HONDA is positioning hydrogen as one of its high-potential energy carriers, along with electricity.
The “hydrogen circulation cycle,” which starts with renewable energy, consists of three phases – “generate,” “store/transport” and “use.” With the use of water electrolysis technology, electricity derived from renewable energy sources can be converted into “green hydrogen” making it less susceptible to fluctuations in power generation due to seasonality and weather conditions, and it becomes possible to transport the energy to where it is needed in the form of “green hydrogen” via appropriate methods such as transport by land, sea, and pipeline.
Honda will expand the applications of its fuel cell system, the core of Honda hydrogen technology, not only to Honda FCEVs but also to various internal and external applications, thereby serving to stimulate demand for hydrogen and facilitating the carbon neutrality of society through the “use” of hydrogen.
Honda was one of the first companies to focus on the potential of hydrogen toward the realisation of a carbon-neutral society and has been conducting research and development of hydrogen technologies and FCEVs for more than 30 years. Since 2013, Honda has been working with GM on the joint development of the next-generation fuel cell system.
In 2024, in North America and Japan, Honda will launch a FCEV model equipped with the next-generation fuel cell system jointly developed with GM. While cost and durability are viewed as typical challenges that needed to be addressed to facilitate widespread use of fuel cell systems, this next-generation fuel cell system, which leverages the knowledge, know-how and economies of scale of both companies, will reduce the cost to one-third compared to the cost of the fuel cell system in the 2019 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell.
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 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.
Looking ahead to around 2030, when fuel cell use is expected to begin to advance toward full-fledged popularisation, Honda has begun fundamental research on future fuel cell technologies with targets to halve the cost and double the durability compared to the fuel cell system co-developed with GM. Honda is looking to realise usability and total cost which will enable the fuel cell system to be on par with conventional diesel engines.
In light of global environmental trends, Honda said it will continue expanding the application of its fuel cell systems beyond its FCEVs in order to contribute to the realisation of a carbon-neutral society. To this end, Honda will begin external sales of the next-generation fuel cell system modules in the mid-2020s.
The company sees the initial sales level of 2,000 units per year and will strive to expand sales in stages, with goals to increase sales to 60,000 units in 2030, and to a few hundred thousand units per year by the second half of the 2030s.
Large size mobility products
Due to the unique characteristics of hydrogen, which can store and transport energy at high density and fill the tank quickly, the fuel-cell system is expected to be particularly effective as a power source for heavily used large-size mobility products and large-scale infrastructure as well as for mobility products that require quick refueling where it is difficult to be powered by batteries.
Moreover, multiple units of the fuel cell system can be connected in parallel to achieve higher output. Based on these characteristics and strengths, Honda has identified core domains for its fuel cell system applications for the early phase of its entry into hydrogen business.
Honda is planning to begin sales of the all-new FCEV model in 2024 in North America and Japan. 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.
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, before the end of the upcoming fiscal year 2024. Honda also reached an agreement with Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus to begin demonstration testing in the area of light-duty trucks.
In recent years, the power requirements of data centers have been growing rapidly due to the expansion of cloud computing and big data utilisation, 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 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.
Cutting development costs
In order for more businesses to actively utilise fuel cell systems, it is important to solve issues such as reducing development investment and man-hours for installation, suppressing total cost and ensuring a stable and inexpensive supply of hydrogen.
Honda will offer not only development support to adapt its fuel cell system to the customers’ products but also operational support such as after-sales maintenance and a stable supply of hydrogen, thereby making a one-stop contribution to the customers’ efforts toward carbon neutrality.
To achieve widespread utilisation 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.
Honda will take an active role in establishing hydrogen ecosystems which center around stationary power stations and start from where demand for hydrogen exists. It will also proactively participate in projects organised by national and local governments that utilise large volumes of imported hydrogen at ports and other locations.
In Japan, working toward the establishment of a hydrogen ecosystem, Honda has begun discussing the prospects for hydrogen supply and the utilisation of fuel cell commercial vehicles. In Europe, the carmaker is currently planning for demonstration testing of an energy ecosystem that combines renewable energy and hydrogen.