New Honda is powered by hydrogen, not fossil fuels

Mon, 2008-06-23 10:21Bill Miller
Bill Miller's picture

New Honda is powered by hydrogen, not fossil fuels

Honda Motor of Japan has launched the world’s first hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle intended for mass production.

Although it will make just 200 of its FCX Clarity vehicles over the next three years, Honda plans eventually to increase production, especially as hydrogen filling stations become more common.

And even the small initial run represents progress toward a clean-burning technology many have rejected as too exotic and too expensive to gain wide acceptance.

“This is a must-have technology for the future of the earth,” said Honda president Takeo Fukui. “Honda will work hard to mainstream fuel-cell cars.”

Fuel cells have an advantage over electric cars, whose batteries take hours to recharge and use electricity, which, in the case of the United States, China and many other countries, is often produced by coal-burning power plants.

Honda says its version can be filled easily at a pump, can drive 280 miles on a tank and gets the equivalent of 74 miles per gallon of gas.

David Sanborn Scott, a Canadian engineer and scientist, told DeSmogBlog earlier this year that hydrogen, the simplest element in the universe, contains more energy per unit mass than any other chemical fuel – almost three times as much as gasoline.

In Scott’s view, hydrogen is key to breaking the addiction to fossil fuels. It can fly airplanes and propel cars, and its only waste product is water.

Said Scott: “Hydrogen is the colossal missing link between non-fossil power sources and big transportation.”

Kazuaki Umezu, head of Honda’s Automobile New Model Center, said the company can already mass produce the new vehicles: “We are waiting for the infrastructure to catch up.”

Previous Comments

“[H]ydrogen, the simplest element in the universe, contains more energy per unit mass than any other chemical fuel – almost three times as much as gasoline.”

True, perhaps, but irrelevant. Much more important is the energy per unit volume. Dramatically more important than that is the net energy profile of the entire system. Since hydrogen is usually made from better fuels, it is not clear how it is a worthwhile technology.

More at:

“Fuel cells have an advantage over electric cars, whose batteries take hours to recharge and use electricity, which, in the case of the United States, China and many other countries, is often produced by coal-burning power plants.”

The truth is that most commercial hydrogen today is produced from natural gas using steam reformation. This is not a carbon free process either. You can generate hydrogen from electricity but this is extremely inefficient and squanders most of the energy. Hydrogen is a poor energy carrier which is also very difficult to distribute due to it’s low energy density by volume. The best thing is to power your car directly with readily available electricity as in the case of products from Tesla (, ZENN (, Think ( and an increasing number of others. Not only is electricity 3 times more efficient then hydrogen as an energy carrier, it is also the ultimate flex fuel, as the grid gets greener so does your car! In fact, it can help the grid get greener by storing power from intermittent green power sources such as wind or solar. Fast charging of electric batteries will also soon be available. For a balanced look at electrifying transportation, check out the World Wildlife Fund’s excellent “Plugged-in: The end of the oil age” by Gary Kendell. Hydrogen offers no compelling advantages over electricity when it comes to decarbonizing our transportation infrastructure other than the amazing ability to be both a persistent red herring and an expensive white elephant all at the same time!

Cars should plug-in to a new future

Plugged-in: The end of the oil age

It is incredibly misleading to say that Hydrogen has more energy per unit of mass then gasoline. While that is true, unless you compress Hydrogen tremendously, you actually have MUCH LESS energy per unit of volume than with gasoline. Compressing is expensive, and tanks that can hold compressed Hydrogen are heavy and expensive.

The end result is that Hydrogen is currently not and probably never will be a practical fuel.

These hand-built Claritys cost over $750,000 each. Beautiful cars but does anyone really expect hydrogen filling stations to become common?

Virtually all hydrogen produced in the world comes from fossil fuels. Anyone telling you otherwise is lying.

