back to article Honda whips out fuel-cell sci-fi style sportster

Honda surprised everyone by whipping the dust cover off of its FC Sport Design Study fuel-cell concept car at the 'subdued' Los Angeles Motor Show last week. The three-seat FC Sport uses the same V Flow hydrogen fuel-cell found in the Honda FCX Clarity saloon, which went on limited sale in Southern California back in July – one …

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M
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The world's first Goatse car

Paint that ass red and you've got a real muddy funster.

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Happy

Is that the socket at the back?

It certainly looks like a massive 2-pin setup!

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I like the design

But it looks like it's been hit in the face with a shovel. I know the lack of an engine makes a bonnet pointless, but it looks a bit weird without one. Doesn't taper or anything - just ends. Oddness.

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Wow

The car looks like the result of a cross-breeding experiment between a Cylon and something from Tron. ...in a good way. Fantastic design.

Of course, in the UK, you'll only see one on a country road, being driven at 10 mph by a pensioner. :-)

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If Cylons made cars..

..they'd probably be the angriest cars in the world.

And look like this, of course.

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Intentions

YEah, it is INTENDED to be built from recycled material, it is INTENDED to be cheap as chips, it is INTENDED to go like shit off a shovel, all they have to do is build it.

(A bit like all they need to do to win F1 is build a fast car - like they have been trying to do for a while now...)

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Hydrogen

I've always wondered where the hydrogen comes from, for these fuel cells.

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Anonymous Coward

Looks clearly for american market

This looks almost like a Chrysler design. Would never said that this is a Honda by looking at it.

There is no way in hell for something so butt ugly to sell on this side of the pond (if we exclude the sub-2% minority that likes various Chrysler abominations).

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I want one

NOW!

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that's just

Rad. I'll take one. Scrap the VICE-white though, please. I am sick of wannabe gangsters in white cars.

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Flame

5000PSI

that's about 2 metric tonnes of pressure per square inch. Equivalent to being about 3.5km underwater. Assuming those walls are aluminium, they must be over an inch thick and weigh approximately one hernia. Add in a decent safety factor and you're looking at closer to 2" thick. Leaving bugger all room for hydrogen.

That is surely a very dangerous pressure to be sticking in the back of every chav/pensioner's car? Especially as it's pressurised combustible gas?

I can't wait to see one of those in a crash- I'll probably see it from here even if it goes up in Japan. Burst a 5000psi bottle and you'll blow every window in the street. Have a flame coming out of the bottle? Don't try to spray water over it, it'll just get blasted out of the way.

Full disclosure:

As you may be able to tell, I'm not a fan of hydrogen fuelled cars. Mainly because it's only a carrier of energy, but partly because it's a really crap carrier of energy.

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Pirate

Bad answer to the wrong question

Hydrogen is an engineering disaster. It is expensive and inefficient to make , the current primary source being - you guessed it - fossil fuels. It is difficult and dangerous to store or transport. It's energy density is low. Fuels cells are expensive because they use rare and/or toxic and expensive metals and minerals that are global short supply. Converting the existing transport infrastructure to support hydrogen would cost incredible amounts of money and resources - that the world does not have to spare.

The world is facing a global energy crisis. Wasting millions on a flash but totally unsustainable technology is a short cut to economic collapse. We need to spend what limited resources we have left learning to adapt to a low energy future. We will ALL be using a lot less energy 20 years from now. Adapt or go without.

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Give the guy who designed the front a raise, fire the guy who did the rear

While the hydrogen tanks are easily nickable, its say the bigger danger is the chavs setting fire to it because a) made of plastic, should go up fairly easily and b) two HUGE aerosol cans!!

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I Love it

...I just wish it had batteries instead of those stupid fuel cell things. Where - exactly - are we going to be getting the Hydrogen from?

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Heart

well, what I think is...

blah blah blah, blah blah blah, just like one Jamie Lee Curtis was supplied with, blah blah blah....

wait a minute. Jamie Lee Curtis? Now if the thing came with Jamie Lee Curtis I would suddenly have a reason to buy one.

But it won't, so I don't.

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Fuel source

OK, so it's a fuel-cell car, powered by compressed hydrogen gas... First, let's ask the Hindenburg how safe hydrogen is. But ignoring all safety issues, where does this fuel source (compressed hydrogen) come from? More to the point, how much energy is used to make it, and where does THAT energy come from? And of course, what's the ratio of "energy used to make compressed hydrogen" versus "energy released from compressed hydrogen to power the fuel cells"?

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Where the Hydrogen comes from?

Well, it currently comes from industrial plants splitting it from water, or from air. Mostly. I think. Mostly running on standard crap power.

However long term that would be silly.

The most important development of the 'hydrogen economy' is the 'local microgeneration' element. We will all have wind/geothermal/solar/natural gas from waste local generation that cracks the hydogen. Apparently.

