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The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is Green

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On: Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 5:35PM | By: Clay Ritchings

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is Green

There is light at the end of the tunnel, but no, it’s not from an oncoming Prius, Insight or Fusion Hybrid

There is much debate on which direction the automakers should go with the development of new vehicles, and this blog is no exception. Should auto manufacturers go the way of the hybrid by engineering more cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight or look at the EV (Electric Vehicle) possibilities? Both technologies have many pros and cons to consider.

Recently, Edmunds published the “2009 Edmunds Fuel Sipper Smack Down” where they pitted four frugal, fuel-sipping cars together to determine which was the most fuel-efficient and the cheapest to run while performing in the real world. The four vehicles included hybrids: Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and Ford Fusion, plus two conventional vehicles: Volkswagen Jetta TDI and Mini Cooper. This was a fantastic comparison in a real world setting for anyone on the fence about the whole “hybrid or Not” question, or was it?

Absent from the test was the 2009 World Green Car of the Year award-winner Honda FCX Clarity. The FCX Clarity is one of the few hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles built and sold to the public by a major carmaker. I can only wonder why such an innovative vehicle could be left off from this important review since the FCX Clarity is available in California and hydrogen fueling stations are available as far north as Eureka, California, and all the way down to Riverside. Why was the most important vehicle ever built left out from this test? Did Honda refuse to donate the vehicle? Because the UK-based Top Gear was able to get one for their reviews. Did Edmunds feel that it did not fit the criteria? Since the FCX has a range of up to 280 miles on a tank of hydrogen fuel, gets the equivalent of 72 miles per kilogram of hydrogen, and is available in the testing area, it is a viable candidate for the Fuel Sipper Smack Down.

The car of the future is available today, and not just to carefully selected corporate fleets, but is available to lease by everyday consumers. The FCX is a fully functional Honda that is just like the cars we drive today. With 134 hp, the FCX performs as well as any family sedan on the road today, except the only emission that come out of this car is water. The FCX is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell that can be refueled just as fast and easy as your car today. Unfortunately, the infrastructure is in place only in limited areas in California, but the good news is Honda can remedy that situation on their own.

Honda has begun using the Home Energy Station (HES) IV at its Honda R&D Americas, Inc. facility in Torrance, California. Honda’s Home Energy Station technology is designed to facilitate the broader adoption of zero-emissions fuel cell vehicles, like the FCX Clarity, by developing a home refueling solution that makes efficient use of a home’s existing natural gas supply for production of hydrogen, while providing heat and electricity to an average-size home.

Instead of waiting for an infrastructure plan to slowly churn through the quagmire of politics and red tape, why not put the HES (Home Energy Station) units at all the Honda dealerships? This will immediately add thousands of fueling points across the country and broaden the distribution of this revolutionary vehicle. The hydrogen infrastructure used for industrial and chemical plants is already in place in the U.S. and other countries. Companies like Linde and Praxair have pipelines in different parts of the country that could easily be tapped into and have filling stations along the pipeline.

Fuel cell vehicles may have fewer hurdles to overcome, but since EVs and fuel cell powered vehicles share many components such as motors, electronics, and batteries, they could co-exist for years driving down the overall costs of those components due to a large volume of vehicles. Batteries that have not seen improvement since the early 90s limit cars like the Tesla or GM’s Volt, but put a fuel cell in them and you have viable transportation. Maybe EVs will fill a niche category in the future as hybrids do today with fuel cell vehicles occupying the everyday driver category.

This little car’s success has implications that reach farther than any other vehicle in history. With Honda’s research into the HES, we may no longer be at the mercy of foreign oil as much as we are now. We may have a clean way to run our cars and power our homes, and we may no longer have to wait for an infrastructure to use the car of the future…today.

• Compared to the average US consumer’s home with grid-supplied electricity and a gasoline-powered car, a home using Home Energy Station IV to help produce heat and electricity and also to refuel an FCX Clarity can reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 30% and energy costs by an estimated 50%, according to Honda.

• Fuel cell technology proves its worth in different climatic regions every day, logging millions of miles in buses and trams around the world.

• The principle of fuel cell drive systems is simple and efficient: fuel cells produce energy from a reaction of hydrogen and atmospheric oxygen with an efficiency rate of up to 60%. This makes it about twice as high as with diesel engines.

• Internet rumors claim that the patents for better batteries have been bought up by the evil oil companies

The only thing that can stop Honda now is if they close their European design studio

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RoadKill | 10:53AM (Fri, Nov 6, 2009)

You do not hear too much about the Clarity at all...this is a production car they need to get the word out so that the program does not just fade away like so many others...

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