Honda believes that it’s a step closer to giving us all our own home hydrogen refuelling stations, with the launch of its next-generation solar hydrogen station prototype.
Installed in Los Angeles, the prototype is intended for refuelling fuel cell vehicles such as the Honda FCX Clarity.
Designed as a single, integrated unit to fit in a home garage, the Solar Hydrogen Station is smaller in size than previous prototypes, but engineered to produce enough hydrogen (0.5kg) for an eight hour ‘slow’ fill. This slow, overnight fill achieves lower CO2 emissions by using the less expensive electrical power at off-peak times but still provides the FCX Clarity with enough fuel for the average daily commute.
Compatible with a “Smart Grid” energy system, the Honda Solar Hydrogen Station could enable users to refill their car overnight without the requirement of hydrogen storage but also export renewable electricity to the grid during peak power times in the day, thus providing a cost benefit to the customer, while remaining energy neutral.
Honda’s FCX Clarity can also be refuelled in around five minutes at a public hydrogen filling station; obviously there are not too many of these around at the moment, especially in the UK. The Solar Hydrogen Station is designed to complement the expected future network of ‘fast-fill’ public hydrogen filling stations, and Honda says that it provides night-time filling for commuting, rather than filling the tank completely, when the range would be 270 miles in the case of the FCX Clarity.
Honda’s previous solar hydrogen station system required both an electrolyser and a separate compressor unit to create high pressure hydrogen, and the compressor was the largest and most expensive component – reducing the system’s efficiency. But by creating a new high differential pressure electrolyser, Honda engineers have eliminated the compressor entirely, which they say is a world first for a home use system.
This innovation also allows the size of other key components to be reduced, making the new station the world’s most compact system, and improving efficiency by more than 25% compared to the solar hydrogen station system it replaces.
The new Solar Hydrogen Station will use the same 48-panel, 6.0kW solar array that powered the previous system. The array utilises thin film solar cells composed of copper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS) produced by Honda Soltec Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Honda that was established for the mass production and sales of solar cells. Honda’s unique solar cells generate less CO2 during production compared to conventional solar cells.
Designed for simple, user-friendly operation, the Solar Hydrogen Station’s system layout enables the user to easily lift and remove the fuel hose, with no hose coiling when the hose is returned to the dispenser unit. As with the previous generation system, the hydrogen purity from the new station meets the highest SAE (J2719) and ISO (14687) specifications.
Honda believes that the combination of a fuel cell electric vehicle and the solar hydrogen station could help lead to the establishment of a hydrogen society based on renewable energy, resulting in a major reduction of CO2 emissions and greater energy sustainability.
Keywords: Honda solar hydrogen station prototype, Los Angeles, Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle, Honda Soltec Company.