Now the firm has taken a big step towards solving one of the technology’s major drawbacks; the lack of a convenient refuelling infrastructure.
Honda has joined forces with ten other companies, including fellow car titans Nissan and Toyota to develop hydrogen refuelling stations and the network behind them. Other companies in the group include financial institutions and existing fuel suppliers.
It’s part of a plan, backed by the Japanese government, to massively increase the number of hydrogen-powered vehicles on the roads in that country. At the moment, only a handful of hydrogen vehicles are available but the intention is to have 40,000 fuel cell vehicles on Japan’s roads by 2020. They will be supported by a network of 160 hydrogen filling stations by the same deadline.
The new joint venture company will be responsible for 80 new filling stations within the next four years. That’s phase one. The overall aim is to operate the new company for a decade to create a fully viable, nationwide network of hydrogen stations and a wide range of vehicles to take advantage of them.
The announcement puts a fresh perspective on Honda’s designs for a fuel cell motorcycle. With the issue of hydrogen supply solved, such a vehicle – using a fuel cell to combine hydrogen with oxygen from the air, creating electricity to power the bike and pure water as the only exhaust – makes a lot of sense. Hydrogen tanks can be refilled much faster than a battery can be charged, solving the biggest problem with existing electric vehicles.
Honda has also been working on another sticking point for hydrogen fuel cells, namely the issue of getting the hydrogen in the first place. Patent applications show that the firm is developing new technologies to make electrolysis – the process of extracting hydrogen from water – more efficient and less costly.
By Ben Purvis