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Honda FCEV Concept debuts at the Los Angeles Motor Show 2013

Thu, 21 Nov 2013

No company has done more to promote the idea of a hydrogen-powered fuel cell car than Honda. Eleven years on from the launch of their first 'production' hydrogen car, Honda showed off the FCEV Concept, which previews the debut of a new hydrogen production car in 2015.

Until now, Honda's hydrogen cars have been notable for their conservatism. The original FCX of 2002 was a boxy little hatchback that was styled to prove that hydrogen cars could look normal. Even the acclaimed FCX Clarity hydrogen car of 2008 was reassuringly sensible. The FCEV Concept, though, is different. This is a car that declares its futuristic intent with a dramatic shape that looks more like an extra from a sci-fi movie set than a production probable.

Sadly, the car's bold styling belies the fact that for everyday folk, hydrogen fuel cell cars remain a fantasy. Not only does each car still cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to build and use a host of precious metals, the hydrogen infrastructure remains virtually non-existent. The most accessible hydrogen filling station in the UK is in Swindon and is owned by... Honda.

If you think the FCEV looks like a designer's fantasy in these pictures, you should see it for real. While there's a clear focus on designing a car that's as aerodynamically efficient as possible, they've succeeded in producing something that's still hugely desirable. There's a hint of the forthcoming NSX about the FCEV's nose, but the dramatic rear, with its enclosed wheel arches is huge step forwards. Let's just hope Honda has the guts to make it a reality.


The key technological progress focusses on the fuel cell itself. Honda claims to have achieved a 60% improvement in power density compared to the FCX Clarity, while reducing the overall size of the stack by 30 per cent. In layman's terms, this means they've made a smaller, more efficient unit that for the first time can all be located under the car's bonnet.

Honda reckons it should be good for a range of around 300 miles and that hydrogen tank can be refilled in just three minutes, just as you might refill a petrol car.


It's highly unlikely that you'll ever be able to walk into your local Honda dealer and order up an FCEV. The FCX Clarity, which this car effectively replaces, was only ever available to lease in Japan and the US and even then, only be a select few. It's a test bed for the day when the world finally wakes up to the hydrogen revolution.

Most of the FCEV's rivals come from within. Honda is committed to developing a quartet of alternative fuel systems to sit alongside the more familiar diesel and petrol options. The quartet consists of: natural gas, full electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen.

Honda is hedging its bets although there's no shortage of crossover between the different system - as its name suggests, the FCEV is effectively an electric car in which the hydrogen fuel cell takes the place of a plug in the wall.


In theory at least, a fuel cell electric vehicle is the answer to all our prayers. It produces nothing but water vapour and if the hydrogen is sourced from a renewable energy supply, such as solar, then it's genuinely emissions free. Moreover, it has a proper range and instead of taking hours to recharge, it can be refilled in an instant at a traditional filling station.

Sadly, unless there's a dramatic breakthrough sometime soon, the practicalities of developing a hydrogen infrastructure and the prohibitive cost of producing the fuel cells means that even the 2015 ‘production’ version is likely to remain an indulgence for the few. Shame.

By Alistair Weaver, contributor, MSN Cars