Honda To Build Fuel Cell Car Based On CR-V In 2024

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The fuel cell is the dream that refuses to die for some automakers. Having tried and failed to introduce more than a few dozen people to the joys of fuel cell deriving with the Clarity, Honda announced this week that it will begin manufacturing a fuel cell vehicle based on the hugely popular CR-V at its Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville, Ohio in 2024. It says this new zero emissions vehicle will contribute to Honda’s goal of making battery-electric and fuel cell vehicles represent 100% of its global auto sales by 2040.

The new CR-V based FCEV also will mark North America’s first production vehicle to combine a plug-in feature with FCEV technology in one model, which enables the driver to charge the onboard battery to deliver EV driving around town with the flexibility of fast hydrogen refueling for longer trips.

“Honda established our goal to realize carbon neutrality by 2050 and the complete electrification of our vehicle lineup by 2040 is critical to achieving it,” said Gary Robinson, vice president of planning and strategy for American Honda. “As we accelerate our plan to produce Honda battery EVs in the United States, we also will begin low volume production of fuel cell electric vehicles there to further explore their great potential as part of a sustainable transportation future.”

The PMC is designed to be a small volume specialty manufacturing facility that is focused on craftsmanship and hand assembled vehicles. Since opening in 2016, it has been responsible for production of the Acura NSX, several Acura PMC Edition vehicles, and Honda Performance Development race cars. Honda says this prior experience makes that facility uniquely suited to production of high quality fuel cell electric vehicles, which require special assembly procedures.

“Our associates at the Performance Manufacturing Center have really enjoyed the opportunity to successfully introduce several specialty vehicles into the market,” said PMC plant leader Gail May. “This facility is perfect for production of a new Honda fuel cell electric vehicle, as our small-volume capability enables us to really leverage the skill and expertise of our team to produce quality zero emission vehicles here in North America.”

Clarity fuel cell car

As America’s best-selling CUV of the past quarter century, the Honda CR-V will provide an excellent foundation for a FCEV, adding zero emissions and EV performance characteristics to its fun-to-drive personality, sporty styling, and outstanding utility, while retaining generous passenger and cargo spaces.

The all new 2023 CR-V features a rugged and sophisticated exterior design, a sporty and modern interior, along with increased space, comfort and performance, the company says. This 6th generation CR-V is already playing a key role in the Honda electrification strategy with CR-V hybrid electric models positioned at the top of the lineup and expected to represent about 50% of annual CR-V sales. More details about the all-new FCEV version of the CR-V will be announced closer to its introduction in 2024.

Honda’s Fuel Cell Dream

Honda says it believes FCEVs powered by hydrogen created through renewable sources will be a key part of a sustainable transportation future because they release no carbon dioxide emissions. The only waste products are water and heat. In addition, where hydrogen refueling infrastructure is available, FCEVs can refuel in minutes, providing a familiar level of travel convenience for drivers accustomed to conventional automobiles.

An FCEVs carries a high-pressure hydrogen tank instead of a gasoline tank found on conventional vehicles and generates electricity inside fuel cells to drive the electric motor, moving the vehicle forward without releasing CO2 or any other harmful emissions.

Since the introduction of its first commercially available fuel cell vehicle, the FCX, in 2002, Honda has made significant technological advancements in fuel cell vehicle operation in both hot and freezing weather while meeting customer expectations and safety regulations.

In an effort to support the wider introduction of fuel cell vehicles, Honda has invested more than $14 million in California’s hydrogen refueling network. This includes joining the public-private partnership called H2USA in May 2013, which brings together automakers, government agencies, hydrogen suppliers, and the hydrogen and fuel cell industries to coordinate research and identify cost effective solutions that can deliver affordable, clean hydrogen fuel in the United States.

The Takeaway

The key to this announcement is the phrase “where hydrogen refueling infrastructure is available.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but hydrogen refueling infrastructure today is where EV charging infrastructure was in 2008. Peering beneath the gloss of the press release, one might conclude that Honda is building yet another compliance car to mollify the California Air Resources Board.

The idea of combining an EV and an FCEV in the same vehicle seems like a desperate attempt to silence EV critics who say that electric cars don’t have enough range and take too long to charge. But with this new fuel cell CR-V, customers will be paying for two powertrains for one car. The likelihood is that these cars will be tethered to whatever hydrogen refueling station is nearest to where they live and work.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that these cars have a theoretical range of 500 miles. In reality they will have a real world range of 250 miles because there won’t be any refueling stations around when they get that far from home, so they will need to turn around to get back to where they started. A second consideration is that most hydrogen in the US comes from reforming natural gas, so it is far from a carbon neutral fuel. Honda will need to make certain there is an adequate supply of green hydrogen available to meet the needs of those who decide to sign up for one of these handcrafted fuel cell vehicles.

It really sounds as though Honda doesn’t know if it is afoot or on horseback when it comes to its future. It is building electric SUVs in Tennessee in conjunction with GM and using Ultium batteries from LG Energy Solution in those cars. It has entered into a contract to jointly manufacture EV batteries with LGES for electric cars Honda will build in Ohio, and it is partnering with Sony to manufacture cars that incorporate all the computer wizardry Sony can muster.

You might be forgiven for thinking Honda is following a “throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks” approach to the future. We wish it well with this new EV/FCEV venture, but it really does seem the company is flailing. We hope it figures out what direction it wants to go in before too much more time elapses.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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