Hydrogen is the vehicle fuel of the future if, we assume, battery electric vehicle tech doesn’t end up meeting all of our needs. Automakers, especially Japanese ones, are crazy for hydrogen, and they have some support from a traditional fossil fuel industry that sees a possible end to its seemingly endless profits. Up first is a hydrogen car dressed up in the safest and most familiar car imaginable: The Honda CR-V.
The Hydrogen Honda CR-V Fuel Cell Could Be A Future
Honda had a big press conference earlier today in Japan and the company announced its plan for the hydrogen fuel-cell Honda CR-V. You can read a press release about the plan right here, but the highlight is that Honda’s going to use a next-gen hydrogen fuel-cell system it developed with GM and toss it into the utterly non-threatening CR-V small SUV.
This was partially announced in November, and you can read about that in a previous Morning Dump here. The concept is a car that’s really an electric vehicle you can charge at home with a big enough battery pack to get decent range and the option to top it off with hydrogen for longer journeys. I’d argue this is the most sensible possible option for a hydrogen-powered passenger vehicle since it means you can group hydrogen filling stations around highways and interstates (which will also be used to power way superior hydrogen commercial vehicles). Honda plans to start building these vehicles soon and put them on sale by the end of the year in Japan and the United States.
The two most important pieces from the announcement are the scale and the costs. From the press release, here’s the cost bit:
With the next-generation fuel cell system being co-developed with General Motors (GM), Honda will aim to more than double the durability and reduce the cost to one-third. After achieving these targets with GM, Honda will continue its fundamental research on future fuel cell technologies to double the durability again and halve the cost from the newly reduced level.
That’s a lot of cost savings and also, likely, a reflection of how expensive these are (according to one estimate, it costs Toyota $11,000 to build just one fuel cell stack for its Mirai). Assuming it costs Honda $12,000 to make a fuel cell (just a guess) then the company would want to get the cost down to $4,000 per pack and then, with more development, down to $2,000. That number could actually be much higher, of course.
The other big piece here is the scale:
In the mid-2020s, Honda will begin external sales of its fuel cell system at the level of 2,000 units per year, with a plan to expand sales in stages. Honda will strive to increase sales to 60,000 units in 2030, and to a few hundred thousand units per year by the second half of the 2030s.
I sort of did a double-take when I saw that, but Hans Griemel from Automotive News heard the same thing at Honda’s press conference so I guess Honda means it. That is a lot of cars.
How is Honda going to get you into a hydrogen car? Here’s the game plan, so far as I can see it:
- Take the friendliest and most familiar Honda product and don’t change it too much (learning the lesson from weirdo Insights)
- Make it a completely usable EV with a plug so you’re not wholly depending on hydrogen
- Pair with companies to expand the hydrogen filling network (Shell, for example)
- Build it in the United States so it might qualify for tax credits
It’s just crazy enough to work.
This Is The 2024 Range Rover Velar, I think
The Range Rover Velar, the official car of “my commercial real estate business is taking off,” is out with a mid-cycle refresh. Here’s a link to the press release if you want to get all the details. I like the Velar. It’s comfortable. The 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition was both surprisingly fast (550 hp!) and also had the longest name I can think of for a vehicle.
The new one looks, good. The designers redid the front a little. The interior gets a floating 11.4-inch curved glass touchscreen, which is also new. Land Rover actually used the press release to talk about the brand getting a TikTok account, which says a lot about how new this vehicle is:
Range Rover offers the most refined, luxury vehicles for discerning clients. The world of modern luxury is changing and so are expectations for experiences. Launching a Range Rover TikTok channel is an opportunity to reach diverse, new audiences with unique content; building advocacy among creators and modern leaders. But not only this; we have a responsibility in reimagining the future of mobility and modern luxury, and we cannot do this without a global community. TikTok will help enable that
[Editor’s Note: Did we see the Velar’s color options?
I think someone on Twitter called it the Range Rover 50 Shades of Gray Edition, which is clever. -DT]
Tesla Raising Shanghai Output For Obvious Reasons
Who’d have guessed that Tesla lowering prices would stoke an increase in demand? Since it has the exclusive, here’s the Reuters headline we all saw coming: “Exclusive: Tesla to raise Shanghai output after price cuts stoke demand -memo”
Here’s what Reuters says is in the memo:
The automaker plans to produce a weekly average of nearly 20,000 units at its Shanghai factory in February and March, according to the memo, which detailed output plans for Tesla’s most productive and profitable manufacturing hub.
That level of production would take the plant’s output to roughly its rate in September, when it turned out 82,088 Model 3 and Model Y cars, according to data from China Passenger Car Association.
Industry watchers look at the Shanghai plant like Roman Catholics look for white smoke out of the Vatican because this has a lot of downstream impacts on various other countries. The price-war either forces competitors to lower prices or lose out on demand share. There are only so many suppliers in the industry and the suppliers are going to go where the production is.
Everyone’s expecting Tesla to lose market share over time, but clearly the company isn’t going down without a fight.
