By on March 13, 2010

Just when you thought hydrogen was dead, Honda comes up with a system that allows you to make homemade hydrogen, using nothing but free sunshine. In the grand tradition of hydrogen cars, the sunny technology is just not quite there yet.

You need to put 48 solar panels on your house, building a 6-kilowatt solar array. You then feed it water, which is broken into hydrogen. No word on what the gadgetry costs.

Eight hours of home solar refueling would yield you 30 miles in Honda’s hydrogen-propelled FCX Clarity. No word on what that thing will go for.

Actually, you’d have to wait longer than 8 hours.

The FCX Clarity is scheduled to be available around 2018, says Reuters.

The solar hydrogen refueling system is expected to be market-ready by 2015.

And then, it’s: “Look, the sun is out. Let’s drive to the store tonight.”

Probably makes more sense to solar power your water heater.

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27 Comments on “Honda Hearts Hydrogen: Let The Sunshine In!...”


  • avatar
    GS650G

    Hydrogen actually is practical for use as fuel if you use nuclear to generate it. But since we aren’t allowed to build any plants for fear of offending Algore we don’t get cheap abundant energy to create it.

    And Hydrogen burns clean too.

    Maybe this November we can elect people that are serious about solving the energy problem instead of try to twist our arms with usage taxes and fees to do without.

    With the right leadership we could be using Hydrogen for a large portion of all our energy needs in a few years. But that’s not going to happen.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The problem there is that hydrogen has all of a battery’s energy density problems, but with an extra helping of distribution and storage problems on top. Even if you used fission to crack it, you’re still left with a fuel that’s less energy-positive than a simple battery.

      Hydrogen as something you can burn is probably never going to be practical. Batteries will get better, motors more efficient, materials lighter and urban planning will improve before someone makes a commercially viable fuel cell. Personally, I think they’ll sort out nuclear fusion first.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Psarhjinian is correct. Hydrogen, even liquid hydrogen, is so light that any given volume of it carries very little energy.

      One liter of liquid hydrogen contains 71 grams of hydrogen. One liter of gasoline contains 118 grams of hydrogen, and one liter of diesel, 130 grams.

      Of course liquid hydrogen costs lots of energy to make, is difficult to store (it will leak out of any container in a matter of days), and is 423 degrees F below zero, so be careful when handling it.

      Compressed hydrogen is less dense than liquid, and kaboom.

    • 0 avatar
      Christy Garwood

      psarhjinian, there is a commercially viable hydrogen fuel cell vehicl on the road today
      http://www.chevrolet.com/experience/fuel-solutions/fuel-cell/

      The problem is the infrastructure for fueling stations is lacking.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      psarhjinian, there is a commercially viable hydrogen fuel cell vehicl on the road today

      No, there isn’t. Hydrogen as a fuel is not commercially viable, not even in fuel-cell form. And no, selling the vehicle at a monstrous premium, or offering a highly incentivized lease is not commerically viability any more than selling electricity from a fusion reactor at a thousand dollars a kilowatt-hour would be.

      It has the disadvantages of both corn ethanol, in that it’s grossly net-energy negative, and of batteries, in that the energy density sucks. And that’s before we get to distribution and storage, which knock it further into the realm of commercial worthlessness.

      You cannot consider the distribution problem as separate. It is inherent to hydrogen unsuitability as a fuel.

  • avatar
    ConejoZing

    Ah, the rare inventive side of Honda makes an appearance, not the Acura ugly jerk entitlement side.

    You have to give Honda credit for this. Really trying to make it happen for Hydrogen. Good job! Please Honda just get back to basics and away from the Acura direction.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Probably makes more sense to solar power your water heater.

    True, and it’s very easy and cheap to do, too. Photovoltaic cells are getting better, too, so it’s probable that solar energy will help EVs and hybrids before it does anything for hydrogen

    • 0 avatar
      zeeman011

      “Probably makes more sense to solar power your water heater.

