Honda has announced production plans for a hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric car, set to be built atop its mid-sized CR-V SUV and the first of which is scheduled to arrive in 2024.
Honda previously announced that its vehicle line-up would be completely electrified by 2040 en-route to realizing carbon-neutrality by 2050, though, like Renault, the Japanese marque was loath to put all of its eggs in the battery-electric basket. Consequently, 100 per cent of Honda’s sales by 2040 are targeted to come from both BEVs and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), of which the hydrogen-fuelled CR-V will be the first example.
The hydrogen fuel cell will work in tandem with elements of the updated plug-in hybrid powertrain available on the latest generation CR-V. This means the new FCEV will effectively become the first production model to feature hydrogen-fuelled technology, providing “the flexibility of fast hydrogen refuelling,” and plug-in battery recharging capabilities for an all-EV range. All in one model.
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“Honda established its goal to realize carbon neutrality by 2050 and the complete electrification of our vehicle lineup by 2040 is critical to achieving it,” Honda Auto Product Planning VP Gary Robinson explains. “As we accelerate our plan to produce Honda battery EVs in the United States, we also will begin low volume production of fuel cell electric vehicles there to further explore their great potential as part of a sustainable transportation future.”
Honda’s dalliance with hydrogen dates back to the FCX – or ‘Fuel Cell eXperimental’ – concept that debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1999, prior to a Japanese / US production version landing in December 2002. A family of vehicles rather than a standalone model – ‘V1’ through ‘V4’ examples of the FCX were incrementally unveiled between 1999 and July 2002 – the FCX experiment led to Honda’s first production line dedicated to fuel-cell vehicles in 2008 and, indirectly, the Japanese marque’s first collaborative agreement with General Motors in 2013 to further develop the next generation of fuel-cell systems.
This framework has since seen Honda cite hydrogen fuel as “a key part of a sustainable transportation future” – despite the intricacies and potential dangers of working with highly-pressurized hydrogen cells – given that the cells release just water and heat rather than C02 emissions. The refueling structure is also said to be a key strategy point: while recharging the battery of a pure EV from 10 to 80 percent can take around 30 minutes, Honda claims an FCEV “can refuel in minutes,” emulating the convenience of internal-combustion fuel-ups.
Launched earlier this year in August, Honda has already praised the new CR-V as “an excellent foundation for a FCEV” given its new, more technically adept hybrid powertrain that mates a 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder with two electric motors. The new chassis is noteworthy too, given the presumed flexibility required to incorporate a hydrogen fuel cell.
On its own, the sixth generation CR-V is also expected to represent up to half (if not more) of the model’s annual sales figures when customer deliveries begin in early next year.
Production will be based at Honda’s Performance Manufacturing Centre (PMC) in Marysville, Ohio, the manufacturing site of the NSX, ‘dynamic’ examples of Acura’s TLX sedan and RDX / MDX SUVs, and, more tellingly, Honda Performance Development racing cars like the NSX GT3 Evo and the HPD Civic Si touring car. The idea being that PMC is already purpose-built for “special assembly procedures.”
Nothing has been confirmed yet in terms of market availability, with only North America so far cited in Honda’s announcement.