Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The FCX Clarity : First zero-emission vehicle from Honda Motor Co. Ltd.

The FCX Clarity is the new zero-emission car from Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (TYO: 7267). On June 16 2008, the first batch of FCX Clarity rolled out of the production line and is heading for Southern California. Honda unveiled the FCX Clarity in November 2007. After revealing the car, the company received 50,000 emails inquiring about the FCX Clarity. Many of you now know Toyota Motor Corporation (TYO: 7203) as the hybrid pioneer but it was Honda that first brought out hybrid cars. Unfortunately, Toyota Motor Corporation took over Honda. Now, Honda is preparing to give Toyota Prius a run for its money. After releasing the FCX Clarity, Honda Motor Corporation will become the top player in the green auto industry.

Here are some of the information I have collected about the FCX Clarity:

  • Honda is now claiming that it is the first company to have a certified hydrogen car for commercial use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The FCX Clarity is a roomy four door sedan. In terms of performance, the FCX Clarity has a smooth ride and easy to handle.
  • The FCX Clarity runs on hydrogen and electricity. The car does not emit any Carbon but steam.
  • According to Honda, the FCX Clarity is two times more energy efficient than gas-electric hybrid and three times than a standard gasoline-powered car.
  • The first FCX model was unveiled as a concept vehicle at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show. Compared to FCX, the FCX Clarity uses 75% fewer parts. It took Honda Motor Company 19 years to develop the car. says:

The hydrogen fuel cell is hardly new. It's been around since 1839! The principal challenges to its widespread application in vehicles have related to the fuel itself: the need for an entire fueling infrastructure, the cost of creating and distributing the hydrogen fuel, and the energy (often from natural gas) required to produce the fuel.

  • The FCX Clarity is powered by a newly designed fuel cell stack. The new fuel cell stack has allowed Honda’s engineers to lighten the body, expand the interior and increase efficiency.
  • The fuel cell generates energy through chemical reaction between hydrogen gas and oxygen in the air. A lithium-ion battery provides supplemental power.
  • The FCX Clarity can go “270-miles per tank with hydrogen consumption equivalent to 74 miles per gallon, according to the carmaker.” (280 miles according to Business Week)
  • The FCX Clarity weighs 3,600-pound.
  • The FCX Clarity can reach speeds up to 100 miles per hour.
  • The FCX Clarity can go from 0-60mph in around nine seconds.
  • The FCX Clarity is still at experimentation stage. Honda will just lease 200 FCX Clarity in the next three years. The potential customers will have to be residents of Santa Monica, Torrance or Irvine, and California. The reason, these areas contain Hydrogen fuel stations. The person who would lease the car for three years will have to pay $600 per month including maintenance and collision coverage. The leasing process will start from July. Out of the 200 cars, 50 will be leased in Japan and 150 the USA. In Japan, the car will be launched in fall. C Net says:

Starting in July, Honda plans to offer the hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity through a lease program at three dealerships in California: Power Honda Costa Mesa, Honda of Santa Monica, and Scott Robinson Honda in Torrance. Honda also plans to make the cars available in Japan. The cars will be leased on a three-year basis for about $600 per month, according to Honda.

Lucky first customers:
The FCX Clarity has already started a big buzz in Hollywood. The lucky first customers of the car are:

  • Actress Jamie Lee Curtis and filmmaker husband Christopher Guest.
  • Actress Laura Harris.
  • Film producer Ron Yerxa
  • Southland Industries CFO Jon Spallino
  • Jim Salomon (businessman)

Launching ceremony at Japan:

On June 16th, Honda held a launching ceremony of the FCX Clarity, at the Tochigi prefecture. News reporters who joined the ceremony were allowed test drives of the FCX Clarity which was followed by a presentation and tour of the factory. Actress Laura Harris and producer Ron Yerza attended the event and cheerfully communicated with the reporters.

Interview of Takeo Fukui:
Famous American business magazine, Wall Street Journal, had an interview with Takeo Fukui, President and CEO of Honda Motor Company. Fukui shares his thoughts, ideas about fuel-cell vehicles and Hondas and future plans of Honda. Here is an excerpt of the interview:

WSJ: Why is Honda introducing fuel-cell vehicles when there is no infrastructure yet to support them?
Mr. Fukui: About 100 years ago, when Ford's Model T came out, that kicked off the development of the auto industry. If you ask, 'Were there any gas stations back then?' there weren't. In the car industry, cars should come first and then infrastructure will follow.

WSJ: So how many years away are we from having hydrogen refueling stations for fuel-cell vehicles?
Mr. Fukui: That's not going to happen really quickly. It's happening in California, and may eventually happen in several other states, and also Japan and Europe. We are working on the technology where we can charge hydrogen into fuel-cell vehicles at homes. So probably in the next 10 years we will get some level of infrastructure in place.

When asked about developing electric vehicles Mr. Fukui said that the practical feasibility of electric vehicle is very limited and the biggest issue is driving distance. Charging time is also another major issue. Where an electric vehicle takes several hours to charge a fuel-cell vehicle takes only one minute. Electric vehicles have restricted applications like golf carts.

Obstacles and debates:

  • Lack of large number of hydrogen filling stations is a big problem for the FCX Clarity.
  • Another major debate over hydrogen is whether it is truly energy efficient. It requires large amount of electricity to produce hydrogen.

Price of FCX Clarity:
Another major obstacle for the FCX Clarity is the price. Though Toyota Prius is now the most fuel efficient car in the USA, it comes with a hefty price tag. As a result, many analysts are saying that Prius is not the ultimate money saver.

Takeo Fukui, President and CEO, Honda Motor Company said that the new FCX Clarity will cost tens of millions of yen but its previous models cost higher; hundred million yen. To introduce the car into the mass-market, price need to go below 10 million yen or $92000. Mr. Fukui said that it would take another ten years for the company to make the car widely available to every one. To cut the price, Honda should reduce the use of expensive metals and work on producing cheap hydrogen fuel tank.

Related articles:

Business Week