As concerns about greenhouse gases and carbon emissions grow and governments and companies alike search for ways to reduce our carbon footprints and safeguard our planet for future generations, green vehicles are being hailed as the next generation on motoring. Electric cars and hybrid vehicles, diesel and biofuel powered motors, are all becoming more common in car showrooms and on our roads. Although these developments can only be applauded and encouraged as a major step in the right direction, until now, they have all been eco friendly improvements on the highly efficient, but environmentally destructive, petrol engine. However, how we view green vehicles could be about to change forever.
Honda has recently released the FCX Clarity in California. This is a 4-door sedan with an environmentally friendly pedigree like no other car currently driving around today. At first glance, it seems like just another electric vehicle, but that totally underestimates the technology that is at work under its chassis. What is radical about the FCX Clarity is that Honda has created a zero-emission car by giving the Clarity a hydrogen powered fuel cell. The Clarity has a fuel tank like any conventional car; only you don’t fill it up with petrol, but with compressed liquid hydrogen. The innovative fuel stack developed by Honda then combines the hydrogen with oxygen and this produces electricity which powers a motor and, in turn, the sedan. Incredibly, the only emission from this ultra-green vehicle is water vapour.
It is the introduction of the hydrogen fuel tank and the unique fuel cell that make the FCX Clarity totally different to any other electric car driving around at the moment. Electric vehicles tend to be boxy and not particularly attractive. They usually have poor acceleration and a pretty limited top speed. And of course they need recharging. Regularly. And recharging, for cars like the Reva G Wiz and the Mitsubishi i MiEV, takes hours. Literally.
The Honda Clarity breaks clean away from these handicaps. The FCX can be filled up at a hydrogen filling station in a matter of minutes, just like any other car. It has a nippy 136-horse power, a decent achievable top speed of 160km/h and has acceleration comparable to that of a conventional family car. And it looks good, with sleek bodywork and a comfortable interior.
So are there any drawbacks to this wonder car? Well, unlike petrol, which simply has to run out at some point in the future due to our over dependency on it, hydrogen is ridiculously plentiful and using it all up would be pretty much impossible. However, hydrogen isn’t just lying around, waiting for eco-minded people to pick up and pour into their hydrogen fuelled green vehicles. Hydrogen is usually attached to other elements and splitting it away from them can be challenging. However, if this new technology fuel cell really is the start of zero-emission motoring for the rest of time, surely we will find a way to isolate hydrogen quickly and efficiently. After all, pumping crude oil up from miles below the ocean floor wasn’t too much of a problem once we all went out and bought petrol powered cars.
On a more prosaic level, hydrogen filling stations are not overly abundant across Australia, and they will have to become so, if people take to the idea of reducing their carbon footprint with a Honda FCX Clarity, or any other green vehicle that might adopt a similar environmentally friendly solution to greenhouse emissions and dwindling petrol supplies.