Our Next Energy Gets $300 Million In Series B Funding
Our Next Energy, the Michigan-based battery manufacturing startup, just closed a $300 million fundraising round with a valuation just above $1 billion. Who is ONE? The core is a bunch of ex-Ford and A123systems people and the company is run by former Ford engineer and Apple car developer Mujeeb Ijaz. These are the folks that did the Tesla with the 752-mile battery. Here’s the scoop from The Detroit News:
The latest infusion of investment, combined with economic incentives from the state of Michigan, gives the company the capital needed to launch production at its first battery cell plant in Van Buren Township by the end of next year as planned, CEO and founder Mujeeb Ijaz said in an interview.
The Van Buren facility — where ONE will assemble its lithium iron phosphate, or LFP, battery pack products — itself is now complete and ONE is in the process of ordering equipment to outfit the plant. It will take its first delivery in July, Ijaz said, in preparation for the launch of production next year. The plant will be built out in phases as the market for electric-vehicle batteries evolves and ONE signs up additional customers.
There are as many battery startups as there are bad ideas for car purchases in the Autopian slack, but I’m friendly with some of the people over at ONE and filmed some stuff there for my old gig and my impression is that the company’s march to get to scalable production as quickly as it can seems the right one to me given all the money that’s out there. Again, I’ve known some of the people there for more than a decade and anyone who will put up with me for that long is already suspect so take my impressions with a grain of salt.
The Inside Straight
What would it take to get you into a hydrogen car?
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Photos: Honda, Range Rover, Our Next Energy, Tesla
TL;DR: Japanese automakers will spend billions trying to prove that EVs are too expensive.
A good flush has a bend in the pipe to make sure smells don’t come wafting up from the sewer. It’s anything but an inside straight.
Hydrogen lacks infrastructure. The fuel doesn’t just need to be affordable—it needs to be findable in the first place. That’s not the case here.
“What would it take to get you into a hydrogen car?”
How about not being a more expensive, less efficient and less convenient greenwash of fossil fuels?
I’d get a hydrogen car if it was one of their cool little hatchbacks, not a crossover, and they deigned to actually sell it in the states. I imagine it would be pricy, so might as well up the price and make it fancy and/or a hot hatch.
“The Inside Straight”, huh?
The only hydrogen-fueled vehicle that’s interesting to me is the N Vision 74, which I’m pretty sure we’re not actually getting, so I’ll stick with EVs, thanks.
On the one hand hydrogen is Japan’s white whale that it feels like they’re going to chase until it destroys them. On the other, hybrid is the only way I can see hydrogen ever happening, so at least this is a more plausible hydrogen play than things like the Clarity or Mirai.
As noted in the article, using hydrogen only for longer highway trips could limit the amount of infrastructure you need to build out since you have the batteries to get you around away from major population centers, but you can also get away with a much smaller battery so you also reduce the resource requirements for the EV part of the car. It’s largely the same argument I make for PHEVs, except that your secondary powertrain is (potentially) cleaner than gas.
Also… as for what it would take to get me into a hydrogen car… it would take some divine intervention that would make hydrogen at least as efficient as BEVs, perform as well as BEVs from Tesla, the fueling infrastructure would have to be as common as BEV charging infrastructure and the unsubsidized cost of hydrogen would have to drop to the point that refueling would be as cheap on a per-km basis as BEVs.
Nothing short of Divine Intervention will achieve all that.
Land Rover getting a Tik Tok account. Well that’s a real game changer. I hope that MBA get a nice fat bonus.
Hot damn. I wouldn’t have bought a Land Rover before but I’m strongly considering it now.
> Assuming it costs Honda $12,000 to make a fuel cell (just a guess) then the company would want to get the cost down to $4,000 per pack and then, with more development, down to $2,000.
This really sounds like the same points automakers and EV enthusiasts are making about battery tech. “In just a few years, batteries will cost half what they do now”.
>you can group hydrogen filling stations around highways and interstates
You absolutely can, that is a real thing that can be done. But without a significant investment from Honda, this is never going to happen.
Hydrogen has the appeal as that usability we are used to, easy of fill up, good for long road trips. If they can make the ICE to Hydrogen conversions work, you have a customer stream who wants their current car(s) and will pay to convert. I would consider it.
The EV is good for shorter runs where you can charge it at home. IE the commuter, round town tripper, delivery, etc.
I do not see why this should be either/or situation. You can have a way to replace ICE and keep the usage you have.
All that hydrogen that you added for your trip will leak out when you get home and start running as an EV again. It’s like having a gas tank with a pinhole leak….
Liquid H2 systems are pretty leaky:
To stay a liquid, hydrogen must be cooled and maintained at cryogenic temperatures of, at warmest, −253 °C (20.1 K; −423.4 °F). When not using fuel, the Hydrogen 7’s hydrogen tank starts to warm and the hydrogen starts to vaporize. Once the tank’s internal pressure reaches 87 psi, at roughly 17 hours of non-use, the tank will safely vent the building pressure. Over 10–12 days, it will completely lose the contents of the tank because of this.
Dunno about modern high pressure H2 systems though.
Hydrogen? Not when an EV exists that can be “fueled” at home and covers 90% of my annual driving “fueled” that way. The other 10% can be handled by public DCFC or destination chargers. Even if it’s a 110v L1 charge at a campsite.
Now for heavy vehicles that can benefit from quick fueling, that’s a perfect match for using otherwise curtailed solar. California could make use of that considering they’ve had to pay Arizona to take their excess solar generation before. Yes, the round trip efficiency is abominable. But even 15% is better than 0% and the air around Long Beach won’t reek of diesel anymore.