Honda unveils new fuel-cell car

Associated Press

HAGA-MACHI, Japan – Honda Motor Co.’s new experimental car doesn’t have the roar of a gasoline engine, or the polluting exhaust. It purrs with the soft whir of a fan, and the only thing coming out the tailpipe is water vapor.

The Japanese automaker showed its FCX-V3 to reporters Friday as part of a project with Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler and other automakers to test a technology of the future: the fuel cell.

Though the automakers won’t be sharing fuel cell technology, they’ll be helping each other cross other hurdles, such as developing fueling systems, winning public acceptance and studying possibilities for commercial production.

Fuel cells produce energy from a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, a clean technology that is expected someday to replace the gasoline engine.

But the technology is not likely to take off for at least another decade, in part because it needs a whole new system of fueling. Gas stations would have to make way for fueling stations for hydrogen.

But all the world’s major automakers are rushing to work on fuel cell technology.

Honda showed the FCX-V3 Friday at a research center north of Tokyo.

The model will be among the more than 50 fuel cell vehicles tested in the next three years under the California Fuel Cell Partnership, a Sacramento-based project among the state of California, automakers, fuel cell makers and oil companies. A road test there is scheduled to start in November.

Honda said its new fuel cell car is quieter, nimbler and lighter than its previous models. It stores the hydrogen in a high-pressure tank in the back of the car, where the trunk usually is.

But having the tank in the trunk could be dangerous in an accident, because hydrogen is volatile. So Honda is working on a better, safer way to store hydrogen so the tank can be placed lower in the car, where a gas tank usually is, said executive chief engineer Yozo Kami.

Honda acknowledged the fuel cell car needs more work: it doesn’t perform well in cold weather and travels just 110 miles before needing to refuel. Another issue is cost: Honda declined to say how much the fuel cell or vehicle cost, except to say that they were still extremely expensive.

Honda has set 2003 for commercial production of fuel cell vehicles.

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