Having your hydrogen fuel cell car powered by some solar panels in your own backyard looks like a dream not able to come true in a lifetime for some. For others, this is already a reality and a long-term plan. Honda, GM, Toyota, Mercedes and several other car manufacturers, joined by fuel providers including Shell, look at home-based refueling stations quite seriously and plan to have the first ones implemented in as little as five years.
Only one residential hydrogen refueler currently exists, and it’s on a Honda R&D facility, feeding a limited-production FCX Clarity. The refueler features a 6 kW array of thin film solar cells, and has the sizes of a mini refrigerator, which takes the electricity generated by the solar cells, splits water through electrolysis and sends the obtained hydrogen into the car’s tank. The FCX Clarity has a fuel cell that re-generates electricity from the stored hydrogen and powers the electric motor.
The LA Times has an ample article about how happy users are with their FCX Clarity, even if it’s leased. Honda chose about 20 people of around 80,000 worldwide to test-drive it, paying around $600 per month, which include the cost of hydrogen, collision insurance and regular maintenance.
“Now that I’ve had the opportunity to not only see a hydrogen car working but actually drive it, I don’t see any reason to go back to anything else,” says Clarity driver Jack Cusick, assistant principal of Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, who was one of the lucky that got to test drive one of the world’s most advanced cars – for 18 months now. Each FCX Clarity costs $1 million to make, but when they’ll put it on market, the price will probably drop to that of other cars in its luxury class – maybe a bit more expensive.
Steve Ellis, alternative fuel manager for American Honda Motor Co., tells the LA Times that the residential hydrogen refueler will be able to provide a car with enough hydrogen to drive around 10,000 miles a year. He also says that the efficiency of the electrolysis process they’re using has improved 25 percent since the system had first been devised in 2001.
Scientists all over the world are currently looking for far more efficient ways to make electrolysis happen, and this is because the demand for solar-powered hydrogen generators is rising. Battery powered electric cars will only open the appetite of consumers, but I guess hydrogen is the long run solution to replacing gasoline. My common sense says so.