Why Honda Backs Hydrogen Technology

Honda Motor Co. is backing hydrogen power for the cars of the future, a stance at odds with the Obama administration’s decision to drop automotive fuel-cell technology in favor of battery-run vehicles. Honda isn’t alone. Nissan Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn predicts battery cars may grab 10 percent of global auto sales by 2020. Honda hasn’t announced plans for a battery-electric car.

Fuel Costs

Fuel-cell cars also have at least double the efficiency of gasoline models, with Clarity averaging 60 miles per kilogram. Toyota President Akio Toyoda said Aug. 5 his company plans consumer sales of fuel-cell cars within six years. Fueling Time Honda says hydrogen vehicles match the refueling style drivers are used to: filling up in minutes at a service station. A budget crisis slowed plans for more hydrogen stations in California, home to the biggest fleet of cars using the fuel. Through July, Honda leased cars to 10 drivers for $600 a month.

Filling Stations

Honda and Toyota will have to reduce production costs to win over consumers. Honda plans to offer hydrogen-fueled cars at prices comparable to midsize gasoline autos by 2020, down from a company estimate that Clarity’s 2005 hand-built predecessor cost about $1 million. Moriya wouldn’t discuss the Clarity’s price.

Expensive Platinum

Honda engineers in Tochigi are trying to trim costs. Hundreds of the cells are then sealed in a metal case, forming the fuel-cell stack. Funds for fuel cells were cut and some spending shifted to other “priorities,” Moriya said, without elaborating.

Honda is pushing ahead with its plans to begin mass-production of its hydrogen fuel-cell-powered FCX Clarity, despite the slow take-up of hydrogen technology. In the US, a key market for hydrogen technology, the Obama administration has publically backed electric car technology and has consistently distanced itself from creating a hydrogen network.

Honda Hydrogen Technology

Honda Hydrogen Technology.

Takashi Moriya, head of the Tokyo-based Honda group developing the technology, said: “Fuel-cell cars will become necessary. GM and Toyota have also publically backed the adoption of hydrogen fuel-cell technology. GM plans to launch a fuel-cell car by 2012, while Toyota president Akio Toyoda confirmed his company would bring a fuel-cell car to market within the next six years.