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Honda FCX Clarity  (Source: Honda)

  (Source: Honda)

  (Source: Honda)
Leases begin in summer 2008 at $600 per month

The gasoline-electric hybrid news has come in at a furious pace at DailyTech over the past few weeks. Honda announced its intention to bring a small, sporty hybrid to market; Fisker announced its gorgeous hybrid sports sedan and GM yesterday showed off new hybrid full-size pickups and full-size SUVs.

Honda has a new fuel efficient vehicle of its own to tout and the word "hybrid" is nowhere to be found. The company finally pulled the wraps off the production version of its FCX fuel cell prototype -- now called the FCX Clarity.

Exterior design-wise, the FCX Clarity closely mimics the earlier prototype, but now features government-spec bumpers front and back and smaller wheels. Inside, the FCX Clarity uses a gauge cluster and heads-up display similar in fashion to the current Honda Civic. Otherwise, the interior looks rather normal if you can get past the overabundance of silver-painted plastic.

When it comes to the powertrain, the FCX Clarity uses a 100 kW V Flow fuel cell stack which is 65 percent smaller than the one used on the first generation FCX. Other powertrain components include a 171-liter, 5,000-psi hydrogen fuel tank, a lithium-ion battery pack and a 95 kW (127 HP) electric motor.

According to Honda, the FCX Clarity is good for an equivalent of 68 MPG and has a range of 270 miles. Also, since the FCX Clarity is a fuel cell-powered vehicle, there are no CO2 emissions -- the vehicle's only emission is water.

"The FCX Clarity is a shining symbol of the progress we've made with fuel cell vehicles and of our belief in the promise of this technology," said American Honda president and CEO Tetsuo Iwamura. "Step by step, with continuous effort, commitment and focus, we are working to overcome obstacles to the mass-market potential of zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cell automobiles."

The FCX Clarity will see limited service in the Southern California area beginning in summer 2008. Customers will sign up for a three-year lease at price of roughly $600 per month. Honda also notes that the FCX Clarity qualifies for a $12,000 IRS tax credit.

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RE: First Post
By masher2 on 11/15/2007 10:50:45 AM , Rating: 4
> "How about some bluetec diesel hybrids? "

Diesels can be up to 35% more efficient than a gas engine. That means 35% less emissions...but they're still emitting. Plus, the efficiency means money saved on fuel. Some people will use that savings to drive further, others will use it to buy larger vehicles. That'll eat up a certain percentage of the savings. And our population is still growing, which means more people driving each year.

The upshot is that even if everyone in the nation switched to a diesel hybrid, in 2-3 decades our emissions would be right back where they started.

Hydrogen is a wholly different beast. Couple it with nuclear power, and you have a true zero-emission source.

RE: First Post
By jak3676 on 11/15/2007 12:52:31 PM , Rating: 4
Just be careful that you don't let perfection come in the way of progress. Fuel cells can indeed be used as a great battery, but I don't think they are the only answer either.

If we can get some percentage of the population to switch to an efficient diesel, and others to switch to a strong hybrid (I don't know of any diesel hybrids available in production now - hopefully model year 2009 though) that will only help.

If we can use these technologies that consumers are already familiar and comfortable with to cut energy consumption in the short term, that's great. That will give us some more time to build the infrastructure necessary to go to a more efficient all electric energy market.

The US does seam stuck in this mindset that there is some great technology just around the corner that will solve all our energy needs and we don’t need to make any changes until then. Very few seem to realize that it's not that simple.

Nuclear certainly needs to be a big part of our future, but there will still be minor contributions from solar, wind and hydroelectric. No matter how much some people may want it; coal power and oil will not be going away anytime soon. We should indeed continue to strive to make them more efficient. The current ethanol and bio-diesel programs are very poorly managed at a national level with incentives and hand outs only encouraging wasteful development. That doesn't mean that they are entirely worthless either, they just need to be refocused as part of an overall national (or global) policy. There may be some additional supply sources that come online soon too - again, they more suppliers the better, but don't look for any single answers to a complex problem. Even with all the various energy supplies taken together, they will not solve the equation on a whole. They only address supply.

We also need to develop better national (or global) strategies for cutting demand through increased efficiency. High energy prices will spur some consumers to make more efficient decisions, but we have whole industries and lobbying groups out there that are pushing to keep the status quo. The government ends up subsidizing poor decisions and inefficiency while consumers often look at short term price instead of long term costs. There is some balancing that needs to be done here. In the US we pride ourselves on personal freedoms. We can protect those even when people choose to waste energy, but that doesn't mean that we can't mandate certain levels of national efficiency. We don't need to ban Hummers to raise the national MPG averages and we don’t need to ban incandescent light bulbs to cut electricity usage. We should be smart enough to create various taxes/credits and pricing schemes that correctly identify the costs to consumers and nudge the country in the right direction. Some of this is as simple as allowing tax breaks for putting additional insulation your attic, like we’ve done before. Some of this may require some new thinking.

