At the Los Angeles Auto Show this morning, Honda got to step three of a process that began at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show when they first introduced the non-driveable FCX concept. A few months later they introduced a running version of that concept and almost exactly a year ago they started letting media, including AutoblogGreen, drive those cars at the Laguna Seca raceway in Monterey. At the time of the original introduction in Tokyo they stated their intention to begin low-volume production in mid-2008. They repeated that intention last year and today they publicly showed the production intent version of the car now known as the FCX Clarity.
The layout of the car remains largely the same as the concept with Honda's unique vertical flow fuel cell in the center console of the four door sedan body. Like the concept, Honda has chosen to stay with a 5,000 psi fuel storage system for the compressed hydrogen gas. Given the space age cab-forward style of the original concept one might have expected a significant change in styling for the production car. You would be mostly wrong. Aside from the nose being stretched a few inches in order to provide some crush space, the Clarity looks almost identical to the concept.
There's more after the break.
Mechanically, (or should that be electrically) the production model sticks to the concept. A lithium ion battery provides storage for recaptured kinetic energy from the regenerative braking and returns it when needed for an extra power boost. The fuel cell powertrain is now 400 lbs lighter than the one in the first generation FCX and less than half the size of the old one. The stack can easily start at temperatures as low as -22F and it provides a 270-mile range and 68 mpg equivalent fuel economy. The interior surfaces are made from Honda's latest plant-derived biofabric.
Starting next summer Honda will begin series production of the FCX and will start offering them to retail customers beginning in southern California areas were hydrogen fueling stations already exist. Customers will be able to get a three-year lease on an FCX Clarity for $600 a month, an amount that includes all maintenance and collision insurance. The Clarity will be fully certified to meet all emissions and safety standards and won't require any special waivers from the EPA or anyone else. Honda isn't talking volumes yet but expect low hundreds in the first few years at best. On Friday we'll be getting our first shot at driving the new FCX Clarity and we'll have a more thorough run down of the technical details shortly.