      True, and it’s very easy and cheap to do, too. Photovoltaic cells are getting better, too, so it’s probable that solar energy will help EVs and hybrids before it does anything for hydrogen”

      Solar water heaters for domestic and pool water heating are easy to make and install as long as they are passive systems. If they are active, they are automatically more expensive as they use pumps, controls, sensors… and they are complicate, especially if combined with the backup heaters.

      Passive system can be done as the DIY home project but they are not that efficient as the active. PV cells are used to run the pump for example and other controllers so the whole system might be electricity independent.

      http://www.hot-water-heaters-reviews.com/solar-hot-water-heaters.html

      I cannot wait to see cars, gas independent. Hydrogen might be a good solution but with the water wells rapidly decreasing… what is the future. I will bet on sun’s free energy.

  • avatar
    imag

    I love Honda and all, but this is not remotely new.

    We have been building solar arrays of all types for 40 years. We have been generating hydrogen from electrolysis for longer than that. I worked with a guy who has had a system like this on his house, except it’s a 30 kW array. He uses the fuel cell to power his home and his fuel cell Taurus (one of 5 all-aluminum fuel cell tauruses ever built). He set all that up about 10 years ago.

    I guess if their innovation is bundling up a nice little component group, that’s kind of handy, but otherwise, this is nothing to write home about.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Yeah, just what I need, yahoos who don’t even maintain their homes well creating and storing pressurized flammable gas next door. What kind of failsafes do you need in such a design to make it foolproof?

    How about just using batteries to store the solar elec during the day and then using that to recharge an EV at night? My limited knowledge of the laws of thermodynamics makes me think that avoiding the conversion of elec to H2, and H2 back to elec would be more efficient. And it sure as heck will be less risky to have batteries next door than H2 storage.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      And if you want to pursue H2 fuel cells, how about using ethanol and a reformer to produce the H2 on the fly:

      http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:3dRcvkiPCIkJ:www.fuelandfiber.com/Athena/Fuel_Cells.doc+alcohol+hydrogen+reform&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

      I can’t vouch for the quality of these guys’ data, but as long as we’re talking future tech, how about something that actually makes practical sense?

  • avatar
    wmba

    Ah yes, the hydrogen storage problem. The hydrogen atom, being a bit small, leaks out of solid steel containers by finding holes in the structure, and embrittles it to boot.

    BMW found out that half of the pressurized gas disappeared from its on board hydrogen bottle in a mere week.

    Of course, if it’s not under pressure, it doesn’t leak as quickly. Does Honda make available extra plans for building a Goodyear blimp in your backyard for storage? Then what about the industrial grade compressor to pressurize this stuff into the vehicle’s onboard fuel tank?

    But wait:
    “Applied Electric Field Can Significantly Improve Hydrogen Storage Properties” says Science Daily. Good thing we have those solar panels at the ready then. We can make it and store it. Wait a minute, it’s just a theory, the article continues.

    So with a solar panel, misdirection from Honda like Manny The Magician’s sleight-of-hand to make you long and pine for an FCX, a sunny climate and a collection of solar panels and extravagant apparatus, your local back yard hack can brew enough hydrogen in a day for the meanies from down the street to blow up for fun and spectacle that very night.

    Not to mention, when this absolute BS system doesn’t work and is banned by local ordinances for being too damn dangerous, green conspiracy theorists will be able to blog to their heart’s content for decades bemoaning the oil industry shooting down this savior of the energy world.

    Honda, this is the most practical idea I’ve heard of in years!

    (File in “Promises, Promises” folder, along with Weight Loss Pills, 200mpg Fish carburator, Run your Engine without Oil, Win The Lottery Every Time, Extenze, How to Waste Time Profitably)

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    It’s easy to ridicule things like this. Most of the comments here are like those people 100 years ago shouting “Get a horse!” But it is nice to see Honda trying something new.

    Will it work? Probably not. But I think it’s worth a try.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    Whoever invests in hydrogen should take a thermodynamics class. Assuming the same source for electricity (wind,sun,coal, or whatever) I can charge and discharge a battery with maybe 80% efficiency. Making hydrogen, only 50% efficient, compressing costs another 60% efficiency, fuel cell maybe 60% efficient. So, 0.5×0.6×0.6 is 18% efficient. and this is at almost thermodynamically ideal conditions. In reality even lower.

