What it Is
How it Works
A fuel cell vehicle is powered by an electric motor running on electricity generated by a fuel cell stack that uses hydrogen as its energy source. The Honda FCX creates its energy via two hydrogen tanks filled up to 5,000 psi, and a fuel cell stack that makes significant strides in development, primarily in it’s smaller, vertical design. This allows for better water drainage, and as a result creates more power, range, and starting consistency in colder climates.
Why it Matters
What's Under the Hood
The fuel cell of the FCX is small enough to fit in between the driver and passenger seats. This new fuel cell stack is 20 percent smaller and 30 percent lighter than the current FCX stack, yet its power output is 14kW greater. Overall, the power plant is about 180kg lighter than that of the current FCX and about 40 percent smaller in volume. The result is improved energy efficiency and performance along with a more spacious interior. As an auxiliary power source, the FCX Concept carries a compact, high-efficiency lithium ion battery, helping with increased power output and vehicle range. The vehicle is also highly energy efficient at around 60 percent -- approximately three times that of a gasoline-engine vehicle, twice that of a hybrid vehicle, and 10 percent better than the current FCX.
What it Drives Like
We drove the Honda FCX on a shortened course at Laguna Seca and found it to be quite an admirable ride. Sure, the concept handled a bit like a Honda Odyssey in the turns and sounded like a pack of angry bees, but that’s a good thing – there are sedans out there that would fail to match up with the Odyssey. It’s especially impressive given the weight on board (around 3,500 pounds) and the dimensions of the FCX, weight that while nicely centered was still felt in the vehicle’s performance. A specially-designed double-wishbone suspension handled the track pretty well, with a hint of floatiness and fade.
What it Drives Like, Part II
What it Drives Like, Part III
Finding speed may take a bit of patience, but the Honda FCX Concept gets there much faster than in the latest FCX model. That vehicle, which is almost 500 pounds heavier and with the fuel cell placed horizontally under the passengers, drives like a top-heavy SUV. And while it also made it around the track, it did so gingerly, with not near the slash and spirit of the FCX Concept. All in all, the FCX is very, very, close to what the cars of today are like. Now, about that refueling issue...
How to Fill it Up
If you were to drive an FCX to work you’d have to fill it up around every 350 miles – not a bad range. To do so, however, you’d need to make friends with Al the maintenance guy at the local city yard, ‘cause that’s where most hydrogen refueling centers are. It’s a simple enough affair with two cables: one for ground and the other for fueling. It’s just that you get this feeling that if you do it wrong, er, things might blow up. But that’s today. For tomorrow, Honda is developing a Home Energy Station that will extract hydrogen from a home’s natural gas supply. The problem is that carbon dioxide spews forth when you produce hydrogen this way, which sort of defeats the purpose. Honda engineers are working on zero-carbon solutions.
What Honda Says
What We Think
Photos courtesy of Honda Motors of North America