Honda will be able to base its next generation of fuel cell vehicle on the same platforms as existing models, allowing it to offer the hydrogen-fuelled technology in multiple body styles and ramp up production levels.
The Japanese manufacturer is unveiling the production version of its latest FCV at the Tokyo motor show. The new car’s fuel cell stack is one-third smaller than the set-up in its predecessor, the FCX Clarity - and senior Honda sources have already revealed that this will allow the next car, due by 2020, to co-exist easily with conventional models.
Kiyoshi Shimizu, chief engineer for large projects at Honda’s R&D Centre, said, “The most important thing with this FCV is getting the fuel cell stack under the bonnet. That means that it can be accommodated with gasoline engine-like packaging in the future, and this opens up lots of possibilities; we could use the same stack in an SUV as in a saloon. In the future we will not need a dedicated design for a fuel cell vehicle.”
Honda is collaborating with General Motors on fuel cell technology, although the joint effort extends only as far as the next fuel stacks and, in particular, hydrogen tanks. The project is expected to reach fruition in 2020, the point where Honda believes it will be able to start mass-production of the technology.
The latest FCV already achieves a major breakthrough in cost; the fuel cell stack is 90% cheaper to produce than the FCX Clarity’s unit, thanks mainly to reduced use of platinum. However, Shimizu admitted that more cost savings are required before the hydrogen-fuelled vehicle can gain more widespread acceptance. “The reduction on cost is huge,” he said, “but it’s still not enough. We have to do more.”