We’ve been having a lively conversation about fuel cell versus battery electric vehicles over here at CleanTechnica, but the discussion appears to be over for auto manufacturers: the fuel cell is here to stay. The latest one to make that statement loud and clear is Honda, which is showcasing its new Honda FCV Concept fuel cell electric vehicle (fuel cell EV) in a big way at the 2015 Washington Auto Show this week.
The nation’s capitol is a fitting showcase for the new car, since the Obama Administration has been giving the fuel cell EV market a nudge forward through its H2USA initiative, which just launched a $1 million innovation challenge last fall.
The FCV Concept debuted in Japan last November and we just had a chance to dash past its first American exhibit at the Detroit auto show earlier this month, so now let’s take a second look and see what the company is up to with the new Honda FCV Concept.
FCEVs And Hydrogen
For those of you new to the topic, fuel cell EVs run on electricity, like the now-familiar battery electric vehicles (battery EVs). Instead of storing energy in a battery, FCEVs use a chemical reaction to generate electricity on-the-go.
The power behind the reaction is hydrogen, which presents a whole slew of issues for clean tech because currently, hydrogen is sourced primarily from natural gas. That puts fuel cell EVs on the same sustainability footing as battery EVs that are charged from a grid mix that includes natural gas (and, for that matter, coal or petroleum).
On the other hand, just as solar electricity and other sustainable sources are becoming more available to the battery EV market, we’re seeing new technology emerging for sustainable hydrogen production.
Honda FCV Concept Versus Honda FCX Clarity
If you know your Honda, you know that the new FCV Concept is not the company’s first foray into the fuel cell EV market.
The earlier attempt was the FCX Clarity, which Honda launched into production all the way back in 2002. It took a while, but by 2008 Honda had established a network of fuel cell EV dealers in the US, and became the first auto manufacturer to dedicate a production line exclusively to fuel cell EVs.
If Honda has done any tinkering around with the technology since the latest iteration of the FCX, they’re not giving anything away in the press materials. It seems that the new FCV Concept is aiming at the luxury class in terms of style and comfort, though. Here’s the lowdown:
As the next progression in Honda’s dynamic FCV styling, the Honda FCV Concept features a low and wide aerodynamic body with clean character lines. The interior strives to achieve harmony between man and machine by taking advantage of new powertrain packaging efficiencies delivering even greater passenger space than the Honda FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle, including seating for up to five people.
If you take a look at the company website, you get a bit more of a hint about the direction that Honda is taking with its fuel cell technology:
Now, a glimpse of the next stage of the fuel cell vehicle’s evolution—meet the FCX Concept. This vision of the future boasts a fuel cell system that delivers more power in less space, in a unique, low-floor fuel cell platform.
If you want to get your hands on the goods, you’ll have to wait. Production isn’t slated until 2016.
And in case you’re wondering where to fuel up, your best bet is California, where Honda recently chipped in a cool $13.8 million to help the state establish a convenient fuel cell EV refueling network.
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