By on February 8, 2017

Visual Clarity

Telling someone that you can run a car on hydrogen — a greenhouse gas — and emit clean water as the singular byproduct is already an extremely novel concept. You don’t need a laser light display or sideshow antics to make that fact more interesting or palatable. In the case of Honda, you absolutely do not need to include the disembodied heads of singing children bathed in light. In fact, the actual message might even become partially lost in the abyss of confusion you’ve created as people furrow their brows and wonder if someone has snuck a psychoactive drug into their beverage.

For reasons clearer to hired visual artist Adam Pesapane than myself, the 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell ad campaign uses a central theme of floating heads — frequently representing chemical compounds and molecular structures. The end result is as informative as it is unsettling, though it heavily favors the latter.

Honda says the campaign was inspired by its global environmental slogan “Blue Skies for Our Children.”

The new Clarity is available for lease in California through a dozen Honda dealerships in the Bay Area, Southern California, and Sacramento. The initial television spot will air in Los Angeles during the Academy Awards before airing in other West Coast markets, including San Francisco and Sacramento.

Honda says the Clarity only takes a few minutes to “gas up” and its 366 mile range gives it the longest driving range of any zero-emission vehicle in North America. However, that still isn’t enough to get the vehicle out of California under its own steam. The infrastructure required to facilitate a hydrogen refueling isn’t in place yet — despite consistent growth.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the country only has 33 public hydrogen fueling stations and the vast majority are located around Los Angeles. Thankfully, the Clarity will have an application that directs you to the nearest hydrogen fueling station, although it will probably always be the one you live near. This makes the advertisements more of a reminder that Honda is environmentally virtuous than it is a serious commercial for the Clarity. ZEVs are be becoming more popular, but fuel cell vehicles are still very much a niche market, and a minuscule one at that.

Adam Pesapane previously worked with Honda on a stop-motion project for the Ridgeline pickup truck. He was also hired by the Japanese automaker for a 2015 ad that combined around 3,000 hand-drawn illustrations and presented a timeline of Honda most-iconic products.

[Image: Honda]

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17 Comments on “Honda Attempts to Sell Hydrogen Power With Vastly Unsettling Ad Campaign...”

  • avatar

    I want to play whack-a-mole with the title image.

  • avatar

    Really it just reminds me of the propaganda that they used to use on Titan 7 when I was aboard the Deep Space 9 years ago. We won that war and we will win this one..

  • avatar

    Now *there* are the kind of multi-culti kids I want to see!

    No reproductive or excretory parts a-TALL!

    If only we could’ve rolled them out in, say, 1970.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I don’t understand why Honda is on its second generation of this car, hoping for… something.

    And Toyota and Hyundai, also. None of it makes sense.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota recently backed off their efforts at the hydrogen fuel cell. I figured they pursued it to sow FUD about EVs and to protect sales of the Prius. Since neither were accomplished, Toyota moved on and are looking to make an EV themselves.

      Now Honda (and GM) are jumping into hydrogen fuel cells, and I haven’t quite figured them out. Maybe they’re working toward a compliance car?

    • 0 avatar

      It helps with recruiting. Many, though not all, of the best engineering grads, aren’t all that excited about making tiny, incremental improvements to what their parents and grandparents essentially perfected. A viable H2 powered automotive infrastructure, is their version of a moonshot. Something of singular greatness, that matters to the world.

    • 0 avatar
      Brett Woods

      H is bit awkward to manage like propane but non-toxic, as long as it doesn’t burn. To my understanding, Hydrocarbon players hold large minority stakes in auto manufacturers and often have one rep on the board of directors. This is their pitch.

      While very cool NASA spin-offs, fuel cells are complex, energy intensive machines to create. One then has to harvest Hydrogen at a hydrocarbon refinery. It’s an energy intensive product that can be purified from the lightest gasses (or any product) drawn off a well.

      That said, you end up with a zero-emission vehicle that you can run in your living room and use to power yourself through a storm or heat wave.

  • avatar

    I think I saw 3 heads form a water molecule, but it could have also been Mickey Mouse. Disney is really behind this!

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Hydrogen is a greenhouse gas?

    Didn’t know that. Given the predominance of oxygen in the atmosphere, it’s hard to imagine there’s any free hydrogen running around.

    Or, did you mean that water vapor (H20) is a greenhouse gas, which it is. One of the difficulties in figuring out global temperature change is accounting for the effect of more or less water vapor (clouds) in the atmosphere.

    • 0 avatar

      Atmospheric oxygen is in the form of (fairly stable) O2 and won’t spontaneously react with hydrogen.

    • 0 avatar

      One way to harvest hydrogen is by “cracking” hydrocarbons, so I could see where you could be creating greenhouse gases. Whether that’s actually the case I’m to lazy to investigate and hydrogen has plenty of other issues working against it.

  • avatar

    It doesn’t do it for me – but it’s no worse than the writing here:

    “The end result is as informative as it is unsettling, though it heavily favors the latter.” To equate how informative the advertisement is with how unsettling it is and then say “it heavily favours the latter” is contradictory.

  • avatar

    The main source of hydrogen is dissociation from water, which requires electrical energy, and lots of it. The only economical way to produce it is with a nuclear powerplant. The people pushing for hydrogen as a fuel are opposed to nuclear, and opposed as well to the second most efficient electrical generation method, hydro. If this were a serious alternative, government-owned transit systems would be converting to hydrogen instead of LPG. We’re not going to break away from hydrocarbon fuels until we have di-lithium crystals.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, currently the main source of hydrogen is natural gas cracking.

      Electrolysis and following recombination in a fuel cell has a way lower efficiency than lithium battery charge and discharge.

      Nuclear plants are in no way cheap. Especially if the task is to store energy (i.e. no need to generate electricity at a given time) then renewables are much cheaper. Compare for example the 90£/MWh granted to Hinkley Point production vs the current solar bids, that run around 40$/MWh or less.

      About hydro, I think you don’t have clear ideas of what “efficiency” means. There is no point of talking about efficiency if the “fuel” is for free. Unless we go on a broader definition of efficiency, where we take in account the capital expenditures, too. Then you should refer to LCOE, rather than efficiency. However, no matter hydro “efficiency”, there is an upper bound to the places where we can build new dams. Most of that source has already been tapped. Solar snd wind, on the contrary, are still very very far away from such caps.

      • 0 avatar

        For base generation of electricity, nuclear is cheapest, and that’s where the economy of dissociation is. Renewables don’t have that base capacity, but have enough in subsidies to become marginally competitive, but only when the sun shines and wind is blowing. The storage of energy for peak load is a problem.

        As for hydo, there’s no shortage of places where an upper and lower reservoir can be built, as long as you can find the basic resource – water – to fill them. Then they can be used as energy storage devices for renewables.

        Wind or solar could be used to move water from the lower reservoir to the upper, with turbines used to convert the latent energy into electricity when needed. No river is needed, just enough water to replace losses through evaporation and spillage.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    I could see setting up stationary fuel cells at well heads that were capped with a metered release valve in a permanent set up with transformers and power lines from there. But we would have to solve a way for the fuel cell to use what came out of the well head without any residual exhaust.

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