    Then a hydrogen car cost a million$, an electric car maybe $ 50K. I could relatively easily build up charging stations. But building up hydrogen stations is hard. Then the standby losses mentioned above are much much worse than the battery issues at cold and hot temperatures.

    so, why are they wasting time on that? I mean, if they already had a hybrid as efficient as the Prius, and an electric car, they could move on to hydrogen. but they have nothing that is useful right now (hybrid, electric) . and don’t tell me the Insight is a good hybrid unless you have mpg numbers to back it up.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Their failure would just be useful data for someone else to use to get it right. Let them try all they want.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Both Honda & GM are invested in fuel cell energy, and each predicted that this technology would start appearing in homes well before automobiles. 2018 huh, good luck with that. Imagine how good electric cars will be by then.

  • avatar
    grinchsmate

    i worked as a yard hand for a second hand car dealer in west australia a few years ago and i remember one day a young canadian woman came in and tried to sell a hydrogen petrol hybrid. the reason she was selling was because she had made so much money selling the hybrid system to others she could afford a better car. the boss and i looked under the bonnet of the car and what she had done was hook a couple of electrodes in a 1L water tank directly to the battry. the hydrogen supposedly produced from this flowed out a tube in the top of the tank directly into the air intake. this she claimed increased fuel efficiancy by 25%.

    now if only honda was as inspired as the weirdo hippie woman we bought that car from we would all be saved our dependence on oil

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      There is a setup like that sold on all kinds of sketchy websites that scream “RUN YOUR CAR ON WATER” and suchlike. From the stuff I have read at more reliable sources, I gather that this device can actually crack some hydrogen out of the water, but the energy used to support the extra draw on the alternator outweighs whatever benefit you get from the hydrogen.

      Which I understand perfectually, intellectually speaking, but there is one part of this puzzle that nobody ever explains. Maybe I am the only dummy who does not know the answer but here goes. In every car I know of, the alternator spins continuously. Why and how is it not generating electricity all the time?

      The other question I have is would this system work if you could find a way to crack the water onboard the car that did not take power from the engine. Solar panels on the car roof are one way. What about the waste heat being thrown off by the engine? Could that be used in some way?

    • 0 avatar
      grinchsmate

      the electrolosis of water into h2 and o2 takes exactly the same amount of energy as burning the h2 releases. so if you are using power from the engine to do this there is no way you can get ahead and because of inefficiencies you will have a net loss of energy.

      also despite this system creating an entirely negligible amount of h2 adding anything but an oxidizing agent to the air intake of a car will reduce engine power and presumably increase fuel consumption.

      im sorry i cant say exactly why an alternator is harder to turn when it is has an electrical load on it, except to say that it has something to do with back emf, but if you look at it as a system of inputs and outputs it is easy.
      of course no energy can be created or destroyed, so energy in has to equal energy out therefor if there is no energy out there has to be no energy in excepting what is used to turn the armature.

  • avatar
    crash sled

    Poor Honda, they probably spent billions on this nonsense, during the height of enviro-hysteria, but now the bottom is falling out of that market, and it never had much of a top to begin with. Watch these OEMs close now, they’ll all have to slide away from this foolishness. Government Motors’ IPO will never move if it’s weighted down with uneconomical adornments, and I’m sure Rattlesnake Ed is making that clear to the congresscritters, even as we speak.

    I do believe that there could be a place for hybrids in heavier vehicles and trucks, and it’s too bad the makers were so foolish as to put them into the peashooters first. I’d think high torque take-off is a good place for electric motors, plus there’s room and space to package them and their batteries.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Poor Honda, they probably spent billions on this nonsense, during the height of enviro-hysteria, but now the bottom is falling out of that market, and it never had much of a top to begin with

      Honda and GM were hip-deep in fuel cells and hydrogen power well before environmentalism was given serious concern.**

      Honda is actually more akin to General Motors than most people realize. You’ll hear Toyota called “the new GM” but there’s a weird combination of engineering arrogance and conservatism among Soichiro’s troops that doesn’t exist at Toyota, but is very common at GM. Fuel cells are a symptom of that behaviour, being both technological rock-star material, yet still rooted in pure-ICE powertrains. That neither company will give up on them is evidence of the pigheadedness that runs deep at both.

