The automaker also hopes to find friends in the large-scale power generation industry.
Honda has big plans for the future, and they involve far more than just EVs and hybrids. Speaking to a round table with the media, company representatives outlined plans to expand into the hydrogen fuel cell space beyond just passenger cars.
“Now is the time to expand the commercialization of fuel cells into additional domains beyond light-duty transportation,” said Honda Energy Solution Business Head Ryan Harty. “In order to deliver a solution like a fuel cell … we need to commercialize these technologies.”
As part of that goal, the company is looking to partner with North American firms in a variety of industries that might benefit from hydrogen technology, namely commercial trucking and power generation. Honda’s next-generation fuel cell stack is a third of the cost of the existing system found in the 2022 Clarity, while offering double the durability and significantly faster startup times in cold weather. As such, Honda thinks that multiple fuel cells, daisy-chained together, would make for an ideal zero-emissions powertrain for commercial vehicles and construction equipment.
As with passenger cars, the fuel cells would generate electricity, which would drive the wheels through torquey electric motors – ideal for the low-speed grunt that medium- and heavy-duty trucks need to move heavy cargo. Construction equipment could likewise be fitted with fuel cells, which could also run implements like cranes, dump beds, and backhoes. Such vehicles currently emit 26 percent of the transportation sector’s greenhouse gases in the United States. Honda expects fuel cells to achieve cost parity with diesel engines in the near future, making hydrogen power a more feasible way to reduce the industry’s carbon emissions.
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Fuel cells could also be used as backup power generators – the forthcoming CR-V–based hydrogen car will feature a V2L system, for example. Honda says it is capable of building a megawatt-class fuel cell system (1 mW is enough power for 750 average homes), which could theoretically be added to existing utilities grids to provide energy during blackouts and severe weather. As such, the automaker wants to partner with large-scale power generation companies, and Honda is experimenting with the idea internally by using a current-generation Clarity fuel cell to provide backup power to its Torrance headquarters.
It all comes back to Honda’s “Triple ZERO” goal of eliminating its environmental impact by the year 2050 through the use of sustainable materials, renewable energy, and net-zero carbon emissions. The company is aware that its yearly production of 30 million power units – found in cars, motorcycles, generators, yard equipment, marine engines, and yes, airplanes – mean that it must take its environmental goals seriously.
Honda wants to demonstrate that hydrogen fuel cells are a viable way to reduce environmental impact, not just for the automaker but for other companies as well. Such collaboration is essential “to expand the scope of this technology,” said Harty. Honda hopes to begin external sales of its fuel cell system by the mid-2020s.