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Is the Hydrogen Car of the Future Running on Empty?

Scientific American editor Steven Ashley test drives a car that may be the future of automotive transportation--if cost, technology and infrastructure problems can be resolved

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TRENDSETTERS?:

The world's first Honda FCX Clarity customers, Ron Yerxa [ center ] and wife Annette Ballester, get a lesson from Tim Cunningham, Honda fuel-cell vehicle program consultant, on how to refuel their newly leased car last summer in West Los Angeles.....[ More ]

FUEL STEPS REQUIRED:

Filling up the FCX Clarity with hydrogen is simple: a) open the car's refueling flap; b) take off the plastic tank inlet safety cap; c) remove the hydrogen-refueling nozzle and hose from the station pump; d) insert the nozzle into the car's hydrogen filler inlet; e) rotate the nozzle's hand-lever to engage its integrated check valve to prevent any backflow, and start refueling.....[ More ]

GASSING UP:

Although this Air Products technician (at a service station in Dearborn, Mich.) is wearing safety glasses, fueling a car with hydrogen gas is actually as easy and safe as tanking-up with gasoline.....[ More ]

MONEY-SAVER MEMBRANE:

Manufacture of the all-important polymer membranes for the many cells in a Honda V-Flow fuel-cell stack has been automated to improve quality while cutting production costs.....[ More ]

HYDROGEN STORAGE:

Factory technicians at Honda's New Model Center in Japan install a 5,000-pound-per-square-inch hydrogen storage tank in the rear of a partially assembled FCX Clarity.....[ More ]

NO COMBUSTION HERE:

The FCX Clarity's compact and efficient 134-horsepower coaxial electric motor and gearbox unit draws power from a 100-kilowatt fuel cell and a 288-volt lithium ion battery.....[ More ]

GAS GAUGE:

The instrument panel of the FCX Clarity is highlighted by luminescent meters, one of which is a central ball-shaped hydrogen tank gauge that clearly indicates the rate of fuel consumption by changing shape and color as the driver demands more power.....[ More ]

MORE POWER TO IT:

Honda's latest V-Flow fuel-cell stack design incorporates a new cell structure that helps the device produce more power--100 kilowatts--from a smaller, lighter package than previous company units. Its vertical flow configuration allows hydrogen gas, air and water to flow from the top down, which helps ensure stable power generation.....[ More ]

HYDROGEN WHEELS:

Honda claims that its 2008 FCX Clarity sedan is the world's first true mass production hydrogen fuel-cell car. Its compact electric drivetrain has allowed Clarity's designers to give the car a low center of mass and a long wheelbase.....[ More ]

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