Honda Clarity is a hydrogen powered car with a 400 mile range and 3 minute fill ups. Its fuel cell is no larger than a V6 engine.
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Energy!
Top Reddit comment:
This car is OLD.
But the fact that honda is releasing it/making a big deal about it is a huge deal. They mention in the article that the two big breakthroughs are size and cost. Ignore size. The "hydrogen machine" was never very big. When I started, it was maybe 3 ft by 4 ft.
Cost is the breakthrough. One of the things we struggled with was how to produce a machine that would produce hydrogen efficiently without making it either impossible to produce at mass scale because of materials, or impossible to produce at mass scale because of cost.
This is really cool, but there are still a few HUGE obstacles that need to be tackled before you are going to see this in your local area.
1 - Infrastructure. Hydrogen is small. Extremely small. That means transporting it, or even holding onto it is very difficult. I would imagine that setting up pipelines will be impossible and the solution will probably be electrolysis machines at each refuel station. There would probably also be one at your house. so you could refill at home.
2 - Changing perception of the public. "Why do I need this when I have access to good, electric cars?" Because electric cars are still decades away from solving the issue of recharge time and size of fuel cell. Batteries are excellent at producing power, but they are terrible at recharging quickly and being light weight. Hydrogen solves both of those problems while still being very environmentally friendly.
On the off chance that you make it down to my buried comment, feel free to fire some questions my way and I can explain more about how the system works, some of the issues I had in the lab and whatever else you might be thinking about.
Source: I worked in the lab that developed the electrodes for this motor.
Edit: Go figure - tons of comments on what I thought would never see the light of day. I'm still at work but will try and work through comments when I get home. I have a pretty thorough NDA, so I will be erring on the side of caution, but will answer what I can.
Edit 2: Lots of you are asking why we should do something like this when we already have electric cars and electrics cars are much simpler.
A hydrogen powered car runs exactly like an electric car does. Instead of thinking of a gas engine that runs on hydrogen, think of it as an electric motor that runs on electricity from Hydrogen instead of electricity from batteries. Essentially what's going on is this car would run on batteries that are constantly being charged by the hydrogen fuel cells. Once you run out of power, you simply refill the fuel cells and keep going. It's an electric car with the refueling speed of a gas engine.
Edit 3: I dont know anything about the storage of the Hydrogen in the fuel tanks. Yes, Hydrogen is very energetic, but there are some pros to look at:
Hydrogen is extremely light. It rises at about 45 mph. Unless there is an open flame right near the fuel cell, the odds of an explosion are pretty slim.
The fuel cell will probably be made out of a much sturdier material than conventional gas tanks. My guess is a coated metal alloy.
Hydrogen won't spread like spilled gasoline would.
The fuel cell will be pressurized at a reported 10,000psi, meaning that even if it were to be punctured, it would dissipate into the atmosphere almost instantaneously.
Hydrogen produces very little radiant heat where as gasoline produces quiet a bit. The key term there is radiant.