LA Auto Show Spotlight: Honda FCEV Concept

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Honda-FCEV-frontWhat is it?

Honda’s hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, dubbed the FCEV Concept, is the most radical car at the show. But aside from its spaceship dimensions and glowing LEDs, the FCEV is a simple next step for the automaker, which was first to market a production hydrogen-powered car, the FCX, back in 2002. Its successor, the 2008 FCX Clarity, can still be found on Southern California roads, and the FCEV promises to take the company’s expertise to new levels as hydrogen cars get a second wind of government support.

Why should you care?

Before it sold hydrogen cars, Honda started with the Civic GX, a natural gas-powered car that’s been in continuous production since 1998. Both fuels require similar research and development, and needless to say, Honda has more real-world experience with compressed gas storage than anyone. This technology is a sorely needed alternative to battery-electric cars and their expensive rare earth metals, and may prove viable. Hydrogen-powered cars generate their own electricity, emitting nothing but water vapor, and Honda claims the FCEV can be refilled in just three minutes for more than 300 miles of range. Honda is collaborating with General Motors to develop the production version, which is scheduled for 2015.




What’s not to like?

While it’s the most abundant element on earth, hydrogen fuel is scarce because it’s too expensive to extract and store in significant quantity. Calls to build nationwide networks of hydrogen fueling stations have failed to gain traction, and unless that happens, hydrogen may never be level with electricity. Honda won’t be able to sell its car outside California, the state with the most hydrogen stations (only a few dozen, at that), and it’ll be built in very small volumes. In reality, this Honda is more exotic than a Lamborghini, and mostly for the worse.

How much?

Honda has not announced pricing for its next fuel cell model, but FCX Clarity drivers in Southern California are paying Honda $600 per month and cannot buy the cars outright. Expect a similar deal in 2015.



All photos by the author.

Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Based in Connecticut, he writes for BestRide, Car and Driver, The Boston Globe and other publications.