Honda is the latest automaker to reaffirm its commitment to hydrogen as an alternative to both gasoline and electric power. The company gave a briefing this morning in Tokyo to talk about its progress and its plans.
The part that has us the most interested is Honda's announcement that it will be launching a fuel-cell model in both North America and Japan in 2024. This isn't Honda's first FCEV car
, there have been multiple generations of fuel cell Clarity
models, but it might be the biggest deal.
Honda says the cars will use a next-generation fuel cell that is the result of a joint venture with GM on fuel cell development. The company said that the fuel cell system will cost just one-third the amount of the system used in the 2019 Honda Clarity FCEV. They achieved this by using new materials for the cell's electrodes, a new cell sealing structure, and simplifying the entire system. The durability of the fuel cell has doubled, Honda says.
Despite that new vehicle, Honda still thinks fuel cell use will take until 2030 to "advance toward full-fledged popularization." The company wants to be ahead of the curve this time and is currently working to bring its cell cost down to that of a conventional diesel engine.
The problem with hydrogen as a fuel is and continues to be availability. Honda said it knows the importance of developing green hydrogen (hydrogen made through renewable power and water electrolysis instead of natural gas or dirty power) and making it available in more places.
On top of cars, Honda is looking at other areas where hydrogen could be preferable to pure electric power. Hydrogen can be more easily transported off-grid as well as more easily stored than electricity. This makes it ideal for commercial vehicles, stationary power, and construction equipment.
Honda plans to test fuel cell-powered heavy-duty trucks in Japan this year and is already testing vehicles in China. The company has already installed a 500kW fuel cell power station at its corporate office in California, used as a backup power source for its data centre, and will work to apply this technology to other factories and data centres.
Lastly, Honda will work to apply its fuel cell system to excavators and wheel loaders for the first time. These vehicles are currently big polluters, but their large size and weight (as well as the nature of their intended workplaces) make battery electric power prohibitive. No timeline was provided for this one.
To help accomplish it all, Honda says it will "take an active role in establishing hydrogen ecosystems." The automaker says it will start with stationary power stations and places where demand for hydrogen already exists. Plans are underway to test a hydrogen ecosystem in Japan as well as a renewable energy hydrogen ecosystem in Europe.