Nov. 27 - 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. Ben Gruber reports.
This is Honda's latest concept vehicle - the FCEV- a hydrogen cell powered car that marketing manager Stephen Ellis says is the future of emissions-free driving. (SOUNDBITE) (English) STEPHEN ELLIS OF MANAGER, HONDA FUEL CELL MARKETING, ON FUEL CELL CARS, SAYING: "The hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle is just that, it is a zero emission all-electric car. But what is different from the battery electric is that it makes its electricity on board." Ellis says that by producing its own electricity, the FCEV can travel 300 miles before needing to refuel, a process that takes just 5 minutes as opposed to the several hours it takes most electric vehicles to recharge their batteries. Hydrogen fuel-cells combine hydrogen and oxygen internally to generate electricity to power cars. Not only can those vehicles drive for five times longer than conventional electric cars, their only emission is water vapor. Fuel cell advocate Keith Malone says that the technology holds promise not just for the environment, but for the economy as well. (SOUNDBITE) (English) KEITH MALONE, CALIFORNIA FUEL CELL PARTNERSHIP, SAYING: "In the U.S., we already make a lot of hydrogen. It is purely a domestic fuel. There are a number of sources from which we can extract hydrogen, including natural gas, water and biomes, things like trash, sewage and agricultural waste." But that is where hydrogen powered cars have hit a roadblock. The technology is significantly more expensive than battery power and infrastructure investment is practically non-existent with only 10 public hydrogen fuelling stations in the entire United States. But Ellis says fuel cell cars will - eventually - come into their own, which is why Honda and several other major car manufacturers car are investing in hydrogen cell research. He says the FCEV is an example of that progress. (SOUNDBITE) (English) STEPHEN ELLIS OF MANAGER, HONDA FUEL CELL MARKETING, ON FUEL CELL CARS, SAYING: "The advances that we've made are huge, over 300 mile range, 33 percent smaller fuel cell stack, and over 100 kilowatts of power output. 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." And Ellis says every leap forward brings a cost effective, zero emission car powered by hydrogen closer to reality.