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Saturday, December 29, 2007
Honda's Solar Hydrogen Refuelling Station (Torrance, California)
Image: courtesy of Honda Motor Co. (www.honda.com)

Hydrogen From Solar Energy

Since July 2001, U.S. based Honda R&D Americas has been producing hydrogen from solar power using an experimental Refuelling Station at their R&D centre in Torrance, California. Honda has been making engineering refinements to the station since its inception. Honda’s new subsidiary company, Honda Soltec, has upgraded the station with next generation thin film CIGS solar panels. A CIGS solar cell uses a copper-indium-gallium-selenium compound in the place of traditionally used silicon.

The station works by converting solar energy into electricity and then using this energy to power a water electrolysis process, which creates hydrogen. The solar panels are rated at a combined 8kW of power and the station can produce hydrogen off the electric utility grid when there is cloud cover, low solar conditions, or when the station has high demand. Additionally, there is a compressor to create 350 bar (5000 psi) of pressure to fill the station's 400 litres of hydrogen storage capacity.

Annual hydrogen production capability is 5700 litres per year under pure solar conditions or 26000 litres per year in conjunction with electric grid power. Since 2001, Honda has used the facility as a test of a family's regular refuelling needs against solar hydrogen production capability. Their FCX fuel cell development vehicles (FCX-V1, FCX-V2, FCX-V3, and FCX-V4, and the FCX Concept) have all used the station as part of their testing.

Honda became the first automobile company to market a production fuel cell vehicle when it announced in November of this year that it will offer a limited number of the FCX Clarity production fuel cell vehicles in a a lease package 600 dollars per month in the greater Los Angeles area. This price includes all maintenance and collision insurance.

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