TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co. will unveil two visions of the future at October’s Tokyo Motor Show: A near-production version of its hydrogen fuel cell fastback sedan and a bell-shaped, omnidirectional, autonomous driving concept vehicle.
Both vehicles tap wider industry trends toward zero-emissions drivetrains and self-driving technologies.
The tentatively named FCV fuel cell vehicle is a pre-production prototype of the five-seat hydrogen-powered sedan expected to go on sale next year. It gets slightly toned-down sheet metal from the sleek futuristic concept that Honda unveiled in November 2014.
Honda’s booth-like Wander Stand autonomous driving concept is a compact, joystick-equipped two seater that deploys the company’s Omni Traction Drive System to move in any direction, even sideways.
FCV vs. Mirai
Honda’s upcoming hydrogen car follows this year’s release of the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle from Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp.
Honda said it expects its FCV production model to deliver a full-tank driving range of more than 700 kilometers (435 miles) and a refueling time of three minutes. That compares with the Mirai’s 312-mile range.
The FCV is also lower, wider and longer than the Mirai, and seats five to the Mirai’s four.
Honda said its fuel cell vehicle achieves a truer low-hood sedan silhouette thanks to a downsized fuel cell stack that fits compactly into a normal-sized engine bay.
The stack generates 130 kilowatts at a power density of 3.1 kilowatts per liter. Electricity is stored in lithium ion batteries that power the wheels through a 130-kilowatt motor.
Honda said it reduced the size of the new fuel cell stack by a third, from its previous generation technology, so that it is about as big as a 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine.
That will enable Honda to deploy the power plant in various vehicle types, which will help popularize the technology, the carmaker said. Placement of the entire stack under the hood also allowed Honda to free up cabin space and squeeze in the fifth seat.
Many automakers are positioning hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a future alternative drivetrain. The systems generate electricity through a chemical reaction in the fuel stack between hydrogen and air. Heat and water vapor are the only emissions.
But making the costly systems practical remains a challenge, and has led to tie-ups in developing the technology. Honda has already teamed with General Motors to develop a next-generation hydrogen fuel cell system due around 2020. Toyota is cooperating with Germany’s BMW AG, and Nissan Motor Co. has partnered with Daimler AG and Ford Motor Co.
Honda introduced its first fuel cell vehicle in 2002. GM launched a test fleet of hydrogen-powered Chevrolet Equinox crossovers in 2007. Also in the game is Hyundai Motor Co., which began leasing its hydrogen Tucson compact crossover in California in 2014.