Thursday, May 22, 2008

Honda is going to lease 200 FCX Clarity in Japan and the USA

It was the pioneer in hybrid vehicles; once again, it is going to be the pioneer in fuel-cell vehicles. Japan’s second largest auto-maker, Honda Motor Company Limited (TYO: 7267) is going to sell fuel cell cars and with that aim in mind, the company is planning to lease out 200 fuel-cell vehicles for the next three years. The vehicle named FCX Clarity will go into production from next month in Japan. Leasing will start from July in Los Angeles. After the Clarity was unveiled in November, the company received 50,000 mails inquiring about the car. The first customer of the car will be announced next month. With rising air pollution and oil price and strict emission standards, demands for hybrids, plug-ins, and fuel-cell vehicles will be high. The main problem is the high production cost of the fuel-cell vehicles. Bloomberg reports:

``Honda designed an attractive product, but we're talking about a vehicle priced like a Bentley,'' said K.G. Duleep, managing director of Arlington, Virginia-based Energy & Environmental Analysis Inc. ``The economics of fuel cells are way out of line. Batteries look like a better option because costs should come down more quickly.''

Honda engineers estimated three years ago that its previous fuel-cell cars cost more than $1 million to build. Duleep, who completed a fuel-cell vehicle study this year for the U.S. Department of Energy, believes Honda has cut its production costs to between $120,000 and $140,000 per vehicle.

Luxury cars from Bentley Motors, owned by Volkswagen AG, range from $170,990 to $340,990, according to

``We have made substantial cost reductions throughout the vehicle,'' said Sage Marie, a spokesman for the company's U.S. unit, who didn't confirm Duleep's estimate. The Clarity performs more like a sports car, with a top speed of 105 miles per hour, and should be viewed as a more premium vehicle, he said.

Honda will lease those 200 cars both in Japan and the USA but it did not mention how many of the 200 cars will be leased in USA. In the USA, the potential customers of the FSX Clarity have to be residents of Santa Monica, Torrance or Irvine, California and he/she will have to pay $600 per month. Since the state of California has hydrogen fuelling stations and Honda’s US operation base is situated over there, it will release the fuel-cell cars in that area.

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