Honda's Vision of Greener Automobiles
By EV World
From the introduction of its landmark, low-emission, fuel-efficient CVCC engine in the 1970s to the roll-out of its FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell sedan, Honda prides itself as being at the vanguard of change and innovation.
That is the theme of Dan Bonawitz, American Honda's Vice President for Corporate Planning, address during the opening plenary session of the 23rd Electric Vehicle symposium in Anaheim, California this past December. Citing numerous examples of vehicles and technology, he emphasizes that the company and its Japanese parent continue to examine and develop a wide array of greener vehicles from its SULEV and ULEV engines, to a new 4 cylinder diesel engine that will meet the toughest emissions criteria in America, to its FCX Clarity.
Interestingly, while he underscored that fact that Honda doesn't believe current battery technology is up to the demanding standards of the car buying public, he did admit that the company is investigating various electric drive technologies, suggesting that it hasn't entirely ruled out the possibility of someday producing plug-in electric vehicles.
He announced that Honda is actively considering the development of a hybrid-electric sports car along the lines of the CR-Z debuted at the 2007 Tokyo Auto Show.
But the primary focus of his address was on the FCX Clarity, pictured above, and the many improvements and innovations Honda has incorporated into it. He points out that its newest generation fuel cell system, including the lithium ion battery pack that replaces the ultracapacitors of the older FCX, are now the same size as a conventional gasoline-electric hybrid power plant.
He stresses that the Clarity advances Honda's fuel cell efforts "one full generation" which translates into more range, greater efficiency, "exhilarating performance" and "vastly improved packaging efficiency." Besides reducing the weight and volume of the fuel cell stack to roughly the size of a desktop computer, the Clarity's lithium ion battery pack is, itself, a breakthrough boasting higher energy output than "existing commercial technology", while being 50% smaller and 40% lighter than the ultracapacitors in the older generation FCX.
The combined electric motor, "V-flow" fuel cell stack and battery are 45% smaller than is in the previous model. Its power-to-weight ratio has been increased two-thirds or 67%, while increasing power output by 25% to 100kW.
Bonawitz stated that the tank-to-wheel efficiency of the Clarity has been improved to 60%. That is, Honda estimates, three times the efficiency of a conventional gasoline engine vehicle and 2.5 times that of a compact hybrid. This should result in an EPA combined fuel economy rating of 68 mpg.
"So even running on natural gas-derived hydrogen, you achieve a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions," he noted.
He concludes by saying, "The FCX Clarity is a dynamic reflection of our company's environmental vision, our passion for innovation, and our commitment to deliver real-world advances with electric drive technology."
You may listen to Mr. Bonawitz's complete remarks using either of the two MP3 players at the top of the page. Or feel free to download the file to your computer for transfer to and playback on your favorite MP3 device.
Editor's note: At the moment, our February 2008 ePoll strongly suggests that those EV World readers who have participated in the survey strongly disagree with Honda's current fuel cell-centric strategy by a margin of 13 to 1.