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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

Southern California, for all it’s smog (and trust me it still hangs in the San Fernando ‘Valley’ 24-7) it still regarded as the automotive ‘Green’ capital of the world, when it comes to big cities.

There are also thousands of Toyota Prius’ within the California state lines and while they are certainly classified as ‘environmentally friendly’ the ‘Green’ star must surely go to Honda’s FCX Clarity.

Launched in 2008, the Clarity is a proper fuel cell electric vehicle with zero emissions and in some cases, offers 5 minute refuelling times. The other more important news is that the 26 lucky Honda Clarity customers, who lease the car for a grand total of US$600 per month, never have to worry about the price of petrol, regardless of what happens in the Middle East. You see – hydrogen is free. At least, for the time being it is.


FCX Clarity drivers now have access to 7 ‘fast-fill’ hydrogen refuelling stations throughout Southern California and last Friday, the world’s 1st station supplied by an existing hydrogen pipeline opened across the street from Toyota’s Motor Corp’s sales division.

The new Royal Dutch Shell hydrogen station will mainly service test fleets from the likes of Toyota (who incidentally lease the land to Shell), Daimler AG, Hyundai Motor Co and General Motors and of course, those fortunate Honda Clarity drivers.

Honda hopes to have at least 200 FCX Clarity cars on the road within a few years. In traffic congested place like Los Angeles, there is an even greater benefit to driving this ultra green Honda. The deal is that fuel cell vehicles get an automatic ‘white sticker’, which qualifies them to travel in the transit lanes (high occupancy lanes) and that goes for a single driver with no passengers.


It’s a great deal if you can get it, but if it’s that good, why aren’t there thousands of them on the road all over the world?

It’s a question of dollars – they cost plenty to build and it’s likely that Honda looses money on each and every Clarity they make.

5 years ago, Ford said that their fuel cell Focus cost $1 million to build although, Toyota said this year, that the actual costs have come down by 90%, which would mean US$100,000, but that’s still way out of the ball park for average consumers.


That said Toyota says that they also plan to release their own fuel cell model by 2015 at a cost of around US$50,000. It makes huge sense when you weigh up the benefits. Hydrogen can be made from natural gas or water, you can refill your car in minutes with a range of several hundred kilometres or more and the clincher, and there are no exhaust emissions.

Whichever way you cut it, the only sustainable fuel model for the global automotive industry is hydrogen fuel cells. The Hybrids and electric plug-in vehicles are simply stop/gap solutions while the collective technology partners work it all out on the fuel cell front.


 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
GM


TOKYO—General Motors Co. GM +2.03% and Honda Motor Co. 7267.TO +2.70% will team up to develop fuel-cell systems, as global car makers form environmental-technology partnerships to cut costs and speed up development times.

The 2 car makers will announce their tie-up on Tuesday in the U.S., a person with knowledge of the plan said.

Stricter vehicle emission regulations world-wide and hopes of tapping into surging demand for hybrid cars and other fuel efficient vehicles are causing a number of major auto makers to join hands to develop costly environmental technology.

Demand for automobile fuel-cell systems is expected to surge to ¥2.910 trillion by the fiscal year ending in March 2026 from ¥300 million in the year ended March 2012, according to research firm Fuji Keizai Co.

With Toyota Motor Corp., 7203.TO +2.81% Ford Motor Co. F +1.72% and others having already forged their alliances in the development of fuel-cell technology, there was much interest in GM and Honda's future courses.

GM ended its research collaboration on hydrogen fuel cell technology with Toyota in 2006, while Honda has been working on a system on its own.

Last year, Toyota and BMW AG BMW.XE -2.01% agreed to extend their cooperation pact to include the development of fuel cells and other technologies needed to improve efficiency. Ford, Daimler AG, DAI.XE -0.25% Nissan Motor Co. 7201.TO +2.85% and Renault SA RNO.FR +1.05% are jointly working on fuel-cell systems that could be featured in road cars as early as 2017.

Among the wide range of green cars being developed, fuel-cell vehicles, which run on electricity generated through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen and which emit only water as a byproduct, are seen as 1 of the most promising areas of exploration.

Such vehicles are already commercially available, but the lack of hydrogen stations providing fuel and the high costs of building such vehicles are 2 big factors limiting demand. Fuel cell car makers mostly offer their vehicles to corporate customers and local governments world-wide for leasing, but some car makers plan to sell them to individuals in the next few years.

Toyota, for instance, plans to start selling a fuel-cell hydrogen powered sedan to individual customers in 2015.

In the field of next-generation fuel technology, electric cars that are battery powered are a main rival to fuel-cell cars.

Battery powered electric cars also generate no toxic exhaust gases while running, but fuel-cell vehicles have shorter fuel-pumping times than the power-charging time of battery cars and can travel for longer distances than battery-powered electric vehicles.

Write to Yoshio Takahashi at [email protected]
 
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