This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

October 15, 2003

Honda Introduces Fuel Cell for Below-Freezing Temperatures

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. has tackled one of the largest technical barriers for fuel cell vehicles, producing a fuel cell with advanced electrolyte membranes that can operate at temperatures as low as 4 degrees Fahrenheit below zero (negative 20 degrees Celsius). Honda announced on October 10th that the new fuel cell uses a simplified structure to cut the number of components by nearly half, while more than doubling the power output per pound of fuel cell, compared to Honda's previous-generation fuel cell. Incorporating the new fuel cell into Honda's fuel cell vehicle, the FCX, yields a 10-percent increase in fuel efficiency and a 20-mile increase in range, to more than 180 miles. Honda delivered the first of five FCX vehicles to the City of Los Angeles in December 2002; last month, Honda also agreed to deliver two FCX vehicles to the City of San Francisco by year-end.

Honda has also developed an experimental "Home Energy Station" that converts natural gas into hydrogen, which is then purified, compressed, and stored. The hydrogen can be used either to fuel a fuel cell vehicle or to supply a stationary fuel cell—incorporated in the unit—to produce electricity and hot water. In addition, Honda has developed a new Ruthenium-based catalyst that allows water to be converted into its components, hydrogen and oxygen, more efficiently. Honda has built a water electrolysis unit that uses power from an advanced solar cell to generate hydrogen and has added the unit to its hydrogen production station in Torrance, California. See the press releases on the Honda Media Web site.

For the record, General Motors Corporation (GM) announced a similar cold-start fuel cell achievement back in September 1999, although it is not clear if the company ever incorporated that fuel cell into a vehicle. See the GM press release.

Other car companies continue to make progress on fuel cell vehicles. In late September, Toyota delivered two more fuel cell vehicles to University of California campuses—one to Irvine and one to Davis. Mitsubishi Motors Corporation has also built a fuel-cell vehicle based on a minivan and using a fuel cell from Ballard Power System Inc. Closer to home, Ford Motor Company is planning to test its Ford Focus fuel cell vehicle on the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia, next year. See the press releases from Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Ford.