Honda held a press briefing in Tokyo on its hydrogen business initiatives. Honda said that it will take a proactive approach to increase the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier and strive to expand its hydrogen business, in addition to continuing to electrify its products.
As the core of its hydrogen business, Honda will further advance its fuel cell system. With the next-generation fuel cell system being co-developed with General Motors (GM), Honda will aim to more than double the durability and reduce the cost to one-third, in comparison to the fuel cell system installed in the 2019 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell.
Next-generation fuel cell system
This significant cost reduction was achieved by various measures including the adoption of innovative materials for electrodes, advancement of a cell sealing structure, simplification of the supporting equipment (“balance of plant”) and the improvement of productivity. Moreover, the durability of the system was doubled by the application of corrosion-resistant materials and controlled suppression of deterioration, and low temperature resistance was also increased significantly.
In 2024, in North America and Japan, Honda will launch a FCEV model equipped with this next-generation fuel cell system jointly developed with GM. This model will be based on the CR-V introduced last year in North America and equipped with the next-generation fuel cell system.
In addition to the advantages of FCEVs, which enables long-distance driving with short refueling time, this all-new FCEV model will feature a plug-in function that offers the convenience of EVs which can be recharged at home.
After achieving these targets with GM, Honda will continue its fundamental research on future fuel cell technologies to double the durability again—in comparison to the next-generation fuel cell system co-developed with GM—and halve the cost from the newly reduced level.
Honda has identified four core domains for the utilization of its fuel cell system: fuel cell vehicles (FCEV), commercial vehicles, stationary power stations and construction machinery. Honda will actively engage in collaboration with other companies.
Commercial vehicles. In Japan, Honda is planning to start demonstration testing on public roads of a prototype fuel cell-powered heavy-duty truck being researched jointly with Isuzu Motors Limited, before the end of the upcoming fiscal year 2024 (ending 31 March 2024).
In Hubei Province, China, in January 2023, Honda began demonstration test driving of commercial trucks equipped with the next-generation fuel cell system in collaboration with Dongfeng Motor Group Co., Ltd.
Stationary power stations. In recent years, the power requirements of data centers have been growing rapidly due to the expansion of cloud computing and big data utilization, and the need for backup power sources has been increasing from the perspective of business continuity planning (BCP). To accommodate such needs, Honda will propose the application of its fuel cell systems in the area of power generation, starting from the application as a clean and quiet backup power source.
As the first step, a stationary fuel cell power station with an approximate capacity of 500kW, which reuses fuel cell systems from Honda Clarity Fuel Cell vehicles, was installed on the corporate campus of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. in California. The demonstration operation of the station as a backup power source for the data center will begin later this month. Subsequent to this testing, Honda will begin applying stationary fuel cell power station technologies to Honda factories and data centers around the world, through which Honda strives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its operation as well.
Construction machinery. Honda will take initiative to apply its fuel cell system first to excavators and wheel loaders, which account for a large segment of the construction machinery market, contributing to the realization of carbon neutrality for construction machinery.
Concerning hydrogen supply for construction machinery which is considered difficult to handle with conventional stationary hydrogen stations alone, Honda will work with construction industry associations and related parties to work toward resolving the challenge.
Space technology. Honda will continue pursuing research and development in the future with a view to utilizing its hydrogen technologies such as a fuel cell system and high differential pressure water electrolysis technologies in the field of space technology.
In addition to water and food, people need oxygen, as well as hydrogen for fuel and electricity for various activities supporting life in space. To enable sustainable space activities, it is necessary to reduce the need to resupply these resources from Earth as much as possible. One of the solutions to this challenge is to create a circulative renewable energy system, which combines a high differential pressure water electrolysis system that produces oxygen and hydrogen using solar energy to electrolyze water, and a fuel cell system that generates electricity and water from oxygen and hydrogen.
To create such a system, Honda conducted joint research and development with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) during the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years (period ended 31 March2022). In 2022, Honda signed a research and development contract with JAXA regarding the “circulative renewable energy system” that is designed to supply electricity to maintain the functionality of the living space and various systems of lunar rovers. Based on this contract, Honda will be commissioned by JAXA to first conduct concept studies, then to develop a “breadboard model,” an early-stage prototype, by the end of the 2024 fiscal year (ending 31 March2024).
Initiatives toward the establishment of hydrogen ecosystems. To achieve widespread utilization of fuel cell systems, it is critical to establish hydrogen ecosystems, that include hydrogen supply. Honda has been supporting the expansion of hydrogen station networks in Japan by participating in the Japan Hydrogen Station Network Joint Company (Japan H2 Mobility/JHyM) and in North America by supporting hydrogen station businesses such as Shell and FirstElement Fuel.
From here forward, as a new area, Honda will take an active role in establishing hydrogen ecosystems which center around stationary power stations and start from where demand for hydrogen exists. Honda will also proactively participate in projects organized by national and local governments that utilize large volumes of imported hydrogen at ports and other locations. Through these initiatives, Honda will work to build partnerships with companies involved in this new area.
In Japan, working toward the establishment of a hydrogen ecosystem, together with Marubeni Corporation and Iwatani Corporation, Honda has begun discussing the prospects for hydrogen supply and the utilization of fuel cell commercial vehicles. In Europe, Honda is currently planning for demonstration testing of an energy ecosystem that combines renewable energy and hydrogen.