And as expected, all Honda does with their “home refueling station” is strip the carbon atoms off of methane (CH4) to created hydrogen (H2), and then spit the carbon into the air. Which results in emissions which are nearly identical to simply burning the Natural Gas in a CNG car.


Unless of course you start making the Fuel Cell into essentially a high end plugin-lithium-ion-w/-regenerative braking car, which just happens to have a fuel cell tacked on as an onboard generator for extra range.

But then again if you were to compare a CNG generator tacked on, it would also yield similar results.


It’s absolutely shameful that while Desmogblog admits to the propaganda of Coal Sequestration.

But then agrees to be lied to on the merits of Hydrogen.

As if Hydrogen has absolutely nothing to do with Fossil Fuels…. Even though Hydrogen and Carbon are essentially the only two chemical elements which fossil fuel companies sell. It’s half their product lineup!

And essentially it’s the same argument as the sequestration advocates. “Have your hydrocarbons without the carbon!” Less filling better tasting!

Kinda sad.

I agree with much of the above. It makes for good media coverage, but commercial viability isn’t very realistic, at least in the near term. And if/when it is, battery technology may well be advanced enough to make hydrogen fuel cells in a sedan seem even sillier. Still, I appreciate that car manufacturers are exploring different options. I just hope we see as much effort on practical solutions for the next several years as we do on the more pie-in-the-sky stuff.

I find it extremely ironic that DeSmogBlog, which purports to clear away PR pollution, sucked up Honda’s flak so completely on this one. Has DeSmogBlog recently accepted a big donation from Honda or what?


This is awesome, new technology is really amazing. Great site, we reference it often for our own blog. Thanks, keep it up!

I agree with you. New technology is really amazing! Hydrogen really is a good choice as an alternative fuel. Plus you don’t really need to modify your cold air intake and parts to make it work.

Here’s Joseph Romm’s take on Hydrogen for powering cars. He is the author of, The Hype About Hydrogen and was featured in the film Who Killed The Electric Car. See Joseph Romm’s excerpt from “Who Killed The Electric Car” below:

1) Each car costs $1 million. Too expensive for the average car buyer. (The platinum in the Proton Exchange Membrane is what makes them expensive)

2) Storage is a major problem. No material known to man can store enough hydrogen on board the vehicle to give people the range they are accustomed to. Even with 10,000 psi storage tanks the car can go no further than 110 miles.

3) The hydrogen fuel is very expensive. It takes 4 times as much energy to produce hydrogen for fuel cells if you electrolyze it from water as it does to charge plain old lead-acid batteries. Even hydrogen from natural gas (98% of hydrogen is made from steam reformed methane, a fossil fuel that is predicted to diminish in supply in this current decade by David Hughes of the Canadian Geological Survey) costs 1.5 more than gasoline.

4) No fueling infrastructure exists. Estimates are that 20,000 hydrogen fueling stations would have to be built for wider adoption. Car buyers won’t buy the HFC cars without the fueling stations. The stations won’t be built without the fleet of cars to be fueled.

5) Hope that competitors don’t get better and wipe out your market. Plug-in hybrids are poised to enter the market by 2010 which would work off the existing electrical grid and gasoline fueling stations. The cars are charged at home for a 40 mile all electric range and if, perchance, the gasoline engine kickes in if you are one of those outside the 80% of people in the US who commute greater than 40 miles per day round trip.

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I saw similar news on

All cars should run on fuel that is extremely cheap (or free), doesn’t harm the environment, and is renewable. I think the technology is out, but the fuel companies are trying to stop this from happening.

I think the FCS is starting to get some bad publicity since it isn’t that green as expected. But I’m telling you guys, this car looks pretty cool and has a very luxurious parts. I like it though.


Why does Japanese seems to be the first one to show they have an endless possibilities on almost anything?

But nevertheless hydrogen fuel is an amazing alternative.

-Mike Enos


I also agree that it will cost larger expenses for drivers if they are to use that. And another thing, isn’t it that harmful with other honda parts?


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