Fuel cell pioneer says the tech is too far off; it wants a hybrid sports car, and soon
6 November 2009

Fuel cell technology is still two decades away, according to Honda. That’s why it is aiming to concentrate on refining existing systems and expanding its hybrid range to include a lightweight hybrid sports car.

Honda CEO Takanobu Ito said, “It will be 20 years at the earliest before fuel cell cars penetrate the mass market.”

Honda is currently the only car maker to have a fuel cell-powered car in production, but the FCX Clarity is only available to lease in the US and Japan.

In the meantime, Honda is working on a range of technologies to improve the efficiency of its cars and increase the number of hybrids it sells, including a high-performance sports car.

“This is something that we are considering, and the CR-Z is only one shape of Honda’s hybrid sports cars in the current age,” revealed Honda design boss Nobuki Ebisawa.

Some company insiders are believed to want to revive a bespoke sports car programme following the axing of the long-rumoured replacement for the NSX at the end of last year.

However, any new Honda sports car is unlikely to be as extreme as the NSX; the firm’s US dealers are known to want a rival to the Porsche Boxster, so the car could, in effect, replace the S2000.

Ebisawa is studying weight-saving processes such as using more aluminium, from which the first NSX was made.

But before the sports cars, Honda will further develop its hybrid tech with a two-motor system that will enable the firm to build petrol-electric versions of bigger cars.

“We recognise that one motor is not sufficient for bigger cars. The class above the Civic would need two motors, so we are developing such a system,” said Ito. “We want to minimise weight and maximise efficiency.”

The firm is also working on a plug-in hybrid as part of its research into improving its line-up in that area of the market. But it is cautious about launching the car due to the incentive-driven nature of how people buy hybrids, especially in Japan, where big government-funded discounts have fuelled sales of the Insight. Should these be reduced, sales could fall.

Styling, too, will be used to improve the vehicle’s efficiency. Honda’s R&D centre is working on active aerodynamics (bodywork that changes shape at different speeds to improve airflow over the car). It will introduce the aero technology within five years, according to Ebisawa.

Dan Stevens

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Comments
7

6 November 2009

[quote Autocar]Fuel cell technology is still two decades away, according to Honda[/quote]

someone better tell that streak of piss Clarkson. Didn't he and the hippy May get all po-faced and religiously serious about fuel cells being the real deal and the Honda Clarity in particular, in a piece shot in America just a few months ago? Just shows what a useless, overrated twit that jumped-up provincial motoring writer is. Given how old and decrepit he is he'll never live to see the day when his 'this is the future' becomes reality. Wonder if the prat had bought shares in a hydrogen linked business and was using TG to ramp it?

6 November 2009

-i was just thinking the same RH, shows how much Top Gear know! this has to be one of the biggest climb downs in auto tech. history.

-the admission that finally states the truth, fuel cell is deader than a dead thing; in twenty years we will be on fourth, fifth or even sixth gen electric cars and the same for RE (range extenders) i.e. the Chevy Volt.

-all the cars will be run on "super green" algae fuel that actually absobs CO2 (which in part will be taken from the coal and bio mass power stations) and of course they will also use "green" electricity from renewable sources (wind and the like).

-the fact is hydrogen made no eco sense whatsoever (my 5 year old nephew knew that!), the Clarity tanked in the USA, to build the infrastructure would cost £billions (probably £trillions) not to mention the amount of CO2 it costs to build and install all the infrastructure etc i.e. petrol (algae fuel or not) and electricity is already present and the way to go.

-Honda messed up its tech. focus and the same is true for Toyota (although that is only just starting to be seen but wil really hit home in the next couple of years i.e. the Prius was just a marketing tool and was wrong)-Honda and Toyota messed up.

-and people say GM have got it wrong? the Chevy Volt is a master stroke and the right tech. track to follow along with the other manufacturers usages of hybrids i.e. larger cars, SUVs etc and mild hybrids as well as electric vehicles.

-and yes I know Lexus and the Camry in the US has hybrid, but Toyota should have solely left it at them and also the manner in which Toyota have gone about things re. supply chain and the entire process; they have it wrong, the others have it right and time will show.

6 November 2009

Maybe Honda hasn't taken a wrong turn here, it's just been braver and more committed to a viable alternative to the good ol' ICE.

Honda spends proportionately more money on R&D than anyone else - it goes into personal mobility, robotics, efficient aircraft, solar cells, nano tech and micro co-generation (you can only learn so much about building cares by building cars) and genuinely tries to take leaps to find innovative solutions to the world's problems. 30 years ago Honda was largely a bike company, now it's a mobility company, and in another 30 years it will be an energy company with a range of mobility solutions.

Fuel cell won't fail because it's a technological cul-de-sac - the challenges can be overcome, and Honda has a 10 year lead on development - but it will fail because other manufacturers would rather spend less money on shorter-term solutions, and because consumers and authorities think in the short-term too, so we won't get investment in the infrastructure required.

Honda got it right when they made motorbikes reliable when the Brits couldn't, they made the lean-burn CVCC car engines when the Yanks said it was impossible, they created the VTEC engine with power and efficiency, pioneered aluminium construction to save weight and hybrid motors to take petrol further. So maybe, just maybe, we should all get behind them when they have Another Big Idea.

6 November 2009

[quote NobbyUK]

Honda got it right when they made motorbikes reliable when the Brits couldn't, they made the lean-burn CVCC car engines when the Yanks said it was impossible, they created the VTEC engine with power and efficiency, pioneered aluminium construction to save weight and hybrid motors to take petrol further. So maybe, just maybe, we should all get behind them when they have Another Big Idea.

[/quote]

Can't argue with that.

6 November 2009

Honda should sell the CR-Z just like that, but with pull out door handles.

6 November 2009

[quote Uncle Mellow]

[quote NobbyUK]

Honda got it right when they made motorbikes reliable when the Brits couldn't, they made the lean-burn CVCC car engines when the Yanks said it was impossible, they created the VTEC engine with power and efficiency, pioneered aluminium construction to save weight and hybrid motors to take petrol further. So maybe, just maybe, we should all get behind them when they have Another Big Idea.

[/quote]

Can't argue with that.

[/quote]

I agree completely - very well said.

I really hope they do revive their sports car programme and develop a replacement for the S2000 too...

8 November 2009

The point that generally gets missed is that fuel cells are essentially just another type of battery - the drivetrain of a fuel cell car is otherwise identical to that of a battery EV. The TG item was very misleading, suggesting that the abundance of hydrogen essentially makes it a free fuel. Anyone with even half a science GCSE should have seen straight through it.

Charge/discharge cycle efficiency of fuel cells is far worse than today's batteries, so when the energy is fundamentally coming from the same source (the grid) it's hard to justify their use. On the other hand, if there's a generation/conversion process which efficiently produces hydrogen directly, they make more sense.

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