Honda Unveils Its Fuel-Cell Car – Brief Article
Honda Motor Co.’s recently displayed its FCX-V3 fuel cell vehicle as part of a project with Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler and other automakers to test out a technology of the future: the fuel cell. Though the automakers won’t be sharing fuel cell technology, they will be helping each other cross other hurdles such as developing fueling systems, winning public acceptance and studying possibilities for commercial production.
Fuel cells will not likely take off for at least another decade, in part because it needs a whole new system of fueling. Gas stations would have to make way for fueling stations for hydrogen. But all the world’s major automakers are rushing to work on fuel cell technology.
Honda’s FCX-V3 will be among the more than 50 fuel cell vehicles tested over the next three years under the California Fuel Cell Partnership – a Sacramento-based project among the state of California, automakers, fuel-cell makers and oil companies. A road-test there is scheduled to start in November.
Automakers are competing intensely to keep up in fuel cell technology. “It’s too early to tell which automaker is ahead of the others,” said Masato Ogasawara, auto analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research in Tokyo.
Honda said its new fuel cell car is quieter, nimbler and lighter than its previous models. It stores the hydrogen in a high-pressure tank in the back of the car, where the trunk normally is. But having the tank in the trunk could be dangerous in an accident, as hydrogen is volatile. So Honda is working on a better, safer way to store hydrogen so the tank can be placed lower in the car, where a gas tank usually is, said executive chief engineer Yozo Kami.
“But with this model, we are getting closer to a commercial product,” Kami said. Honda acknowledged the fuel cell car needs more work: it doesn’t work well in cold weather and travels just 175 kilometers (110 miles) before refueling. Another issue is cost: Honda refused to say how much the fuel cell or vehicle cost, except to say that they were still extremely expensive.
Honda has set 2003 for commercial production of fuel cell vehicles. The company’s domestic rival, Toyota Motor Corp., has shown experimental models of its fuel cells and has an agreement with General Motors to exchange fuel cell technology. Toyota is putting 2003 as the target for a prototype that may lead to commercial production. Ford plans to begin a production program of fuel cell cars by 2004.
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