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Honda taps star power to boost fuel cell car

Posted by: Ian Rowley on June 16, 2008

I wrote an article recently which alluded to Honda’s irritation at the way Prius-powered Toyota established itself as a green leader even though Honda launched the Insight, its first hybrid, earlier in the U.S.

It doesn’t look like Honda will make the same mistakes with its market leading fuel cell vehicles. I just got back from the launch of its latest fuel cell car, the FCX Clarity, at a ceremony in Japan’s Tochigi prefecture. Honda will now begin leasing the stylish looking car, which also has an impressive range of 280 miles, in the U.S. in small numbers and in Japan from later this year.

Even if mass production is way off, Honda looks determined to use the Clarity to enhance its green credentials. Already used in Honda commercials, Honda bussed two loads of reporters to the event and laid on test drives, presentations and a tour of the factory that’s building the stylish looking cars. But perhaps the biggest sign that Honda has learned from Toyota’s marketers is the identities the Clarity’s first customers. Among them are Jamie Lee Curtis and her partner Christopher Guest, Canadian actress Laura Harris and Oscar winning Little Miss Sunshine producer Ron Yerza. Yerza and Harris, who played a villainess in the second series of 24, were at today’s event and seemed delighted with their new cars, cheerfully taking in lectures on inner workings on fuel cells, particpating on the factory tour and taking numerous questions from reporters.

Still, who wouldn’t be happy? For starters, Clarity customers have got themselves pretty good deals. While Hollwood celebs, not least Ms. Curtis, are probably wealthy enough not to worry about high gas prices just yet, Honda are only charging $600 a month to lease what is arguably the most leading edge car on the road for three years. The rest of us will have to wait: Honda chief Takeo Fukui said he’s confident that Honda can fully commercialize the zero emission vehicle (its only emission is water) in ten years, but production for the first three years of leasing is limited to just 200—150 in California and 50 in Japan. What’s more, the FCX Clarity is the first fuel cell car that, as another customer, businessmen Jon Spallino put it, doesn’t look like a “toaster”. By using 75% fewer parts than its last fuel cell offering and breakthroughs such as a smaller fuel cell stack, Honda is able to create a roomy car which comfortably seats four and has ample space for luggage. It also does 0-60mph in around nine seconds.

But best of all (well, maybe) come next year’s Academy Awards ceremony, anyone pulling up in a fuel cell car can leave Prius-driving celebs looking so last year.

Reader Comments

Jack Fields

June 17, 2008 4:30 PM

Zero emission? Yes but where does the Hydrogen come from? It takes a lot of energy to separate Hydrogen from Oxygen (water) so in the end this will probably release more greenhouse gas than the conventional petrol driven car.

Robert N. Roland

June 17, 2008 6:04 PM

Is there anything in american "media" print or TV that has a trace of intellectual content ? Is it a proton-exchange-membrane (PEM)so not being a thermodynamic heat engine can have 3 or 4 times the efficiency of gasoline or diesel engines ? With hundreds of millions of world cars & trucks potential energy saving would be enormous.Who cares what "hollywood celebs" drive it ! Make a car that runs on the methane given off by insipid articles like this & you could ride for free.

Harley Graves

June 17, 2008 8:44 PM

The reaction is the combination of oxygen and hydrogen produceing electricity and H2O... I personally am not educated on the pysics, (but plan on looking it up) But it is the power production system that has been in place on the Space Shuttles. (in orbit not during launching) so 30 some odd year old tech...

James King

June 18, 2008 3:06 PM

Jack, actually you are wrong. According to (a government website) your average ICB (internal combustion engine) is about 15% efficient (15% of the potential energy in the fuel goes into moving your car).

Fuel cells have been known to be as much as 80% efficient. Quite a big jump.

Ray Welsh

June 18, 2008 7:16 PM

Hydrogen is easily "split" from water using Solar energy. Water is 2parts Hydrogen and 1part Oxygen, hence H2O. The sun operates at zero cost but some still persist with the idea of more oil wells. Can anyone explain why??

Sandy Cole

June 18, 2008 8:20 PM

Anyone know anything about those "air cars" they are supposed to have in South America?

Greg Ratcliff

June 18, 2008 10:34 PM

Jack makes a good point: it takes electricity to generate the Hydrogen. Nightime electricity demand is very low, the excess nuke, wind, hydroelectric power can be put to good use.


June 19, 2008 9:29 AM


Those in power with the money want to keep it that way.


Garo aroutunian

June 19, 2008 9:52 AM

Hydrogen fuel or fuel cell cars are of the future it is inavitable, get with the program and support the alternitive. This technology has been around for a long time, its development has been stifled by lack of education ignorance and the oil companies. Investigate the Hydrogen industry and see how big it is.


June 19, 2008 10:15 AM

Also once a engin is running it is well over the tempature to turn water in to vapor. Thus making the separation of the H2O more cost effective using the engins own heat. Technologies have been out there for a long time, something as simple as heating gas before it enter the combustion chambers would increase fuel mileage. And then us more O and H would also bust the process.

naganath mule india

June 20, 2008 2:33 AM

electricity may not be required for decomposation of water. if water +K =KOH + H2 so we get hydrogen for cell. it is polution free.we have see the the cost of potacim.


June 20, 2008 9:47 AM

Thus making the separation of the H2O more cost effective using the engins own heat. Technologies have been out there for a long time.ivesticate the indusatry and how big it is.



Dual Diagnosis


June 20, 2008 2:08 PM

Water vapor is steam it is not the same thing as chemically separated water. PEM fuel cells don't require steam or heat... its all chemistry.

Peter G

June 20, 2008 7:08 PM

Not if you use nuclear to get that power to make the hydrogen.


June 23, 2008 9:49 AM

Honda’s announcement to begin producing the FCX Clarity is a tremendous accomplishment for the industry. The FCX Clarity only represents a portion of Honda’s work in developing hydrogen technologies for consumers. Honda has partnered with fuel cell manufacturer, Plug Power, to develop a Home Energy Station. The most recent generation of the unit supports electricity and heat needs for the home, in addition to producing hydrogen in the home using natural gas. These units are designed to support the need for a hydrogen refueling infrastructure, while providing consumers a way to cut energy costs by 50 percent and carbon emissions by an estimated 30 percent.

As a representative of the Hydrogen Education Foundation, I am helping people to understand that hydrogen can be produced from any renewable resource or from nuclear by splitting water via electrolysis, which eliminates all harmful emissions. Additionally, hydrogen can be produced directly from waste materials using bacteria (a process called anaerobic digestion) and can capture the emissions-free fuel from products that would otherwise wind up in a landfill. Two leading fuel cell manufacturing companies, Ballard Power Systems and Plug Power, released a joint report that confirms fuel cells can drastically improve the environment by reducing greenhouse gases, and even when using hydrogen produced from natural gas, emissions are reduced by 50%. The report is readily available at Plug Power’s website at

To learn more about the benefits of hydrogen, we invite everyone to please visit and ask us questions at

Larry Taylor

July 21, 2008 11:04 AM

Fuel Cells are definitely the right direction for basic energy production as wind and solar can only be used incrementally when there is wind or sun (large scale storage is not financially feasible therefore basic energy now produced by power plants is still required for the base load).

However, for the people have said no to drilling, where do they plan to get their plastics, drugs, chemicals, etc. from? And even if we don't use the oil, we can sell it internationally and at $130/barrel solve our balance of payments problems plus profits are taxed and jobs are created (more taxes) so national debt will also be reduced.


August 1, 2008 3:58 PM

Look up the recent developement at MIT, hydrogen at 10% of the current process. Fuel cells here we come!

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