Honda Joins The Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Race
In January 2015, Honda will unveil its hydrogen fuel cell car at the North American Auto Show in Detroit. The car will be among the first wave of road-ready vehicles to feature this new technology.
In the world of concept motoring, hybrid cars are already outdated. Car manufacturers are quickly moving onto the next big thing. That next big thing is hydrogen fuel-cell technology. Harnessing the power of hydrogen, these cars are even cleaner and more efficient than hybrids. They will travel further between fueling up and their only output is water.
Toyota has already unveiled its flagship road model, the Mirai. Toyota set the standard for hybrid motoring with the revolutionary Prius. Now it intends to change the world, again, with its hydrogen fuel cell model. This time, however, it is not alone. Competing manufacturers have also seen the potential of hydrogen and have been quick off the mark. Hyundai, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen have all hinted at releases in 2016.
Honda is the latest company to join these pioneers. They will unveil their hydrogen fuel-cell car in Detroit this coming January. It looks likely that a full production version will then hit the market in 2016. Just in time to compete with Toyota’s Mirai.
One of Toyota’s executives has already predicted that the Mirai will have an impact as big as the Prius. Toyota believe that hydrogen fuel cell technology truly is the future of motoring. It seems that Honda have also adopted this belief.
It is true that this hydrogen meets clean fuel requirements better than hybrids. The technology is more efficient and allows drivers to travel up to 300 miles between refuels. It also removes the necessity for fossil fuel pumps entirely. Thanks to their green credentials, most purchases will qualify for a government rebate of up to $20,000 too.
The cars function with nothing more than an electric motor. No traditional combustion engine is required. The sophisticated engine splits the hydrogen atom and sends a flow of electrons to the motor. The remaining proton reacts with oxygen to form water and is expelled through the exhaust. It is a revolutionary system and it could well be the future of driving.
We have seen the speed at which technology develops with hybrid engines. A once niche technology is now commonplace. Most rental companies like Rentruck now offer hybrid models. Even SUVs and supercars are harnessing hybrid power. Hydrogen fuel-cells could follow the same path.
The one thing holding hydrogen fuel-cell technology back is infrastructure. There are currently only 40 hydrogen filling stations in California. Look to the rest of the USA and you’ll find even less. More are planned, but we’ve got a long way to go before we have a large scale infrastructure. The system also lacks a renewable form of hydrogen production. Although it is the single most abundant element in the atmosphere, it is difficult to extract. It requires a process of electrolysis. And that requires electricity. Renewable, solar electrolysis plants do exist but on a small scale. All of this infrastructure needs to grow before hydrogen fuel cell motoring becomes a reality.
Honda have made a promising start. The concept design certainly looks beautiful. And if the stats are correct, we’re in for a seriously impressive new vehicle. Let’s just hope that the infrastructure can catch up.