During my research for the article on the second generation of Honda‘s fuel cell vehicle, the Clarity Fuel Cell (see Honda Hands Over Keys for First Clarity Fuel Cell), I suddenly remembered days long past. More specifically, I recalled news pieces that I had written or read many years ago. I did a bit of a search and found the following lines, which I would like to share with you:
“One must recognize the distinct accomplishment of the second-biggest Japanese carmaker, Honda, which – like archrival Toyota – succeeded before all automotive manufacturers in the Western world to supply customers with fuel cell cars. This symbolic act had been preceded by a months-long race to the finish, which resulted in both Honda and Toyota handing the keys for six cars to collaboration partners on the same day – Dec. 2, 2002. Four units of Toyota‘s FCHV were used by government departments in the greater metropolitan area of Tokyo; two others were given on the same date to Californian universities Irvine und Davis in the US. Both American institutions have since paid EUR 10,000 per month for the cars as per a 30-month leasing agreement.
“To Honda, this event was so important that the carmaker’s CEO, Hiroyuki Yoshino, first handed the keys for an FCX to Japan‘s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in the morning and then flew to California to give the keys for another one to the then-mayor of Los Angeles, James K. Hahn.
“A step further on the path toward regular use of these innovative cars was taken by Honda in July 2005, when the Japanese carmaker handed over the car keys for the first privately owned fuel cell vehicle in California, since the state’s infrastructure has been the most suitable for such means of transportation to date (around 26 filling stations). The symbolic leasing rate (incl. maintenance and insurance) amounted to around USD 500 per month.”
These paragraphs were taken from my German book Wasserstoff-Autos – Was uns in Zukunft bewegt, published in March 2006 under the Hydrogeit Verlag (ISBN 978-3-937863-07-8).
I continued skimming through the pages to find the following press release from Honda:
“TOKYO, Japan, June 10, 2008–Honda Motor Co., Ltd. will provide its new fuel cell vehicle, FCX Clarity, as well as Civic Hybrid and other advanced technologies for the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit to be held July 7-9, 2008.”
After a quick search, I discovered great similarities to another statement – also by Honda – only with a more recent timestamp:
“TOKYO, Japan, May 26, 2016 – Honda Motor Co., Ltd. is providing CLARITY FUEL CELL, Honda’s fuel cell vehicle, and AUTOMATED DRIVE, an autonomous development vehicle, for the Group of Seven (G7) Summit 2016 Japan in Ise-Shima, which is being held on May 26 and 27, 2016.“
Understandably, you may ask yourself why I’m quoting Honda as part of this editorial. My answer would be:
I’m beginning to grow weary of having to report time and again on the fuel cell industry’s delays and failures to act. So I thought it prudent to just pause for a second and look back at what has transpired so far. I will leave it solely up to you to draw your own conclusions from the following articles.
As a small nudge, I suggest that you think about which companies were leaders in the fuel cell market back then and which are now. Or ask yourself why the names of those companies cannot simply be replaced by others from the automotive industry. And just read pages “Honda Hands Over Keys for First Clarity Fuel Cell” or “Incentives for 400,000 Battery and Fuel Cell Cars” to see which companies act with forethought as well as advance fuel cell technology without always considering the “dividends of shareholders” first (also see Bonhoff-interview in September 2016).
Maybe after doing that, the next time you get the chance, you would like to speak to an employee from Stuttgart, Munich, Wolfsburg, Rüsselsheim or Ingolstadt about what happened over the last 14 years and what the results have been.
And before I forget it, please also compare the number of public H2 filling stations in the US – then and now.
Best wishes, Sven Geitmann – Editor of H2-international