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Honda hits reverse on £50k fuel cell cars for '08

SoCal beta-testers to lease FCX Clarity

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Japanese motor colossus Honda has walked back somewhat on its recent announcement that it would sell hydrogen fuel cell cars in America and Japan for just £50,000.

The new FCX Clarity

Hydrogen cars for all - in parts of California

The revelations last month caused a stir in the global motor industry, which had not been expecting Honda's FCX cars to go on ordinary sale for years. Thus far the maker, mirroring normal industry strategy, had preferred to lease small numbers of vehicles to selected customers.

Now it transpires that in fact these combination beta-tests and market-seeding loss leaders are to continue. Rather than selling the latest FCX Clarity for £50k, Honda will lease it from summer '08 for $600/month including collision insurance and maintenance.

Only people living in the Torrance, Santa Monica, and Irvine areas of southern California will be eligible initially, as these are the only places that the Clarity can be easily refuelled and serviced.

Honda reckons its new baby will do 270 miles on a fill of hydrogen. The gas is used to generate electricity in a fuel cell stack, and the juice then passes into an ordinary lithium-ion battery pack and electric transmission.

Honda's proprietary Ultracapacitor technology - though it has been included in previous FCX models - isn't getting an outing this time, because it took up too much space, apparently. (Whoops.)

Honda has made an effort to ensure the Clarity looks different to other cars, too. The company believes that its previous hybrids - outwardly no different from conventional cars - got whupped by Toyota's Prius due to that latter's distinctive styling.

So how many more years until hydrogen cars move beyond beta test in California?

Honda is hoping not too many. The company is working hard on its Home Energy Station tech. The idea here is that FCX owners of the future would have an energy station at home hooked up to their domestic natural-gas and water supplies. This machine would produce hydrogen for the car, and also useful amounts of electricity and heat for the home (it would give off a fair bit of CO2, but then so does an ordinary gas boiler).

"If you live outside the [FCX lease] area, don't worry," says Honda, chirpily.

"We plan to roll out more of these amazing vehicles as more hydrogen refueling options become available. A key component of this effort is the development of Honda's Home Energy Stations..."

The home hydrogen kit is now on its fouth generation, apparently. But there's no word on just when all this will be ready to go for real. ®

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