Ahead of 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, Honda Previews Production Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car, Electric Cub Concept

Nearly a year after it was expected to do so, Japanese automaker Honda is readying itself to unveil the Honda FCV sedan — its first production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle — at next month’s Tokyo Motor Show, alongside an electric concept of its best-known two-wheeled underbone motorcycle.

The vehicle, whose official name of which will be revealed in Tokyo on October 28, is currently being called the ‘Honda FCV,’ and bears at least a passing similarity to the futuristic hydrogen fuel cell concept sedan Honda has been displaying at auto shows around the world for the past few years.

Gone is the futuristic car of previous shows.

Gone is the futuristic car of previous shows.

But unlike Honda’s Concept FCV Sedan, the production fuel cell vehicle is rather conventional in its appearance, looking more like a cross between the current-generation Honda Accord and the Acura RLX than the vehicle Honda hopes will change the world of transportation forever.

Gone are the full (and then later partial) wheel covers of Honda’s prior FCV Concept cars, and in their place is a very slight, almost imperceptible mini spat (fender skirt) at the top of each rear wheel arch. Meanwhile, the narrow, sporty waistline of the various FCV concept cars we’ve seen has been noticeably expanded, presumably to improve interior volume and load carrying capabilities.

The result is a mid-sized sedan which looks far more evolutionary and far less revolutionary. More importantly, unlike Toyota’s recently-launched Mirai fuel cell sedan, Honda’s new fuel cell vehicle will seat five adults, not four.

Honda, which has been committed to bringing a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to market for many years, was expected to debut the production version of its first hydrogen fuel cell sedan last year at either the Tokyo Motor Show or the Los Angeles Auto Show. But while the automaker debuted a new emergency power station designed to allow customers to power their homes from electricity generated by their hydrogen fuel cell cars, the only hydrogen fuel cell vehicle on display was a mildly refreshed version of the FCV concept.

The production version is far more mainstream, and far more practical.

The production version is far more mainstream, and far more practical.

While the wait was longer than expected, Honda promises it will have been worth it. Unlike the lumbering Honda Clarity FCX sedan prototype vehicle that Honda has been leasing for the past few years to select customers in Southern California as part of a test program into hydrogen fuel cell vehicle deployment, Honda says the entire drivetrain and fuel cell system fits neatly under the hood of its new fuel cell sedan, making the cabin light and airy. Contrast that to the Clarity FCX, where the fuel cell stack was hidden between the driver and front seat passenger, and it’s clear that Honda’s latest FCV technology is far improved over the technology found in its previous limited-production vehicle.

In terms of performance, Honda says a range of up to 700 miles 700 kilometers (434 miles)  should be possible (based on its own internal testing) according to the Japanese JC08 fuel economy test cycle, thanks to high-pressure hydrogen fuel cell tanks built into the underside of the vehicle. While regular readers will know that the JC08 test cycle is horribly optimistic for real-world driving, we’d hope that at least 350 miles of range should be possible on a full tank of hydrogen.

As far as hydrogen fuel cell technology goes, that’s an impressive range never before reached by a production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle — but we also note it’s far more than the 312 miles offered by the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan.

Sadly, Honda isn’t forthcoming with any other specifications, but does say that its fuel cell sedan should give an “exhilarating drive made possible by the high-output motors.” This hints that the FCV could come with all-wheel drive capabilities, although we’ve seen nothing else to confirm that speculation.

The Honda Stand Concept is unusual to say the least.

The Honda Stand Concept is unusual to say the least.

In addition to the production fuel cell sedan and debuts of production versions of the all-new Honda NSX sports car and Civic Type R, Honda’s Tokyo Motor Show Stand will be full of some other interesting vehicles this year. Among them, two new concepts — the Wander Stand and Wander Walker mobility devices — are Honda’s answer to providing an ever-aging population the mobility they need to remain active and independent for as long as possible. While Honda has yet to give much in the way of information on these two unusual vehicles, it’s likely both low-speed vehicles will be powered by electricity.

Also worthy of note is a three-wheeled 2+1 hybrid motorcycle called the Neowing, which Honda says is powered by a four-cylinder engine and powerful electric motors for improved energy economy, and an all-electric version of Honda’s iconic Super Cub Motorcycle.

The electric cub is a vision of what the Cub name could mean in the future.

The electric cub is a vision of what the Cub name could mean in the future.

Something of a legend in the motorcycle world, the original 1958 Honda Super Cub was a simple yet practical underbone motorcycle with a step-through design. Known round the world for its robust engineering and ability to take some serious punishment at the hands of pizza-delivery riders, learners and more, the original Super Cub not only changed the way people saw motorcyclists but also brought cheap and cheerful motoring to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

The electric concept, built with the classic design curves of its ancestor, places its detachable battery pack low down in the frame for a low centre of gravity, while a small but powerful electric motor powers the rear wheels. Like the original Cub, the Electric Cub Concept isn’t designed to be a speedy ride, but rather one for commuters to use to get to and from work. Recharging takes place via a standard household outlet.

If we had to guess, we’d say performance is likely to be mediocre, although if Honda keeps true to the original Super Cub the electric concept clearly evokes, 50 mph may be possible, while range is likely to be somewhere between 30 and 40 miles per charge — just enough to get to work and back for the majority of urbanites.

What do you make of Honda’s production FCV? What about the all-electric Cub? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below


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