Honda unveils hydrogen-powered car with 400-mile range

The new hydrogen fuel cell technology is no larger than a standard V6 engine

Honda Fuel Cell Vehicle Clarity

Honda Motor Co. announced a new version of its hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle (FCV) that can travel up to 400 miles and refuel in just three minutes.

The new Honda Clarity Fuel Cell's drive train technology is about one-tenth the cost of Honda's previous FCV the FCX Clarity. The fuel-cell technology is also smaller than in the previous vehicle. Pricing for the vehicle was not released.

"The fuel cell stack for this model was downsized by 33% compared to the previous version of the fuel cell stack and yet an output of more than 100 [kilowatts or kW]," Honda said in a statement.

The new smaller fuel cell stack is about a 60% power output improvement over the previous model, Honda added.

The new Clarity four-door sedan will have a maximum output of 130kW of power for fast pickup and offers "excellent quietness at the same time."

The car was announced Wednesday at the Tokyo Motor Show.

FCV vehicle interior Honda

Honda's first FCV's interior.

The car carries a 70MPa high-pressure hydrogen storage tank providing a cruising range of more than 700 kilometers -- the top-class cruising range among all FCV (70 MPa is the equivalent of 10,153 pounds per square inch of pressure).

The fuel cell powertrain was also made as compact as a typical V6 engine. That is a first for FCVs in that the hydrogen fuel cell stack and electric motor can now fit under a vehicle's hood. Previously, FCVs required the powertrain to take up space in other areas of the vehicle. The smaller engine means more room for passengers and their cargo. The technology can also be fitted into a variety of other Honda vehicles.

"This power train layout enabled a full cabin package that seats five adults comfortably," Honda stated.

Honda said their high-output fuel cell-powered motor can also be combined with an external power feeding device, called the Power Exporter 9000, which can turn the car into a “power plant on wheels” that provides electricity to power an average home for seven days.

Honda FCV fuel cell Honda

Honda's Power Exporter 9000 can transfer power from a Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle to a home. Honda said the car can power a home for a week.

Hydrogen fueling stations

Honda, Toyota and Nissan all announced earlier this year that they would increase efforts to produce more hydrogen FCVs and said they will work together to build more fueling stations to support them.

The three Japanese automakers agreed on key details regarding a new joint support project for the development of hydrogen fueling station infrastructure in Japan. The companies pledged up to $90,000 per station to cover construction and operating costs.

There are also considerable efforts in the U.S. and elsewhere to create more hydrogen fueling stations. In California, for example, 28 FCV stations are expected to be built by the end of 2016, bringing the state's total to 48. Additionally, Toyota has partnered with FirstElement Fuel to build refueling stations in California and with hydrogen fuel provider Air Liquide to build a network of 12 stations throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island this year.

Honda initially announced its hydrogen FCV at the North American Auto Show early this year.

The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell sedan is expected to go on sale in Japan in March 2016.

Honda said it will focus on sales mainly to local government bodies or business customers with which Honda has already been working to make FCVs more popular.

fuel cell stack Toyota

How a hydrogen fuel cell stack works.

"During this period, Honda will collect information about the market use situation, including the external power feeding device, and gather diverse opinions from customers and other relevant organizations, then later begin sales to individual customers," Honda stated.

FCVs use compressed hydrogen gas, that when combined with oxygen and drawn through an electrolyte, creates electricity. The electricity is used to send power to a lithium-ion battery, which then powers an electric motor. The only exhaust is water vapor.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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