Honda FCEV: 55 years in development and still waiting
Last November the world watched as Honda Motor Company unveiled what it referred to as the ‘future in zero emissions’ applied automotive engineering.
With the unveiling of the Japanese manufactured FCEV Concept, the automotive press was assured that the prototype represented many technological and design aspects of the 2015 FCEV to be released to Japan and North America some time in 2015.
Honda has now taken the lead as to an actual production FCEV through its innovative “fuel stack” technology.
Although other manufacturers have promised their release of a FCEV for 2015, Honda appears to be the front-runner in the field, with a smaller fuel cell, superior battery technology and a longer stated range between fuel stops. But they are not alone in the arena.
While Honda may beat G.M.,Toyota, Hyundai and others to a viable retail market , the handwriting’s on the wall.
North America’s largest new car market, California, wants 70% of all cars new to the road within the next 20 years, to be hyper-efficient I.C., Electric Hybrid, Plug in Hybrid, stand alone EV or FCEV.
Governor Jerry Brown has put the state’s money where his positive intent lies; low environmental impact, zero emissions and fuel source sustainability.
California is investing $100 million in matched grant development money for the building of a dedicated hydrogen fueling network.
Not the first to venture into fuel cell development, Honda, along with every major, several boutique automotive manufacturers and most Universities in the U.S., has toyed and tinkered with various fuel cell configurations and applications.
Allis Chalmers Tractor Company first produced a fuel celled farm tractor in 1959.
Although never put into production, the one-off tractor proved the viability of bio-derived (methane) hydrogen fuel cell application toward mechanically driven forward momentum.
The tractor can be seen here, but much like the Spruce Goose of the day was under-powered and too expensive for marketing to rural America. Gasoline and diesel was cheap, farmer’s were leery of the new technology.
First on the automotive scene with FCEV technology was General Motors.
The number 1 car manufacturer of the day produced and tested a fuel cell Hybrid “Electrovan” back in 1966. While the exercise proved that hydrogen fuel cell technology could be applied to automotive propulsion, the fuel cell itself was huge, dominated the cargo area of the van and was unmarketable.
Daimler Chrysler, Mercedes Benz,Toyota and others have ventured into the fuel cell game. They all have viable FCEVs concepts and few working models running on North America’s highways.
But, all have dedicated corporate assets to the further development of low emission I.C., electric hybrid cars and light trucks. The general consensus is that America is not ready for fuel cell enabled personal transportation. We disagree.
Honda may be the exception. We’ll have to wait until late 2015 to find out.