Fuel cell vehicles at COP15

Honda is displaying its award winning new hydrogen powered fuel cell car, the FCX Clarity, at the Copenhagen Climate Conference (COP15).

Honda is supplying the two-week climate summit, which runs from 7-18 December, with a fleet of low-emission Insight hybrid cars. The FCX Clarity, Honda’s ground-breaking, zero emission hydrogen powered fuel cell electric vehicle, will also be present at the summit as part of a COP15 showcase – ‘Driving the Future’. The cars are being used to transport delegates, VIPs and journalists to key venues at the conference.

“Honda is proud to have been accepted by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an official sponsor of the COP15 Climate Conference,” said Yuishi Fukuda, president of Nordic Honda. “The vehicles on display will demonstrate Honda’s commitment to manufacturing products with the highest possible environmental performance, using production systems with the smallest environmental impact. “

The FCX Clarity is the world’s first fully-completed, mass-produceable, fuel cell car, to use hydrogen fuel to generate electricity while emitting water vapour as the sole by-product. However only 200 vehicles are currently planned for release in Japan and the US, with a select group of US customers, including actress Jamie Lee Curtis (pictured) to pay $600 (£360) a month to lease a Clarity over the next three years.

The Honda FCX Clarity Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) was named 2009 World Green Car at a press conference hosted by the New York International Auto Show in New York on April 9, 2009. The FCX Clarity FCEV rose above 22 contenders nominated by 59 World Car jurors from 25 countries worldwide.

Honda is not the only manufacturer to be working on a hydrogen powered car. General Motors will have a fleet of 100 Chevrolet Equinox fuel-cell SUVs on the road by the end of the year. More than 60 have already begun real-world testing by families, commercial users, and military and government agencies. GM has said it wants to have 1000 Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs) on the road by 2013, 10,000 by 2015, and 100,000 by 2018 and is hoping to open a hydrogen fuelling station near LAX airport. At Toyota, the target for the start of higher volume commercialization of a Fuel Carbon Vehicle is 2015.

Of course as John Simister, from www.motoring.co.za says: “The huge snag is this: where does the hydrogen come from?” And of course he is correct. There is currently extremely limited hydrogen-supply infrastructure. Despite the claims that the gas is the most prolific element in the universe, on Earth it has to be sourced through the electrolysis of water and requires a considerable amount of power to create.

Also, while the lithium-ion batteries used in the Clarity are considered non-hazardous in the US and are potentially recyclable, disposing of them in landfill poses a potential water contamination risk.

Indeed, to retain their green credentials, future FCVs will need to be supported by the construction of adequate infrastructure to provide carbon friendly energy such as renewable or nuclear and by environmentally responsible battery decommissioning facilities.

Tim Brown