The first consumer took possession of a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle when American Honda Motor Co. leased a Honda FCX to Jon Spallino on Wednesday. Spallino of Redondo Beach, Calif., will lease the $1 million vehicle for two years at $500 a month.
Fuel cells use hydrogen fuel to make electricity, which powers the car.
Honda has leased 13 of the vehicles to municipalities since 2002. Now the company wants feedback from individuals. Only drivers of Honda's natural gas-powered Civic GX were eligible.
Staff Reporter Kathy Jackson interviewed Stephen Ellis, fuel cell vehicles manager at Honda.
How did you choose Jon?
We did phone interviews, then I did face-to-face meetings. Jon kept rising to the top because he's a common, normal guy - not extreme.
Will you be leasing more of these vehicles to individuals?
Yes. It will be just a handful, certainly less than 10. We will lease some by the end of this year and into next year.
Will you choose individuals outside California to test the vehicles?
We may go outside California for individual lessees, but California is at the top of the list.
Have you made a determination when fuel cells will be in the hands of individual consumers in mass numbers?
There is no crystal ball on that. There still is the issue of refueling stations and cost. So rather than set a date, we will continue to push ahead and lead the way.
What else are you doing?
We already have a home refueling appliance called Phill for our natural-gas powered Civic GX. We're experimenting with two home refueling stations for fuel cells.
How do the home fuel cell stations work?
They're both at our headquarters in Torrance (Calif.). One makes hydrogen, electricity and heat for the home. The other is a solar-powered station and takes electricity from the sun and water from a pipeline and turns that into hydrogen.
What states are leading the way in expanding the fuel cell infrastructure?
California is leading the way. Florida and New York are making good progress. Michigan will have a key role by nature of the industry there.
Are dealers involved in this at all?
We're not really talking to dealers yet. But a dealership (San Francisco Honda) did consummate the lease to the city of San Francisco. That was the first dealer sale ever.
You may e-mail Kathy Jackson at