Honda Motors has announced it will be soon releasing a hydrogen-electric car in California. The Honda FCX Clarity runs on a combination of a hydrogen fuel and an electric motor.
The FCX Clarity mixes hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity to power an electric motor, which drives the wheels. The only exhaust it emits is water and heat.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the known universe, constituting around 75 percent of the universe's elemental mass. In addition it also has a higher energy content per weight than any other fuel. Considered an energy carrier (like electricity), as opposed to an energy source (like gasoline), hydrogen can be added to other fuels or burned by itself.
The car gets the equivalent of 74 miles-per-gallon and can go around 300 miles on a tank. It has a top speed of about 100 miles-per-hour.
For now, the FCX Clarity is only being released in what's-green-is-chic Southern California because there are hydrogen-fueling stations in the area necessary to keep it on the road. Honda received more than 50,000 lease applications but was limited to approving only those applicants who lived near one of three hydrogen refilling stations in SoCal.
While hydrogen is remarkably cleaner and more efficient than fossil fuels, an obstacle in the way of widespread hydrogen cell vehicles is actually making hydrogen fuel, a process which often produces the same greenhouse gases hydrogen-driven motors are designed to replace. Scientists are working on ways to use wind and solar power to make hydrogen fuel.
Another obstacle for hydrogen stems from the memory of the ill-fated "Hindenburg" that hydrogen is volatile and dangerous. If we can use modern technology to control nuclear power, however, we would surely have no problem controlling hydrogen cell motors.
It will be interesting to see how this technology and other fuel technologies develop over the next few years as fossil fuels become more scarce (and expensive) and the oil-producing parts of the world become more volatile. Several other automobile manufacturers are working on releasing hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Honda is planning to have a few dozen FCX Clarity vehicles available for consumers this year and 200 available within three years. Three year leases will run about $600 a month.
(photo by BBQ Junkie)