Hydrogen is a crap, not particularly simple to store energy carrier, but the carriage is getting better, with improving lattice storage lowering pressures disproportionately compared to the loss of volume, and thus improving safety, and utility. I think.

There are some (many?) who think the improvement in that technology will outstrip the utility of batteries, which do wear out, whereas theoretically a decent storage canister should have a much longer life span. If the power is generated locally, and is carbon neutral, and whatever other buzzwords you can think of that are all exciting then the hydrogen is a good solution, and efficiency from sun to moving is not that important.

The other option of course is bloody great long power cables from huge African photovoltaic plants, running DC for 3000 miles, and using that. Which would work too, and provided the plants are big enough then efficiency still isn't the killer app.

Possibly.

Or fusion finally works commercially, and power is too cheap to meter.

Anyway - Hydrogen - it's a carrier, so is lithium (in the form of batteries), and other battery techs. The advantage of Hydrogen is not it's energy density (crap), but it's waste products - assuming you manage the cracking efficiently in the first place.

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Front end design

With this color* scheme, I'd say it looks more like a Star Wars clone trooper than a Cylon. That's not such a bad thing - a bit tacky and very sci-fi, but still generally good-looking to anyone who would drive a concept car (if they could).

The back end... not so much. It looks like they wanted to put a rocket engine back there. But, you know... they *couldn't*. <eye-roll>

*Yes, I'm in the U.S., where "U"s are the *only* thing we conserve.

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Anonymous Coward

Wrong photo

That must be the wrong photo. That's a train wreck. Where is the photo of the fuel-cell concept car?

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J
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Fugly

That's the word -- although this one is an improvement over other "green" car design I've seen before.

Now to the naysayers... If anyone only listened to you, we'd be still living in caves. Which might have been a good idea, but anyway:

"Who would be stupid enough to be carrying gallons of flammable liquid (which is highly explosive in aerosol form) in a flimsy tank under their vehicle? That's just stupid, think what happens in the first collision... Just stick to the well tested and time honoured horse buggy: you just need a pasture to refill the power source of that one! Where do you see them places to buy gasoline? These people researching and wasting money on internal combustion so-called engines are all fulez and will never succeed with these smelly, noisy, dangerously fast explosive monstrosities. So just give up, plant more grass, and breed more horses."

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Coat

The Hinderburg on Wheels

No one (well, almost no one) intends to crash a car. Four kilos of hydrogen at 5000 psi positioned in the rear of a car. I am sure the design engineers did all they could to make it safe. I wonder they could ever do enough. I doubt it.

As for harvesting hydrogen from water for fuel, I am even less sure. Here in Southern California we pretend we do not live in a desert. We do this by pumping millions of gallons of water hundreds of miles from the north and central parts of the state to the southern part. We also get water from the Colorado river. It defines the boarder between this state and Arizona.

I am supposed to accept as a good idea--which is to say as ecologically and economically sound the idea--that we should take potable water and convert it into hydrogen, destroying the water in the process, and burn the hydrogen. The net has to be a loss of water. Water we will never get back. Water we imported at great cost from somewhere else. And this is the least expensive mode of transit--again, in ecological and economic terms? I hope not. The true long term cost must quite high.

Mine's the Nomex number with the armor plating and re-breathing gear.

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Interesting looks...

Looks like one of the better designs to come out of Honda in a while, especially from the rear 3/4 angle. But I don't particularly like the view from full astern. Not really sure where they were going with that one.

And to the Anon going on about the tanks... No halfway-serious pressure equipment since the dawn of time has been made from Aluminium. The only property of Al that suits pressure equipment is the light weight, but weight is only rarely a concern with 5kpsi hardware, plus that weight comes from low density, which means a higher rate of Hydrogen diffusion through the metal, which means H2 loss into potentially closed environments, to say nothing of the lost fuel energy.

The fuel tanks is probably the most difficult part of a Hydrogen car (or that H2 economy people keep talking about) since the molecules are so small that they can generally move through solid metal with relative ease. In addition to that, interstitial H atoms in a metal crystal latice cause massive embrittlement, which means increased likelyhood to shatter into pieces when impacted.

I've got no idea what Honda have come up with to contain their fuel, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was some combination of Carbon Fibre, High Tougness (maybe steel) alloy, and extremely high density plastic. Thats just off the top of my head, and people have been working for many years to come up with something that is safe, cost effective, and functional. So no inch thick Aluminium.

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Flame

Forget the Hindenburg

Look, the real problem with the Hindenburg was not the hydrogen (that just goes wooof in a fireball, mostly harmless) - it was the cellulose paint that waterproofed the canvas skin: that was the real fire risk.

Hydrogen is MUCH less hazardous than petrol/gasoline precisely because it has a low energy density, although the high pressure is an added risk.

It works really well for rockets, because you can carry liquid oxygen around to improve that energy density, but you *really* don't want to have LOX in your car too...

