Honda FCX Concept
13 November 2007
Honda Motor, aiming to start mass production of fuel-cell cars by about 2015, is developing a system using solar energy for drivers to make hydrogen at home to fuel such vehicles.Individual production of hydrogen would let people refuel their cars without waiting for a network of stations to be set up, the company's president, Takeo Fukui, said.Automakers, under pressure to cut carbon dioxide emissions tied to global warming and tailpipe exhaust, are seeking alternatives to oil as prices approach $100 a barrel.Honda, Toyota Motor and General Motors have all said hydrogen powered autos are a long-term option, though they are costly to build and lack a refueling infrastructure."Our ultimate goal is to use a renewable source of energy as a source of fuel," Masaaki Kato, the president of research and development at Honda, said. "So we use solar panels to generate electricity and we use the electricity to produce hydrogen."Honda, the second-largest automaker in Japan, plans Wednesday to unveil a fuel-cell vehicle based on its prototype FCX sports car at the Los Angeles Auto Show.In 2008, the new car initially will be leased "to fewer than 100" people, most in California, Fukui said Oct. 23.While producing hydrogen from solar-powered electrolysis would cut carbon dioxide emissions, it is not yet possible to do it cheaply or in sufficient quantity, said a chemistry professor, Nate Lewis, who is also an energy researcher at the California Institute of Technology."You need to do that cheaply and scalably - neither of which we are even close to being able to do technically now," Lewis said.Honda began selling solar panels in Japan earlier this year to make electricity for homes.The panels, priced at ¥57,500, or $509, each, substitute a thin metal layer for silicone typically used in photovoltaic panels to reduce production costs and lower the energy needed to make them, Honda said.Honda has no "specific" plan to commercialize a home-based hydrogen-generation system, Kato said. Still, it could be ready for consumers within 10 years, according to Fukui."We believe this should bring a breakthrough in providing infrastructure for fuel-cell vehicles," Fukui said.Caltex income rises on fuel Caltex Australia, the biggest oil refiner in the nation, expects full-year net income to rise as much as 29 percent as fuel production increases.Net income, including the effect of changes in oil prices on the value of stockpiles, may rise to between 550 million Australian dollars, or $510 million, and 600 million dollars in the year ending Dec. 31, from 466 million dollars last year, Caltex said Thursday.Caltex, half-owned by Chevron, estimates its two refineries near Brisbane and Sydney will increase production of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to 11 billion liters, or 2.9 billion gallons, this year, from 10.2 billion in 2006.First-half profit jumped 33 percent, buoyed by higher refining margins, production and sales volumes, the company reported.
In a world first, Honda last year delivered one of its FCX fuel cell cars to a private individual in the US. Now a glimpse of how a Honda production fuel cell vehicle might appear in three to four years' time is provided by the FCX Concept, which boasts a fuel cell system that delivers more power in less space, in a unique, low-floor platform. The sleek, premium four-door sedan's low centre of gravity and full-sized cabin offer the kind of driving pleasure and roomy interior previously unimaginable in a fuel cell vehicle. The FCX Concept also features a wide range of technology both for extremely efficient performance and to enhance the driving experience. Fuel cell vehicles must accommodate a wide array of equipment: as well as the fuel cell stack, there is the motor and hydrogen tank which have traditionally been accommodated by raising the height of the floor. The packaging efficiency of Honda's new compact V Flow fuel cell platform means that it has been possible to create the lowest floor in a fuel cell car so far.
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