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Hydrogen Power Flexes Muscles At LA Auto Show

posted 27 Nov 2013, 10:31 by Mpelembe   [ updated 27 Nov 2013, 10:31 ]

Japanese car-maker Honda has unveiled a hydrogen-powered concept vehicle that it says represents the future of emissions-free driving. Honda and other car-makers exhibiting at this week's Los Angeles Auto Show, say that with sufficient infrastructure investment, hydrogen fuel cell technology could replace conventional batteries in powering electric vehicles.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES  (REUTERS) - Honda has unveiled its futuristic looking "FCEV Concept" car at the LosAngeles Auto Show this week, with high hopes for its hydrogen fuel cell technologyas an emissions-free option for future transportation.

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The five-passenger vehicle doesn't yet have a name and is referred to simply by the acronym for a fuel cell electric vehicle - the 'FCEV Concept'.

"The advances that we've made are huge, over a 300 mile range, 33 percent smaller fuel cell stack, and over 100 kilowatts of power output," said Stephen Ellis, marketing manager of Honda's fuel cell division. "So, this is a more powerful fuel cell stack, in a smaller package and lighter weight. This is unprecedented, we are making large leaps forward in this technology."

The fuel cell vehicle is expected to launch in the United States and Japan in 2015, but in the US at least, the roll-out of any hydrogen fuel cell technology is like to be gradual. Adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has been stunted by their high price and a lack of investment in fueling infrastructure. There are currently only 10 public hydrogen fueling stations in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Japanese carmaker concedes that consumers may take a few years to warm to the concept, but insists that the technology makes sense.

"The hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle is just that, it is an electric car," said Ellis. "The difference is rather than batteries that provide the electricity that need to be charged over hours of time, you have a fuel cell that makes electricity on demand from hydrogen stored in a fuel tank and oxygen from the air. You pull up to a hydrogen station, fill up the tank with gaseous hydrogen, 3 to 5 minutes you are good for another 300 miles."

California aims to have 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles, which would includefuel cell cars, on its roads by 2025.

Fuel-cell cars use a "stack" of cells that combine hydrogen with oxygen in the air to generate electricity. Their only emission is water vapor and they can run five times longer than electric cars.

Their proponents say fuel cells are much less of a burden on the environment than rival technologies and offer the hope of renewable fuels.

"In the U.S., we already make a lot of hydrogen. It is purely a domestic fuel," saidKeith Malone, of California Fuel Cell Partnership. a program aimed at promoting the technology. "There are a number of sources from which we can extract hydrogen, including natural gas, water and bio-mass, things like trash, sewage and agricultural waste."

Honda and General Motors Co in July said they would jointly develop hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle systems over the next seven years in an effort to cut the cost of the new technology.

Also at the L.A. show, Hyundai Motor Co said it plans to offer consumers a fuel cellversion of its Tucson crossover vehicle for the U.S. market starting in the spring of 2014 in Southern California. It set the price at US$499 per month for a 36-month term with a US$2,999 down payment in a deal that includes unlimited free hydrogen refueling.