Trend: Innovative companies, not government, will develop the next generation of clean energy powered vehicles.
Jamais Cascio at WorldChanging describes Honda's progress in developing a fuel cell car that will be available in several years. This is great news for those of us who dream of a oil-free future. Excerpts below.
Last month, Honda announced that it would begin production in Japan of its fuel cell FCX vehicle within the next three to four years. The FCX line has been Honda's fuel cell vehicle prototype for a few years now, and beyond a handful of experimental locations, the car seemed ill-suited to regular use.... The new FCX design, however, changes all of that, and manages to induce something that previous hydrogen fuel cell vehicles couldn't: auto lust.
Sleek, roomy, and built upon Honda's latest-generation fuel cell system -- a stack providing a hundred kilowatts of power (that's a respectable 134 horsepower) and a hydrogen storage tank allowing over 350 miles range -- Honda's production prototype FCX suddenly looks like a viable contender. As for the fueling issue, two developments may mitigate the problem, at least a bit. In California, the "hydrogen highway" initiative continues to move forward (PDF), promising hydrogen fueling stations every 20 miles along major highways in the state. More importantly, Honda has coupled the announcement of the FCX production with the latest generation of its Home Energy Station (HES) -- and it's this combination that could make the FCX a winner.
The Home Energy Station uses regular natural gas as its base fuel, reforming it into H2 to fuel the FCX at home. But that's not all it does:
The system is equipped with fuel cells that generate and supply electricity to the home, and is configured to recover the heat produced during power generation for domestic water heating. In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by some 40 percent, the HES system is expected to lower the total running cost of household electricity, gas and vehicle fuel by 50 percent.
...the ability of the PHEV to function as a home power source when needed make it more useful than simply an advanced form of transportation. Remember, in the bright green world we're trying to build, distributed energy technologies and smart power grids will make home generation a common part of our lives. Not to live "off the grid," mind you, but to be a "grid collaborator," both supplying power to the grid and pulling power from the grid as needs change throughout the day. The FCX+HES combination does that, too, but adds the ability to generate power at home even when the vehicle is out on the road.