmental impact can be found (unless electrolysis was done with 100% clean energy).
So Where Can We Find Clean Hydrogen?The real answer is that we don't know yet. On the small scale, it is possible. But on the large scale, that's the $10 trillion question. Many think it won't happen because other better ways to do things will be used instead, others - and that probably includes many of the companies investing in hydrogen fuel cells - seem to take the Fields of Dream approach: Built it and they will come.
The problem is that, even in the most optimistic scenarios where we have so much clean energy we don't know what to do with it, it would probably still make more sense to use that energy directly to charge batteries and hypercapacitors in electric cars instead of cracking water and then compressing hydrogen (which is hard to transport and keep in tanks for a long time), which is likely to be less efficient and cost effective.
Bottom Line on the Honda FCX ClaritySo basically, we're impressed with the engineering of the FCX Clarity, but we're unimpressed with its potential to really help the environment. Come on Honda, work on more practical solutions. It's good to keep R&D; efforts going in all directions just in case (and what Honda engineers have learned on this project will doubtlessly be helpful on other projects), but there was no need to put so much efforts and resources in commercializing this marginal vehicle right now.
More on Honda's FCX Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car
New FCX Fuel Cell Concept by Honda
More Details on Honda's 2006 FCX Fuel Cell Car
Honda FCX Fuel Cell Vehicle: Production in 3-4 Years
Honda Shows Off FCX Fuel Cell Concept Car
More on Honda FCX Production and Leasing
Honda Begins Production of FCX Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle; New US Fuel Cell Dealership Network
Honda produces first commercial hydrogen cars
Honda rolls out new zero-emission car
Update: See also Spy Shots: Honda's Upcoming Hybrid Looks Like... a Prius