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all forms areself awareness

Registered: 02/09/04
Posts: 164
Loc: jungle of love
Last seen: 13 years, 11 months
Update on the Ballard Cell:
    #2438668 - 03/16/04 11:46 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)


The Steering Column
A fuel-cell car that works.
MARCH 2003
Page 1 of 2

Last December, Honda delivered the first of five FCX fuel-cell-powered cars to the city government of Los Angeles. The five cars don't even qualify as microscopic potatoes in the car business, but the FCX is the first fuel-cell vehicle certified by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board for real-world use. The five FCXs will be put into the Los Angeles municipal motor pool. To our knowledge, that makes it the first fuel-cell vehicle that has ever been taken out of the laboratory and put into the hands of ordinary drivers.

I drove one of these machines shortly after the first one was delivered to L.A. It was remarkably unremarkable. The FCX requires no special expertise to drive, nor does it produce any unusual noises or smells. With a muted gear whine replacing the usual combustion and intake-and-exhaust-flow noises, it sounds and feels much like a battery-powered electric car.
Motivated by an AC synchronous motor with 80 horsepower and 201 pound-feet of torque, the 3700-pound FCX feels spry in the urban setting. That healthy torque produces effortless acceleration from a standstill, but above about 40 mph, performance is limited by the paucity of horsepower. Honda claims a top speed of 93 mph, which suggests that freeway cruising at the speed limit will be feasible, but I wouldn't want to try to pass a vehicle traveling at 60 mph on a two-lane back road.

Unlike a battery-powered car, the FCX derives its power from a 78-kW Ballard fuel-cell stack that contains 400 cells, generating up to 400 volts at nearly 200 amps. This fuel cell is fed by pure hydrogen gas stored at 5000 psi in two cylindrical tanks. The two tanks, which are mounted crosswise fore and aft of the rear suspension, have a combined volume of 41.5 gallons?which holds a mere 8.3 pounds of hydrogen (tanks of such size could hold about 250 pounds of gasoline, a much denser substance than hydrogen). That doesn't sound like much, but it's enough to run the FCX for 170 miles on the EPA city cycle.
Helping achieve that useful figure is Honda's so-called Ultra Capacitor, which stores electrical energy (eight farads at 432 volts) to supplement the fuel cell's output when needed. This Ultra Capacitor functions much like the battery in a gasoline-electric hybrid, recapturing the car's energy by using the motor as a generator during mild braking. The advantage of this capacitor over a battery is that it promises to be lighter, less expensive, and longer lasting.

Although essentially a hand-built prototype, the fit and finish of the FCX seems close to the high standards set by Honda production cars. Moreover, the FCX feels rock-solid and offers a decent ride, responsive steering, and a high overall level of dynamic polish.
The FCX is 164 inches long but has room for four adults and a modest amount of luggage packed within its tall-wagon body (similar to the GM HydroGen3 on page 79). It's also equipped with air conditioning, cruise control, and other traditional conveniences. So when will you be able to buy one at your local dealer?

There's a little matter of price that must be addressed first. These hand-built FCXs cost about $1.6 million apiece, although Honda is leasing them to Los Angeles for $500 per month. That's a pretty good deal for the city, when you consider that the true payment would be closer to $19,000 per month, based on the fact that a $16,000 Civic currently leases for $189 a month.

The cost of the FCX would, of course, plummet if it were mass-produced. But everyone in the business still pegs the price of a mass-produced fuel-cell powertrain at roughly 10 times the cost of a gasoline-powered one. That suggests that even if it were mass-produced, the FCX would sticker for somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000, more than twice as much as a Civic that provides greater functional utility.

There's also the issue of obtaining hydrogen at 5000 psi for refueling. With L.A.'s FCXs being used as city fleet cars, they will end up at a city facility every night to be refueled at a special station provided by a firm called Air Products and Chemicals. City employees visiting Bakersfield would be well advised to take a different vehicle.
Another issue is the source of the hydrogen. Commercially available hydrogen is currently produced by extraction from natural gas, which makes it a fossil-fuel product, much like gasoline.

In the ideal future world, however, it would be produced from water by hydrolysis. When this hydrogen is consumed in the fuel cell, it again produces water, making for an endlessly repeatable and pollution-free cycle.
The only problem is that hydrolysis requires a great deal of electricity, the production of which is hardly pollution-free. To address this problem, Honda has built a solar-powered hydrogen generating station at its U.S. headquarters in Torrance, California. With a bank of solar panels capable of generating 8kW of power, this station requires a week to produce enough hydrogen to refuel the FCX once. In the real world, you'd like enough solar cells to refuel the FCX daily. Unfortunately, even 8 kW of solar capacity costs nearly $40,000, which is why mass quantities of electricity are not being currently generated using this method.

Still, the technology holds promise. If the cost of both fuel cells and solar cells can be reduced by a factor of 10, vehicles with FCXlike powertrains will start making all kinds of sense?even to those of us who care about driving.
Just don't expect that day to come any time soon.

o house-builder! thou art seen. thou shalt build no house again. all thy rafters are broken. thy ridge-pole is shattered.

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all forms areself awareness

Registered: 02/09/04
Posts: 164
Loc: jungle of love
Last seen: 13 years, 11 months
Re: Update on the Ballard Cell: [Re: Atomisk]
    #2438680 - 03/16/04 11:50 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

Tired of High Gas Prices?!
Let's put an end to ridiculous Gas prices
From a concerned Gas User
Passing it on... don't sound like a bad idea to me!!!
I hear we are going to hit close to $1.00 a litre by the summer. Want
gasoline prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united
action. Phillip Hollsworth, offered this good idea: This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy gas on a certain day" campaign that
was going around last April or May!. The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to "hurt" ourselves by refusing to buy gas.
It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. BUT,whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work.
Please read it and join with us!
By now you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about 69.9 cents a litre is super cheap. Me too! It is currently 83.9 for regular unleaded in my town. Now that the oil companies and the OPEC
nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a Litre of gas is CHEAP at 69.9, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that
BUYERS control the marketplace.... not sellers. With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing THEIR gas! And we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves. How? . Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war. Here's the idea:

For the rest of this year, DON"T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are PETRO CANADA & SHELL). If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Shell and Petro Canada gas buyers.

o house-builder! thou art seen. thou shalt build no house again. all thy rafters are broken. thy ridge-pole is shattered.

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Fred's son

Registered: 10/19/00
Posts: 12,949
Loc: Dominican Republic
Last seen: 3 years, 4 months
Re: Update on the Ballard Cell: [Re: Atomisk]
    #2439136 - 03/16/04 01:59 PM (14 years, 2 months ago)

Here's a better idea --

Start a letter-writing campaign to MPs and MPPs requesting that the government taxes on gasoline be lowered.



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