LA Auto Show – Honda FCX Concept0
Since the late 1980s, Honda has been evaluating, exploring, and testing fuel cell solutions. The 1999 FCX-V2 and 2001 FCX-V3 prototypes began testing on public roads and in everyday driving conditions. In December 2002, the City of Los Angeles was the first to lease a fuel cell vehicle, in the form of the 2003 FCX, followed by San Francisco and testing in the state of New York. In 2005 the first FCX was leased to a family. Further driving hydrogen expansion in California is the government initiative for installing hydrogen stations around the state’s highway system, known as California’s Hydrogen Highway.
At the L.A. Auto Show in November, Honda introduced the next step in their fuel cell, hydrogen-powered vehicle development. The FCX Concept is a four-door sedan and previews the car that will be on sale in 2008 (2009MY), albeit with a limited roll out. The FCX takes Honda’s traditional look and rachets it up at notch. Aside from the cutting edge propulsion system, the sedan just looks great.
The first FCX vehicles from Honda were in the shape of a five-door hatchback, but an all-new fuel stack that can be mounted horizontally instead of vertically gave Honda the packaging freedom they needed to wrap the futuristic drivetrain with a tight, long and low sedan form. The new stack is 20 percent smaller and 30 percent lighter than that in the cars leased by local cities, yet takes power from about 107HP to 127HP. The sedan form looks enough like a traditional sedan to be readily accepted, but still different enough for people to know it is something special.
Inside, the concept features seat upholstery and door linings made from a plant-based material called Honda Bio-Fabric, promised to deliver outstanding durability and resistance to sunlight damage. There was also a switch to shift-by-wire and a new instrument panel. Honda had already made sure their fuel cell can operate in cold weather, but with the changes in the fuel stack the FCX Concept can start in weather minus 10 degrees colder than before, as low as minus 30 degrees.
Hydrogen: Fuel of the Future
Though the transition will be slow, long, and expensive, there are many who think the real next step is not ethanol, hybrid, or diesel. It is possible that the real alternative to gasoline-powered cars is hydrogen. Honda is far from the only manufacturer researching the option, and you really needed look no further than the Ford, Chevrolet, or BMW stands at this L.A. show to see real proof. Ford showed off a fuel-cell Explorer that has been in use around the hometown of Dearborn, Michigan, for 17,000 miles. BMW announced the start of production of its hydrogen-powered 7-Series, which has been shown in one form or another several times over the past few years and will be made available to limited customers in 2007. Chevrolet has a fuel-cell-powered Equinox that is in use by various cities and governments, also on display in Los Angeles. We’re still quite some time for widespread use and there are infrastructure hurdles, but baby steps are being taken by manufacturers around the world.