      ** Another point: Honda and GM were both very late to the environmentalism game and got there (in Honda’s case) mostly by accident.

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    Solar water heaters have been around forever. Like all of these technologies, the problem is cost. My gas bill for water heating is maybe $20 month and gas water heaters are as reliable as bricks, so a solar water heater would have to be REALLY cheap and maintenance free to beat that.

    Same thing is true with cars. Maybe if we were starting fresh some of these alternative systems might have a chance of competing economically, but since gasoline has a 100 year headstart the rest have an awful lot of catching up to do. The government can try to rig the game a little with tax credits, carbon taxes, etc. but there’s a limit to how much thumb on the scale the people will tolerate.

  • avatar
    The Walking Eye

    “Poor Honda, they probably spent billions on this nonsense, during the height of enviro-hysteria, but now the bottom is falling out of that market, and it never had much of a top to begin with.”

    Yeah, damn that environment! I know change of the status-quo is scary, but we have a responsibility to the future to keep things clean. People would do well to remember their Boy/Girl Scout training (if they had it) to “make the campsite cleaner than you found it.” I don’t agree with the hyperbole, but without it we wouldn’t be able to effect any change.

    “Watch these OEMs close now, they’ll all have to slide away from this foolishness. Government Motors’ IPO will never move if it’s weighted down with uneconomical adornments, and I’m sure Rattlesnake Ed is making that clear to the congresscritters, even as we speak.”

    What does that have to do with Honda and their hydrogen?

    I say good for Honda for exploring this. They’re building our knowledge base and exploring OPTIONS for our future energy needs. We need people doing this now, because we will run out of nice cheap oil, possibly before some of us here pass on (the cheap part for sure). Could we please, please, have a post about energy that doesn’t include political rhetoric and a willful ignorance of facts because they don’t fit your world view? (BTW, I subscribe to no political party and like good ideas no matter where they come from)

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Honda is here investing billions in technology that nobody wants, and that is uneconomical.

      Government Motors has invested billions in other, similar technologies, and for that and other reasons, went insolvent. That is the connection.

      I think I’ll leave your “Peak Oil” hysteria alone, as it speaks for itself.

    • 0 avatar
      grinchsmate

      “I think I’ll leave your “Peak Oil” hysteria alone, as it speaks for itself.”

      by saying that you have not left it alone at all you have made a political comment based on your world view. i dont know The Walking Eye’s exact opinion but peak oil, like peak potassium peak coal and peak uranium, is an economic certainty weather we are hysterical about it is another thing

  • avatar
    mach1

    What the hydrogen folks like to claim is that a “Fuel cell powered car emits only water and heat”. What they don’ tell you is that in the USA, th vast majority of Hydrogen gas is produced by the low cost process of steam reforming natural gas. The reaction takes place in two steps:

    CH4 + H2O → CO + 3 H2
    CO + H2O → CO2 + H2

    So to get 4 molecules of Hydrogen you also get a molecule of CO2 and consumes a fossil fuel. If you just burned the molecule of natural gas directly in an IC engine,

    CH4 + 2O2 → CO2 + 2H2O

    Exactly the same amount of CO2 and more efficient process to boot.

  • avatar
    mach1

    What the hydrogen folks like to claim is that a “Fuel cell powered car emits only water and heat”. What they don’ tell you is that in the USA, th vast majority of Hydrogen gas is produced by the low cost process of steam reforming natural gas. The reaction takes place in two steps:

    CH4 + H2O → CO + 3 H2
    CO + H2O → CO2 + H2

    So to get 4 molecules of Hydrogen you also get a molecule of CO2 and consumes a fossil fuel. If you just burned the molecule of natural gas directly in an IC engine,

    CH4 + 2O2 → CO2 + 2H2O

    Exactly the same amount of CO2 and more efficient process to boot.


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