PROVIDING CLARITY

Consumer Electronics Show / Las Vegas, Nevada

Tucked away off to the side, on the upper floor of the South Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the booth seemed out of place. Instead of sprouting gadgets and accessories for cell phones as found in surrounding booths, it contained a solitary white car next to a large white box labeled “SHS.” One side of the car was plugged into the box, and the other side was plugged into what looked like a small generator. Upon closer inspection, the car proved to be a Honda FCX Clarity.

What was it doing here, at the opposite end of the Convention Center, far away from the North Hall where all things AUTOMOTIVE were on display?

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This was a breakthrough year for Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) at CES. BEVs rely solely on electrical energy supplied by the on-board battery – no “range extending” gas generator/engines as found in Plug-In Hybrids. Chevy Bolt, Faraday Future, VW BUDD-e, Audi e-tron quattro, Ford Focus Electric – BEVs – were all displayed in their respective manufacturer’s booths on the large North Hall floor. Other manufacturers were there as well without BEVs: Toyota, Mercedes, Kia, Hyundai. It wasn’t until I stumbled across the isolated display in the South Hall that I even realized Honda was present.

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The FCX Clarity is not a BEV. It’s an FCEV – Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle. In my article Hydrogen (BOMB?) I spoke to this technology with more than a hint of skepticism. On the surface an FCEV sounds like a great idea. Pry away the hype, however, and you find huge issues with hydrogen distribution infrastructure and the carbon footprint of most commercially available hydrogen (created by cracking natural gas). But here was Honda, tucked away in its odd location within the CEATEC Japan booth (CEATEC is considered the Japanese equivalent of CES), quietly presenting the fuel cell-powered FCX, along with that very large white box.

The box may change everything.

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Naohiro Maeda of Honda explained the concept behind the box. Rather than build a massive hydrogen distribution system, Honda is proposing to create hydrogen on-site, inside the box, by electrolysis of water (releasing oxygen and capturing hydrogen). It’s called a “Smart Hydrogen Station.” Dangle the words “solar energy” in front of the discussion, and you’ve potentially got a system that uses renewable energy to create hydrogen without releasing hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. It sounds great!

But is it viable?

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I’m not an expert, but Ulf Bossel, PHd, is – and even holds patents related to fuel cells. Back in 2006 he authored “Does a Hydrogen Economy Make Sense?” According to Phys.org, the answer Dr. Bossel gives is “no.” It involves the amount of energy used to create the hydrogen, as well as the resources consumed. Will the Honda Smart Hydrogen Station solve that dilemma?

And what about that OTHER box (below) mentioned earlier? Coupled with an FCX Clarity, it provides a way of getting usable AC power back out of the vehicle. The FCEV as transportable power source. If you’d like information on the Honda Power Exporter 9000 click here.

9000

While Honda’s FCX/SHS combo was virtually lost in the bigger BEV news at CES, I’m glad I ran across this out-of-the-way display showcasing an alternative view of hydrogen production. I’m looking forward to having my skepticism replaced with enthusiasm.

ABOUT The Road Electric



One thought on “PROVIDING CLARITY

  1. Thank you for continuing to deliver insights the big papers and analysts are missing. Some fund or VC should partner with you to go monetize your intelligence. Keep up the good work!

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