February 22, 2024

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Next-Gen Honda Fuel Cell System Plays Key Role in Hydrogen Business Strategy

8 min read

  • Honda expanding hydrogen business to realize global goal of carbon neutrality
  • Production of new Honda fuel cell system has begun at Fuel Cell System Manufacturing (FCSM) joint venture facility in Michigan
  • Honda has identified four core domains for its hydrogen business direction: fuel cell vehicles, commercial vehicles, stationary power stations and construction machinery

Honda today outlined key strategies it is undergoing to increase the use of hydrogen fuel cell technology as the company looks to expand its hydrogen business and achieve its global goal of zero environmental impact, including carbon neutrality for all products and corporate activities by 2050.

Marking the first-time hydrogen fuel cells have been produced at scale, mass production of the new Honda fuel cell (FC) system has begun at Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC (FCSM), a joint venture production facility with General Motors (GM) in Brownstown, Michigan.

“Our new fuel cell system is at the core of Honda hydrogen technology and our strategy to expand the range of applications that use hydrogen to facilitate the decarbonization of society,” said Jay Joseph, vice president, sustainability & business development, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “This is not simply a choice between battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell technology, but selecting the right energy source, in the right place, for the right purpose, to achieve carbon neutrality as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The new fuel cell system is key to Honda’s hydrogen business strategy. Co-developed by Honda and GM over the last decade, the new Honda fuel cell system advances performance and doubles durability while reducing cost by one-third compared to the previous generation1 system.

Honda has been conducting research and development of hydrogen technologies and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) for more than 30 years and has led the industry in the deployment of fuel-cell technology through extensive real-world testing and customer deployments, including the first government fleet customers and first-ever retail customer leasing program for fuel cell electric vehicles.

Triple Action to Zero Approach
Honda is working toward its global goal of zero environmental impact by 2050 through its “Triple Action to Zero” approach, including not only its products, but the entire product lifecycle including corporate activities.

  • Carbon neutrality for all Honda products and corporate activities by 2050.
  • Resource circulation – Using 100% sustainable materials to create a circular economy will enable Honda to recycle or reuse every bit of the materials from its vehicles, reprocess them back to raw materials and reuse those materials in the creation of new products. In short, to make new Honda vehicles out of old Honda vehicles.
  • Use of clean, renewable energy, including electrification and hydrogen.

Honda Hydrogen Business Strategy
In its initiatives, Honda sees hydrogen as one of the high-potential energy carriers to support this direction of renewable energy and electrification. The “hydrogen circulation cycle,” which starts with renewable energy, consists of three phases – “generate,” “store/transport” and “use.” To be more specific, with the use of water electrolysis technology, excess electricity derived from renewable energy sources can used to create “green hydrogen2”, which can be stored indefinitely with no energy loss. Utilizing fuel cell technology, this hydrogen can then be converted back into zero-emission electricity for a variety of purposes, including stationary back up power to account for fluctuations in power generation due to seasonality and weather conditions. Stored hydrogen can also be used to transport energy to where it is needed via land, sea, and pipeline.

Honda will expand the applications of the new Honda fuel cell system beyond FCEVs to various internal and external applications, thereby serving to stimulate demand for hydrogen and facilitating the carbon neutrality of society through the “use” of hydrogen. 

Honda has identified four core domains for the initial utilization of its new fuel cell system: FCEVs, commercial fuel cell vehicles, stationary power stations and construction machinery. While initial FCSM production will be used in support of Honda internal initiatives and FCEV sales, Honda is exploring external fuel cell business opportunities with a goal to begin external deliveries of the fuel cell system modules in the near future. The company envisions initial sales of 2,000 units per year and then expanding sales in stages.

FCEV:
This year, Honda will launch an all-new CR-V FCEV. Built at the Honda Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville, Ohio, using domestic and globally sourced parts, it will be the only fuel cell electric passenger vehicle made in America.

Commercial Vehicles and Construction:
In the area of commercial vehicles, the GIGA FUEL CELL, a zero-emissions fuel cell-powered heavy-duty truck currently being co-developed by Isuzu Motors Limited and Honda Motor Co., Ltd. was shown for the first time at the Japan Mobility Show 2023. In addition to conducting joint research on fuel cell heavy-duty trucks, the two companies have begun demonstration testing of a prototype model on public roads in Japan in December 2023, and plan to introduce the production model to market in 2027 by fully leveraging the technology, experience and knowledge gained through the joint research.

Moreover, Honda is preparing a proof-of-concept Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell truck in the U.S. and is in talks with potential customers.
Honda also will take initiative to apply its fuel cell system to construction equipment such as excavators and wheel loaders, contributing to the realization of carbon neutrality for construction machinery.

In order for more businesses to actively utilize fuel cell systems, Honda is working to develop partnerships that bolster the overall hydrogen ecosystem and ensure a streamlined offering of hydrogen services. This includes generation of hydrogen, workforce development, and after-sales maintenance and support.

