The Future Now: Honda’s Hydrogen Car | MHH International
Well, with the demand for cleaner, greener energy, the search for new power sources has grown at pace. Cars powered by hybrid technology or electric power alone are now well past their infancy and are a feature on the roads of the world. Although not new, now hydrogen as a power source is coming to the fore.
With the all-new hydrogen-powered Honda Clarity Fuel Cell car (pictured), the company is aiming to eliminate the design compromises that are often found in alternatively fuelled vehicles.
Honda’s goal was to make a fuel cell car that is suited to everyday driving and, crucially, long-distance travel without having to stop for any length of time to refuel. They’ve done it.
Sadly, the public cannot yet buy this car but it is undergoing real world trials in the UK and in Denmark. Members of the public can lease the new Clarity in the United States and in Japan, but not buy it outright just now.
This is not a small car. The fuel cell stack, which had been located in the centre tunnel of previous generation test vehicles, has now, through development, been made significantly smaller. This means that it is now rehoused under the bonnet, thereby achieving a more efficient layout and larger cabin space. This in turn means that the car is capable of seating five occupants in comfort – a world first.
The all-new Clarity Fuel Cell is a showcase for advanced aerodynamic design, with features that help to smooth the airflow around the car. The innovations compliment the Clarity Fuel Cell’s lightweight and high-strength body frame, which features another world-first application of high-tensile lambda-type steel, aluminium and composites. As a result, the car’s body weighs approximately 15% less than an equivalent petrol driven vehicle, which helps to boost its efficiency.
Honda’s theme for the interior is ‘Advanced Modern Lounge’ which, they say with the usual manufacturer hyperbole, reflects the harmony of advanced technology and affords superior levels of comfort.
The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is the world’s most advanced fuel cell vehicle, and delivers, say the company, the longest maximum driving range of any zero-emission vehicle: approximately 650km (403 miles) based on Honda’s internal tests. The fuel cell stack is smaller than in its predecessor – the FCX Clarity – yet has a higher power output (103kW in new Clarity Fuel Cell compared to 100kW in FCX).
Innovative downsizing of the individual cells within the stack has enabled the complete unit to be housed on top of the electric motor, gearbox and Power Control Unit assembly. Further, Clarity is the first production car equipped with Honda’s two-stage supercharging electric turbo air compressor. The compressor further helps to downsize the powertrain. The hydrogen is stored in two tanks; a 117-litre one under the boot and a 24-litre one under the back seats. Filling up takes no longer and is no harder than a conventional car and does away with the spectre of slow electrical recharging.
The arrival of the new Clarity Fuel Cell in Europe is a key part of Honda’s ‘Electric Vision’, announced at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. The aim is to have electrified powertrains in two thirds of its cars sold in Europe by 2025. The Clarity Fuel Cell reinforces Honda’s continued efforts to drive increased adoption of fuel cell vehicles and thus the creation of a viable hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.
This is of course the problem: Putting the cart before the horse. There are very, very few hydrogen fuelling stations in Europe and for a viable network to be established, first customers have to want to buy the cars. It is the classic ‘catch 22’ scenario and it remains to be seen if the public at large will warm to fuel cell cars as they have to, say, hybrid technology.
As a car, the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell feels more than ready, early reports suggest. It is said to be quiet, comfortable and supremely relaxing to drive. It really does seem as if the future is here now.
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