The first six examples of the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell arrived in Europe last week. The vehicles will soon be delivered to customers in London and Copenhagen as part of the Hydrogen for Innovative Vehicles (HyFIVE) demonstration project. “The arrival of these vehicles in Europe and Honda’s participation in HyFIVE is the next step towards Honda’s vision of the full commercialization of this technology,” said Thomas Brachmann, chief project engineer and leader of Honda’s fuel-cell program in Europe.
Honda has been one of the key automakers leading the industry in development and deployment of fuel-cell vehicle technology. The company introduced the FCX in 2002, followed by its second-generation hydrogen-powered sedan—the FCX Clarity—in 2008. The fuel-cell stack in the 2017 Honda Clarity is 33 percent more compact than its predecessor. It can fit entirely under the hood of the car, allowing for a cabin with seating for five passengers.
The US Environment Protection Agency in October rated the driving range of the Clarity at 366 miles on a single tank.
Europe’s HyFIVE project is one of several efforts to promote the adoption of fuel-cell vehicles in Europe. It will deploy a total of 185 hydrogen-powered vehicles to private and corporate customers in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden and UK. Participating automakers that produce fuel-cell cars include BMW, Daimler, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota.
The first set of five Toyota’s fuel-cell sedans, the Mirai, arrived in England and Belgium in August 2015. Toyota is distributing about 100 Mirai fuel-cell cars in the UK, Denmark and German during its first two years of European sales—followed by expanded sales across the continent in 2017.
Meanwhile, Honda is targeting the first deliveries of the Clarity to US drivers before the end of 2016. The company announced in November that the 2017 Clarity will be available for lease to US customers at $369 a month. In addition, fuel-cell buyers in California qualify for a state rebate of $5,000, which represents more than a year’s worth of monthly payments. There are other valuable perks such as free hydrogen fuel, round-the-clock roadside assistance, and 21 days of free car rental.
The HyFIVE project is also supporting fueling infrastructure to support the first group of hydrogen vehicles in Europe. It will focus on adding about six new stations—in cooperation with Danish Hydrogen Fuel, ITM Power and OMV—linking them to about 12 existing stations in the first markets. The project identified zero-emissions fuel-cell technology as a promising means to help Europe reduce reliance on fossil fuels—while having little or no impact on typical driving and refueling patterns.
In May 2016, IHS Automotive—a market research firm—forecast that hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle global sales will reach 70,000 vehicles annually by 2027. IHS expects the number of individual fuel-cell models to reach about 17 by that time. While most production of these cars today takes place in Japan and Korea, IHS believes that by 2021 most of production will take place in Europe.