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Honda's fuel cell vehicle gets free energy

Los Angeles-based solar powered hydrogen station to re-fuel Honda fuel cell electric vehicle.

Honda solar hydrogen station
Honda's new hydrogen station uses a solar panel array for power. Honda

Honda developed and put into operation a new solar hydrogen station at its Los Angeles research center to refill the Honda FCX fuel cell vehicle.

The new station delivers a trickle of hydrogen, designed to put half a kilogram into the FCX's tank over an eight hour period, enough, according to Honda, for most drivers' daily commutes. The FCX has a hydrogen capacity of about 4 kilograms and a range of 240 miles, so a half kilogram will run it for 30 miles.

Honda developed prototypes of this station previously, but most were inefficient because of the need for a compressor to pressurize the hydrogen. The new station combines compressor and electrolyzer in what Honda calls a "high differential pressure electrolyzer."

While the station can use electricity from its 6-kilowatt solar panel array to power the electrolyzer and generate hydrogen, Honda envisions most people hooking the FCX up to the hydrogen station overnight and using nonpeak capacity electricity from the grid. The solar panels would send electricity back into the grid during the day, when the FCX owner is at work.

Given the slow fill rate of the hydrogen from this station, public hydrogen stations, which can fill the tanks in 5 minutes, would still be needed.