I suspect the real answer is some form of multi-fuel system, combining decent capacity low weight batteries, a regenerative braking system, a small tank of some sort of fuel to power a fuel cell, and a plug-in recharger. That way you charge up before you travel, and top up with fuel cell power as and when...

The electric can come from renewable sources - wave and solar seem to be the best options here, although there is still room for improvement on wind power.

And eventually, (of course), nuclear fusion will save us all the worry... :)

Now we need to get some *decent* car designers to sort out the looks. Why can't it look like the old NSX (which was, after all, a Ferrari rip-off)

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Boffin

RE: Scott

"....take potable water and convert it into hydrogen, destroying the water in the process, and burn the hydrogen. The net has to be a loss of water. Water we will never get back....."

Well, actually, no. You don't burn the hydrogen in air in a fuel cell, you simply reverse the reaction that split the water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen in the first place. In essence, it re-bonds with oxygen to form water. This is the hydrogen lobby's main claim for "environmental cleanliness", as with just water vapour coming out of the exhaust, every fuel-cell car is in theory a zero running emmissions vehicle ("running emmissions" is a nice way of ignoring all the pollution generated by the production and scrapping of the vehicle, and the pollution generated by the real source of its energy).

What happens is you take electrical energy from a non-portable source, like a nuke powerplant, and you use the electrical energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis, to give you a portable form of energy (lets pretend it's nice clean water, and we didn't have to first distill it). This effectively stores about 70% of the energy from the elctrolysis. We then pressurise the hydrogen (you guessed, more energy required, more losses) and store it in very tough cylinders (yes, lots more energy required to make the cylinders). But now we have a stored form of energy similar to a battery in concept. We then feed the hydrogen into the fuel cell (about 40% efficient) and - voila - reverse the electrolysis process, releasing the stored electrical energy as the hydrogen bonds with oxygen from the air to form more water.

If you're kind, you rate hydrogen fuel cells as a 25% efficient source of automotive power. That means, under ideal conditions, for every 4W you generate at say a wind turbine, you actually get 1W out of the fuel cell in the car (which then wastes more energy before it actually gets to pushing the car along!). By comparison, just using batteries with an electric motor rates as about 86% efficient (ideal figures), so for every 4W out of the wind farm you get 3.44W out of the electric motor. Of course, battery-powered electric cars really do have zero running emmissions, with not even water vapour exhausted.

So why bother with hydrogen fuel cells? Well, they're lighter than batteries, and all that hydrogen production requires big plants similar to those run by the current petrochemical industry, which means the US would not only keep a large chunk of the current petrochemical industry running, but would also be able to localise production to make them independent of foreign energy sources (water covers 70% of the planet and the US has two big ocean frontages) so no more kowtowing to nasty Middle Eastern regimes required. Of course, if we go to batteries, then that means the cheapest battery producer will likely be the prime source, and that's currently not the US. It also means dirty great big opencast mines to extract lithium compounds, and seeing as the environmentalists get their knickers in a twist over the like, the chances of US companies being allowed to promote US exploration are about nil, meaning the US will trade dependence on foreign oil for dependence on foreign mineral production.

So, hydrogen offers the US big bizz a decent money opportunity, gives foreign energy independence, and will employ lots of workers to keep the politicians in votes. Winners all round!

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Alert

RE: Hindenburgh comments

The typical comment said: "Look, the real problem with the Hindenburg was not the hydrogen (that just goes wooof in a fireball, mostly harmless) - it was the cellulose paint that waterproofed the canvas skin: that was the real fire risk."

You fail.

Everyone knows that the story about the skin of the zeppelin turning into something akin to thermite is a comlpete and utter myth.

Proof of this is easy to see in the footage but incase you're blind (as well as easily led by internet lies) then you might want to watch the episode of Mythbusters from January 2007 where they covered this very issue.

Zeppelins have a solid frame and the contents are at normal atmospheric pressure. It's blindingly obvious that the source of the combustion was the hydrogen. If you want proof then make your own zeppelin (like Mythbusters did), fill it with hydrogen and then set it on fire.

...and hydrogen which is stored at many times atmospheric pressure - ha! I shudder to think what any roadside accidents will look like if this is the future.

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is it just me or

does this car look like a Lamborghini and the Honda Highbrid had an illegitamate child? Honda always does this taper thing from the back wheels to the rear bumper, AND IT STILL LOOKS WHACK. just a piece of advice, don't take design cues from the honda Hybrid, the second ugliest car of the twenty first centrury only surpassed by the pontiac stationwagon, suv thingeee

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Boffin

Re: The Hinderburg on Wheels

"[...] we should take potable water and convert it into hydrogen, destroying the water in the process, and burn the hydrogen. The net has to be a loss of water. Water we will never get back."

Do you know what byproduct you get when you burn Hydrogen? H2O. However, I do agree that using *drinking* water for this is stupid. That's what seawater or even waste water is for. It adds up on a distilling water process cost, but at least it doesn't use clean drinking water.

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