The Clarity in Honda's Future

Prototype fuel-cell car features radical design with a comfortable feel

Published: 25-Dec-2007

SANTA MONICA, CALIF.: Often, it is the smallest of gestures that deliver the most powerful messages. I was reminded of this last month when I settled into the driver's seat of the FCX Clarity, a sedan powered by fuel cells that Honda will begin leasing to a handful of private customers next summer. Fresh from a briefing that detailed the car's NASA-grade complexity, I wondered what procedures might be required to start the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen and bring the power supply to life.

In fact, it took nothing more than inserting an entirely conventional metal key into a normal-looking switch and pushing a power button much like the one that starts the Honda S2000 sports car. The familiarity of the steps — deliberate gestures, I think, to convince drivers that the cars of our future aren't so frightening after all — reinforced the message of the meeting I had just left: the FCX Clarity is ready now.

Scanning the dashboard for unmarked switches, mysterious buttons and puzzling controls, I looked for the inevitable loose ends of an engineering prototype being hustled toward production. Seeing nothing unfamiliar beyond a dazzling 3D dashboard display — a large power meter where my eye expected a tachometer, with a glowing ball in its center to track hydrogen consumption — I noted essentials like the parking brake and seat adjustment, all familiar operations. There really wasn't going to be much out of the ordinary about the way this car drove, at least.


The system operates from the Calor Gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or propane that is already on board for cooking. The system will fit comfortably in an aft locker, normally used for a conventional generator.

The Cadillac Provoq fuel cell concept uses GM's E-Flex propulsion system, combining the new fifth-generation fuel cell system and a lithium-ion battery to produce an electrically driven vehicle that uses no petroleum and has no emission other than water.

Powered by a 100 kW electric engine and fuel cell stack, the i-Blue is capable of running more than 370 miles per refueling and achieves a maximum speed of more than 100 miles per hour.


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