Lower Gas Prices Likely?

How would you like to be able to refuel your car each night from the comfort of your own home?

And how would you like the car that would use the fuel to be a super-clean hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle whose only emission is water vapor?

Sounds like a futuristic cable TV show on one of the more esoteric channels, doesn’t it? But in fact, the possibility is very real.

Honda, one car company that is still gung-ho about fuel cell vehicles, has just put into operation a next-generation solar hydrogen station prototype intended for ultimate use as a home refueling appliance capable of an overnight refill of fuel cell electric vehicles. Designed as a single, integrated unit to fit in a user’s garage, the solar system is much smaller than previous systems while producing enough hydrogen via an eight-hour overnight fill for daily commuting.

Compatible with a smart grid energy system, the Honda Solar Hydrogen Station would enable users to refill their vehicle overnight without storing hydrogen. It is expected to lower carbon dioxide emissions by using solar energy supplemented at night by less expensive off-peak electrical power. During daytime peak power times, the system can actually export renewable, solar-derived electricity to the grid, providing a cost benefit to the customer while remaining energy neutral.

Designed for simple, user-friendly operation, the intuitive system layout enables the user to easily lift and remove the fuel hose, which we believe is a very good idea. The system doesn’t require any tedious and awkward hose coiling when returning the hose to the dispenser unit either.

Engineered for slow-fill overnight refilling of a fuel cell electric vehicle like Honda’s FCX Clarity, the home-use Solar Hydrogen Station would replenish enough hydrogen for typical daily driving, meeting the commuting requirements of many drivers. But it won’t meet all their needs, so Honda expects the in-home refueling system to be complemented by a public network of fast-fill hydrogen stations. The FCX Clarity is fast-fill capable and offers an EPA-estimated driving range of 240 miles. With fast-fill public stations providing five-minute refueling time, cross-country trips will be much more convenient that in a battery electric with much longer recharge times. 

As installed at the Los Angeles center of Honda R&D Americas, the new solar hydrogen system will employ the same 48-panel, 6 kW solar array that powered the previous system. The array utilizes thin film solar cells composed of copper, indium, gallium and selenium. Honda Soltec Co., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Honda, was established to produce and sell these cells. Honda’s unique solar cells reduce the amount of carbon dioxide generated during production as compared to conventional solar cells. As with the previous-generation system, the hydrogen purity from the new station meets the highest SAE and ISO specifications.

By addressing the need for refueling infrastructure that can advance the wider use of fuel cell electric vehicles by consumers, Honda aims to encourage a new lifestyle with convenient, clean, energy-efficient and sustainable home refueling. The combination of a fuel cell electric vehicle and the solar hydrogen station could help accomplish this goal and result in a major reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and greater energy sustainability.