2010 Honda FCX Clarity
The 2010 Honda FCX Clarity is primed to be a break through
vehicle. Currently, the FCX Clarity is available for lease in the southern California area. However, the FCX Clarity may be
available in additional areas if charging stations are built.
The Honda FCX Clarity is a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle. A hydrogen fuel cell replaces a conventional engine in the FCX Clarity. The fuel cell provides propulsion for the vehicle. Fuel cells produce electricity through chemical reactions that take place within and are extremely efficient at doing so. The only emissions coming from the vehicle is water vapor. Fuel cells offer a possible alternative to hybrid or all electric vehicle.
Full 2010 Preview
While the FCX is the first commercially available fuel-cell vehicle, you lease rather than buy it. In the US economy test it has the energy equivalent fuel consumption of about 106mpg (60 Miles per Kilogram)(1).
Inisde, the FCX presents you with
dashboard filled with different looking instruments and artificial maize-derived upholstery. The digital speedometer is surrounded by a
power output/input meter, with separate quadrant displays for battery and
hydrogen contents. In the center a ball glows green at low
fuel consumption, it grows larger and orange as you press the accelerator. A
steering column-mounted gear lever offers Drive, Neutral, Park and Reverse.
The FCX is certainly different to drive. Power-assisted steering feels artificial but is not unpleasant. The whirring compressor increases volume with the road speed and the FCX gains speed rapidly. Lifting off starts a process in which the motor acts in reverse to recharge the lithium-ion battery.
The FCX, weighing in at 1.7 tons, is a heavy car. It uses low-rolling resistance tires to improve mileage. Overall, the FCX prefers being driven briskly but not fast.
As impressive as the FCX undoubtedly is, even at this first level of pressurization its hydrogen storage is heavy and very expensive.
For the second time in its history, it has diverted its racing engineers into alternative fuels research. The 400 engineers from Honda's abandoned Formula One program are now working in fuel-cell research, electric vehicles and advanced aerodynamics.
The basics of this "gas battery" were described in a letter written in 1843 by Sir William Grove. His idea was used to power early American telegraph machines and was disinterred by two pioneering engineers at General Electric for Nasa's Gemini moon shots in the Sixties and the car industry some 20 years later.
In the last 10 years developments have been fast and furious: stamped metal separators, aromatic membranes and higher temperatures and pressures. Sir William wouldn't recognize the modern solid-state fuel cell, particularly Honda's latest.
Look and Style
The FCX not only is an elite vehicle in the 'green' department, it also looks great too. The vertical mounting of the fuel cells means the cells drain of potentially damaging water and also allows a more efficient horizontal cooling layout. The internal wavy layout increases the surface area of the platinum membrane for the hydrogen to work on and further developments include the possibility of pressurizing the stack so that operating temperatures can be raised above boiling point. This would reduce the need for drag-inducing cooling radiators and a heavy humidifier.
A fuel cell car is powered by a gas battery based on a catalytic reaction between platinum and hydrogen that produces electricity. The hydrogen is pumped to an anode on one side of a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM), while air is pumped to the opposite cathode side. The membrane only allows the passage of the positively charged hydrogen ions to pass through, the negatively charged electrons pass through an external circuit to the cathode where they combine with the ions and the oxygen in the air to form water and heat.
The Honda FCX Clarity is currently only available for leasing. The FCX Clairty is primarily available to southern California area as this is the only area that has sufficient recharging stations for the hydrogen fuel cell. The hydrogen used for the FCX Clarity is produced from domestic sources and reduces our dependency on foreign oil. The FCX Clarity is currently on limited release and only 200 vehicles will be available over the course of the next three years. Maintenance cost and any damage from collisions is covered in the price of the lease.
Driving the Clarity
To drive the FCX feels fast and heavy. With a top speed of 100mph and a 0-60mph time of about 10sec, it's debatable how fast although, like all electric vehicles, it pulls like a train to 30mph so your perception is of something quicker than it really is.
Though only available to a select few, the FCX Clarity hints at a possible future for automobiles. Costs of fuel cell vehicles are extremely high at this point. However, Honda believes that fuel cell will be in future vehicles. USNews.com says "The car's design is utterly unique." Honda's concentration on system efficiency, aerodynamics and light weight rather than packing ever more hydrogen into the car is typical of the marquee and seems a sound R&D direction.
 Fuel economy estimates and driving range based on EPA test data. Your actual driving distance will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.