Made up numbers here, but stay with me. As it is now, simple incandescent light bulbs probably cost less than a buck, and let’s say they use 20 dollars in electricity for some set period of time. A compact fluorescent bulb costs about $4 and uses less than $10 in electricity for that same time. A solid state bulb (LED) may cost $7 and use $6 in energy. There are lots of people that will look only at the up front cost and purchase the old standard, cheap light bulb. What would happen if when you went to the store to buy a light bulb, you had to purchase some set amount of electricity with it, but that cost of the electricity was immediately credited toward your electricity bill? People would then see that they had to pay $21 for a standard incandescent light bulb, $14 for a compact fluorescent and $13 for a LED bulb. People would still be free to choose whatever they wanted and their costs wouldn’t change. There are still plenty of cases where the more efficient bulbs aren’t a simple drop in replacement, and they aren’t always the most appealing temperature (color) of light, but at least consumers would see a more correct cost up front.

It may not be as simple as my light bulb example above, but you could combine the energy cost into just about any item from consumer electronics to automobiles or industrial machinery. Don’t get caught up in the details, I’m not trying to advocate any specific plan, just someway to show the energy cost in a more compelling manner. Hanging a yellow tag on a water heater that shows how much it will cost you run for a year is a nice step, or listing EPA approved MPG numbers are nice, but we can easily do more to show people the benefits of conserving energy without limiting personal choice.

It seems like there aren't any groups out there that are trying to work both sides of the issue. On one side you have the oil and energy companies that only benefit from high demand and high prices. They will all they can to increase supply so long as it doesn’t cut into the price they can charge. On the flip side you end up with Greenpeace and similar organizations that don't believe that humans should consume any energy at all. Somewhere in the middle you have the government that hands out money to whichever organization lobbies the hardest and in the end consumers end up with a lot of poor choices and limited innovation.

Sorry, had to get that off my chest

RE: First Post
By Lord 666 on 11/15/2007 1:21:45 PM , Rating: 2
So you are saying the modern diesel hybrid is an anwer to the question of "how can we hit 35mpg by 2035" that can be rolled out now giving us 2 to 3 decades of reduced fuel consumption? The big Three and Toyota to say it can't be done is BS and you just proved it.

The money we save by driving our 2006 Jetta TDI vs the 2005 Honda CR-V is around $150 per month. This money is put into our child's saving's account. The cost savings between petrol and diesels are significant and real.

RE: First Post
By masher2 on 11/15/2007 1:28:53 PM , Rating: 2
I'd respond to your first paragraph, but unfortunately I can't make heads or tails out of it. The second paragraph is a bit clearer:

> "The cost savings between petrol and diesels are significant and real. "

Of course, and I never denied it. However, no one can deny that diesels still use a nonrenewable fossil fuel and still generate emissions. They are therefore not a long-term solution.

RE: First Post
By Lord 666 on 11/15/2007 2:26:17 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry about the first paragraph, I've been practicing my political-speak.

The upshot is that even if everyone in the nation switched to a diesel hybrid, in 2-3 decades our emissions would be right back where they started

With the recent talk of increasing fleet economy to 35mpg by 2025, the Big Three and Toyota have said it cannot be done. But if the US switches all vehicles to diesel hybrids as you state, it would give the US 2-3 decades before emissions comes back to the current leve(and implied fuel economy as you early indicate 35%+ fuel savings by using straight diesel. It would also meet the 35mpg fleet economy instantly.

However, we both agree that nuclear and hydrogen power is THE long term solution.

RE: First Post
By masher2 on 11/15/2007 2:41:32 PM , Rating: 2
> " It would also meet the 35mpg fleet economy instantly."

Agreed. However, the OP said "how about some Bluetec Disels instead. " That implies dropping hydrogen entirely in favor of sole reliance on diesels. Which of course, doesn't solve anything but a short-term problem.

> "However, we both agree that nuclear and hydrogen power is THE long term solution"

Yes, we're in total agreement on this point.

RE: First Post
By Cygni on 11/15/2007 3:48:39 PM , Rating: 2
Something of note on the subject of using nuclear power to produce hydrogen is the Sulfur-iodine cycle and high temperature electrolysis.

Currently, hydrogen is produced through steam reformation of natural gas... which unfortunately counts CO2 as its primary bipoduct (actually CO first, but CO2 after a secondary reaction). Also, using straight electrolysis to break down water is highly energy inefficient. We would be better off simply using electric cars over using large scale electrolysis.

However, future GenIV nuclear reactors could produce absolutely massive amounts of hydrogen very efficiently directly from water through both high temperature electrolysis... and perhaps further in the future, the sulfur-iodine cycle. GenIV reactors are expected online by 2030... which could prove to be the critical point for any move to a nuclear/hydrogen economy. HTE would massively boost CO2 friendly hydrogen production, and should be able to undercut the price of fossil fuel derived hydrogen by a notable margin.

Just throwin' in some more info into the pot, hah.

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