Honda FCX Clarity: Beauty for beauty's sake

Discussion in 'FCV or Fuel Cell Vehicle' started by Right Lane Cruiser, Feb 13, 2009.

  1. Right Lane Cruiser

    Right Lane Cruiser Penguin of Notagascar

    Honda's striking, amazing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle may be the most expensive, advanced and impractical car ever built.

    [xfloat=right][/xfloat]Dan Neil - The Los Angeles Times - Feb. 13, 2009

    Why can't Honda see this?? --Ed.

    I've driven lots of cars. I've wallowed like a Russian oligarch pig in the gorgeous mud of a $1.6-million Bugatti Veyron. I've spit tailpipe fire across the midnight Mojave at the wheel of a Lamborghini. I've brushed gape-mouthed peasants aside with the chrome cowcatcher grille of a Rolls Royce Phantom.

    Yet I have never driven a car half as advanced, as futuristic, as blind-with-science as the Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle.

    Nor one so expensive. More on that in a moment.

    But first, let's get this out of the way: Hydrogen fuel-cell technology won't work in cars. It's a tragic cul-de-sac in the search for sustainable mobility, being used to game the California Air Resources Board's rules requiring carmakers to build zero-emission vehicles. Any way you look at it, hydrogen is a lousy way to move cars.

    Face it: Fuel-cell technology has been eclipsed by vastly cheaper, here-now advances in batteries and plug-in electric vehicles. To knit together even the barest network of H2 refueling stations would cost billions. And, in any case, the fuel itself, whether produced by cracking natural gas or hydrolyzing water (consult your freshman chemistry texts), represents a horrible energy return on investment.

    Some illustrative math: It takes about 60 kilowatt-hours of electricity to gin a kilogram of hydrogen from… [rm],1,4909284.story[/rm]
  2. Indigo

    Indigo Witch with wry sense of humor

    That article does a wonderful job expressing what I think about fuel cell vehicles: they are delightfully high-tech but it's doubtful they can ever become mainstream because the technology is too expensive and competing emission-free systems are far cheaper.
  3. Mr. Pancake

    Mr. Pancake Well-Known Member

    You have to give Honda credit for trying. Sure, it probably won't go anywhere, but as the article suggests they will more than likely learn a lot from developing this car. I doubt they made that much if anything off of the Insight but I would imagine the process helped them make the HCH.
  4. Right Lane Cruiser

    Right Lane Cruiser Penguin of Notagascar

    If we had any hope at all of a good ROEI way to produce hydrogen I'd be for it... but there isn't. It seems no matter what you do it will always take more energy to produce hydrogen than what you can get back out of it. A dead end if I ever saw one. :(
  5. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist


    He seems to understand the essence of the Honda DNA a bit better than the average columnist. Good piece indeed. ;)


  6. paratwa

    paratwa Well-Known Member

    I've been thinking about this angle.

    I don't know enough about the chemistry, but does water cracking need to be done in pure water? Could several functions be combined into one solution? Say, sewage treatment, hydrogen production, and off-peak wind generated electrical usage in one building?

    Use off-peak wind generated electricity to crack water polluted with waste (most of sewage treatment is just getting rid of the water safely). Store and dispense hydrogen produced on site. The remaining sewage sludge might even be flammable for use as thermal power generation. You get something to do with wind power at night during off-peak usage, and you could locate it right next to sewage treatment so you wouldn't lose the efficiency by moving electricity over power lines.

  7. PaleMelanesian

    PaleMelanesian Beat the System Staff Member

    Huh. Interesting idea. Lots of suggestions for storing excess generation capacity, but few are actually implemented. This one I like.
  8. Right Lane Cruiser

    Right Lane Cruiser Penguin of Notagascar

    If we can generate enough to make it worth the trouble with excess energy, it could be done that way. You'll never make a profit from it though because it takes more energy to create than you can get out.

    Now if the nation wanted to just say that we will use some portion of nuclear (or some other renewable resource) to generate hydrogen and swallow the energy losses, that's a different situation. If it is "just the cost of moving forward" and one that we are willing to deal with, it might be doable. Energy wouldn't be able to be used the way it is now, though. We have what we have because energy is in fact so cheap (in the form of oil).

    Personally, the only way I could see this being feasible is if it is only used for the rare occasion someone needed range extension. I don't think we could afford to displace the entire quantity of oil we currently use.
  9. daisy

    daisy Member

    It seems like that should work, doesn't it? However, hydrogen contains massive amounts of energy. It takes over 100 times as much energy to make water into hydrogen than it does to boil it away. Sewage treatment also uses much less energy than boiling, which would be closer to desalination.

    I'm by no means an expert either, but I was under the impression that you needed salt to conduct the electricity, and that the amount of salt effects the efficiency.

    By my thinking, that means that if electrolyzing sewage is even 1% less efficient than the best method, you're better off making the hydrogen using the 'best' salt / whatever mixture and then purifying the water with all that saved energy.
  10. paratwa

    paratwa Well-Known Member

    Ahh, if this is the case, then yes my idea doesn't have merit.

    While this might be true on the coast (where sea water is readily available), in the midwest where their are windmills turning at night and very little demand for electricity, a need for storage of this energy is still needed.

    Perhaps pump storage (assuming placement near a body of water) would be a better bet. I visited Niagara Falls last year and use of pump storage at night by both the American and Canadian hydro plant operations was amazing. The tour of the Canadian hydro plant costs $5. It's well worth it if you're into this kind of thing.

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