Toyota is known for its hybrids, and Nissan for its EV agenda, but when it comes to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, it is Honda who have been leading the way with their FCX Clarity model – a green car that even Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson likes.
Now Honda is teaming up with ANA (All Nippon Airways) at the request of HySUT (The Research Association of Hydrogen Supply/Utilization Technology) to offer the Clarity to passengers on international flights at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport from September 5th, 2011.
The Clarity has been available in limited lease programs around the world, but it seems that this latest move will have a number of benefits for Honda:
First of all, it will give a lot of people an opportunity to take what is likely to be their first ride in a hydrogen fuel cell car.
While most people have ridden in a hybrid, and with Nissan’s Leaf in particular greatly increasing the pool of people who have experienced an electric car, Honda does not want to be left behind and discover that they have invested a huge amount of capital in a power train that the public really don’t feel sure about.
A corollary of the first reason is that getting more people into the FCX Clarity (albeit as passengers, rather than drivers) will give an exponential return in customer feedback. I would be very surprised if the customers were not encouraged to complete some sort of survey during or after the journey, or at least the driver should be encouraged to elicit comments from his passengers as he drives. Of course, this would require an English-speaking driver, so I suspect some kind of online or written survey is more likely.
Finally, the route from Narita into Tokyo is going to give the Clarity a great workout on a variety of roads, from the faster more free-flowing expressways, to the congested urban stop-start of traffic light hopping that is the typical driving in Japanese built-up areas.
Whereas lease cars will often be used as commuters and so spend a lot of their day sitting idle in parking spaces, the Narita service is going to make much more stringent and constant demands on the Clarity, which I am sure will provide a wealth of data for Honda technicians to mull over.
The question is, though, when (if ever) will we see a fuel cell vehicle like this being sold in any real numbers as an ICE car alternative? Honda has been testing prototypes as well as running field trials of the FCX and now FCX Clarity for over 5 years now, but is it getting any closer to being the finished product – or will it simply be an evolutionary dead-end in the annals of automotive history?
We can but hope that this latest trial at Narita will be one of the last stages in this process of bringing this technology to market
Source: Nikkei (Japanese)leave a response, trackback from your own site