Stationary Fuel Cell Power Stations:
Honda began demonstration testing of a stationary fuel cell power station on its Torrance, Calif. campus in March 2023, marking the company’s first step toward future commercialization of zero-emission backup power generation. The fuel cell power station supplies clean and quiet emergency backup power to Honda’s data center. In December 2023, Honda also announced a similar joint project in Japan where Honda will establish a stationary fuel cell station to power a Mitsubishi data center.

Backup power systems utilizing hydrogen fuel cells offer a promising future for clean, yet reliable and high-quality power generation, especially when operating on so-called “green hydrogen” made from renewable sources, with water vapor as the only emission.

Future stationary fuel cell (FC) units intended for commercialization will utilize the new Honda FC system. In the coming years, Honda will begin applying stationary FC power station technologies now under development – featuring a next-generation FC system with further cost reduction and improved performance – to Honda facilities and data centers globally.

Establishment of Hydrogen Ecosystems
To achieve widespread utilization of fuel cell systems, it is critical to establish hydrogen ecosystems that include hydrogen supply. Honda has been supporting the expansion of hydrogen station networks in Japan by participating in the Japan Hydrogen Station Network Joint Company (Japan H2 Mobility/JHyM) and in North America by supporting hydrogen station businesses such as FirstElement Fuel and others.
Honda will also proactively participate in hydrogen generation projects organized by national and local governments that currently utilize large volumes of imported hydrogen at ports and other locations. Through these initiatives, Honda will work to build partnerships with companies involved in this new area.

In Japan, working toward the establishment of a hydrogen ecosystem, together with Marubeni Corporation and Iwatani Corporation, Honda has begun discussing the prospects for hydrogen supply and the utilization of fuel cell commercial vehicles. In Europe, Honda is currently planning for demonstration testing of an energy ecosystem that combines renewable energy and hydrogen.

Utilization of Hydrogen Technologies in Outer Space  
Honda is conducting advanced research and development of hydrogen technologies while envisioning use in outer space, another potential area where hydrogen technologies such as a fuel cell system and high differential pressure water electrolysis technologies can be utilized. In addition to water and food, people need oxygen, as well as hydrogen for fuel and electricity for various activities supporting life in space.

To enable sustainable space activities, it is necessary to reduce the need to resupply these resources from Earth as much as possible. One of the solutions to this challenge is to create a “circulative renewable energy system,” which combines a high differential pressure water electrolysis system that produces oxygen and hydrogen using solar energy to electrolyze water, and a fuel cell system that generates electricity and water from oxygen and hydrogen. 

To create such a system, Honda conducted joint research and development with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) during the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years (period ended March 31, 2022). Moreover, in 2022, Honda signed a research and development contract3 with JAXA regarding the “circulative renewable energy system” that is designed to supply electricity to maintain the functionality of the living space and various systems of lunar rovers.

Based on this contract, Honda will be commissioned by JAXA to first conduct concept studies, then to develop a “breadboard model4,” an early-stage prototype, by the end of the 2024 fiscal year (ending March 31). 

For more information on Honda’s hydrogen business initiatives, including electrification, click here. Companies interested in the new Honda fuel cell system and hydrogen business partnerships may contact hydrogen@na.honda.com.  

About Honda’s Commitment to the Environment
Honda is working toward its global goal of zero environmental impact by 2050 through its “Triple Action to Zero” approach, including achieving carbon neutrality for all products and corporate activities, 100% utilization of renewable energy, and resource circulation, utilizing 100% sustainable materials by reprocessing products back to raw materials and reusing those materials in the creation of new products. Toward this goal, Honda will strive to make battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles represent 100% of auto sales in the U.S. and globally by 2040.

To reduce the environmental impact of its business operations, Honda also is offsetting CO2 emissions from its North American manufacturing operations through long-term virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs) for renewable wind and solar power that seek to cover more than 60% of the electricity Honda uses in North America. Honda also promotes environmentally responsible business practices with its suppliers and retail dealer partners across North America.

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1. In comparison to the fuel cell system installed to the 2019 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell. 
2. Hydrogen produced by electrolyzing water using renewable energy, which emits no CO2 during the production process.
3. “A contract regarding concept study and prototyping of functional elements for the regenerative fuel cell system for a manned pressurized rover.” A regenerative fuel cell system consists of a water electrolysis system and a fuel cell system. A water electrolysis system electrolyzes water to produce oxygen and hydrogen, and a full cell system generates electricity from hydrogen to oxygen. Honda’s regenerative fuel cell system is called “circulative renewable energy system” as it features Honda’s original high differential pressure water electrolysis system. 
4. Systems to be used in outer space typically are developed by building prototypes in stages, such as a “breadboard model,” “engineering model” and “flight model,” depending on the stage of development. (For reference: 

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