Honda predicts new era for hydrogen fuel cell cars

Honda predicts new era for hydrogen fuel cell cars

Honda says fuel cell cars are the "next phase" after battery EVs, pending infrastructure improvements

Felix Page


by Felix Page

15 January 2024


Honda has not replaced Clarity FCEV, which retired in 2022


Honda believes hydrogen fuel cell technology has a role to play in the future of the passenger car, once the ‘battery EV era’ is fully under way. 

Honda, along with Toyota and Hyundai, has long been a proponent of the hydrogen car, launching the FCX Clarity globally as far back as 2008 and following it up with a second generation which ran from 2017 to 2022. 

More recently, it has launched a fuel cell version of the current CR-V in the US and Japan, developed in partnership with General Motors. And now, the brand suggests that FCEV cars could become a mainstay of its global line-up. 

Inoue Katsushi, who heads up Honda’s electrification efforts following stints leading the brand in Europe and China, gave Autocar his vision for the future of hydrogen cars: "What I have in my mind is that the [battery] EV era comes first, and the next phase is fuel cell cars.

"The fuel cell era might take some more time," he said, suggesting 2040 is more realistic than 2030.

Tellingly, the company has said that 100% of its car sales will be either battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell by 2040, though has not said what it expects the split to be. There are no plans to launch hydrogen versions of any cars in the new 0 Series family of electric cars. 

Inoue said slow sales for the original Clarity model are not a sign that the market will never be there for such a car. "In those days, the infrastructure was not good enough, and it was an experimental model and the cost was too high,” he said. “So it's not our only commercial basis - but with the commercial vehicles, the FCEV powertrain is going to be expanded, for sure, but it will take some time."

"Our next generation fuel cell is competitive enough,” he said, referring to the system in the new CR-V (below), which will be detailed in the coming months. 


Inoue said the wider roll-out of FCEV cars will be possible once the infrastructure exists to support it, along with the supply chain and market demand, which is why Honda is first focusing its hydrogen efforts on the commercial vehicle and industrial sectors. 

"Think about it: the fuel cell business comes from commercial vehicles first, then it's coming to passenger vehicles,” he theorises. “The commercial vehicle business is going to start earlier – we've already started in China and some other countries – but it comes to passenger vehicles later, not now."

Honda has partnered with Isuzu to develop a new FCEV lorry called the Giga Fuel Cell, and recently began testing a prototype on public roads in the run up to a planned market launch in 2027.

Honda is also working with Mitsubishi and chemical company Tokuyama Corporation on a project to develop power stations which run on fuel cells recovered from vehicles. The objective of this programme, Honda said, is "to reduce the economic burden on customers installing and operating stationary fuel cell systems, which will contribute to the decarbonisation of electric power".

Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe concurred: "We think fuel cell technology can be applied to heavier vehicles instead of just passenger cars.”

He said Honda will use hydrogen “for larger vehicles or non-mobility”, because "most of them use diesel. That can be replaced by fuel cells”. 

Toyota has also shifted its fuel cell focus to commercial vehicles and industrial applications, with technical chief Hiroki Nakajima recently attributing slow demand for its Mirai saloon to a fledgling fuelling network: “"We have tried Mirai but not been successful," said Nakajima. "Hydrogen stations are very few and difficult to realise, so Mirai is smaller [in volume]."

The brand has, however, just launched a fuel cell-powered version of the Crown luxury saloon in Japan. 

Hyundai, meanwhile, is seeking to “popularise hydrogen” by 2040, partly by ensuring FCEVs achieve price parity with BEVs by the end of this decade. 


Read the full article at:  Honda predicts new era for hydrogen fuel cell cars | Autocar