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Honda’s Hydrogen FCX to be launched in US and Japan in 2008

Honda says that its FCX concept car, on display at the Tokyo Motor
Show this week, will be launched as a production vehicle in the US and
Japan in 2008.

Honda sees hydrogen
fuelling the next generation of global vehicles. The company believes
that, as hydrogen is the most commonly-occurring element in the
universe, supply is not an issue. It says that hydrogen can not only
help cars to emit zero CO2 emissions, but the development of technology
to use the fuel promises to change the ways cars are designed, built
and run forever.

Although some
manufacturers, such as BMW with its Hydrogen 7, are developing vehicles
to burn hydrogen within an internal combustion engine, Honda’s FCX uses
hydrogen in a fuel cell to produce electricity to power a motor.

Honda’s
V-Flow FC Stack combines hydrogen fuel with oxygen to create
electricity via a chemical reaction. This powers an electric motor
which delivers drive to the car’s wheels. Using only hydrogen as fuel
relies on a chemical reaction rather than moving parts. It results in a
true zero-harmful emissions vehicle (only water vapour is emitted from
the exhaust).

When employed as part of a
car’s powertrain, fuel cell technology is incredibly efficient at using
energy. The V-Flow FC Stack in the Honda FCX Concept is 60 per cent
efficient at using the energy value of its hydrogen fuel. To put that
into perspective, a petrol-fuelled hybrid is 28 per cent efficient,
while a petrol internal combustion engine is just 18 per cent efficient
at using the fuel.

Due to their
excellent efficiency, fuel cells generally have a longer range. Honda’s
FCX Concept has a range of 354 miles with a full tank.

This
is a totally new way of powering a vehicle with innovative technology –
the ultimate alternative fuel solution. It could revolutionise the car
design industry: fuel cell cars do not have to accommodate a sizeable
and heavy combustion engine, and the associated cooling components.
Plus, the FC Stack can be housed anywhere in the vehicle, allowing for
a better centre of gravity and improved weight distribution.

Honda’s
FCX cars are in commercial use in America and Japan, which means they
have to go through the same stringent crash and safety tests as any
other vehicle. As well as protecting occupants from front, side and
rear impact, the FCX also features special impact-absorbing framework
around the fuel cell system and high-pressure hydrogen tanks, to shield
them during a collision.

However even
Honda admits that as the technology is new, further testing still needs
to be carried out. And despite all the potential advantages, for
vehicles such as the FCX to be taken up widely, the development of a
new hydrogen refuelling infrastructure will be required – something
that currently appears to be a long way off in the UK.