With decreasing demand for fuel cell vehicles in Honda, it led it to bail on Clarity, its hydrogen powered cars. With EVs taking over the car market in the USA, the company is innovating other possible ways to use fuel cells. Thus, aging hydrogen fuel cells get new life in Honda.
In an announcement, Honda conveyed the message that the company is putting down some old Clarity fuel cells back to work by combining them into a backup power system. These fuel cells with new reformation will be used in Honda data centers in South Los Angeles. Calling it just a “proof of concept” Honda aims to commercialize the tech because the company notices potential applications that are beyond powering lights in its data centers.
This backup power demonstration through an electrochemical reaction to generate electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen and was used to power Honda fuel cell systems in leased Clarity. These fuel cells are retired from transport but still, they work fine enough to drive the server farm if needed.
Other than data center applications, Honda is considering other applications like peak shaving. It means that Honda thinks industrial customers may use its generators at peak times when electricity is priciest, and grids may be strained.
Honda aims to develop its proof of concept into a “new business model.” With battery powered cars strengthening their grip in the American car market, Honda is interested in keeping hydrogen in the headlines.
Despite using the old fuel cells to power the data center, this process is not completely carbon neutral. The company mentioned that green hydrogen is not exclusively used in this process and some of its energy production is through fossil fuel too. Most hydrogen fuel cells may be polluted if the hydrogen used in them is not of clean origin.
Water and heat are released as exhaust while fuel cells generate electricity with hydrogen present in them. But indirectly it could pollute the atmosphere if the hydrogen used is not clean.
To reduce this possibility of pollution, more green hydrogen along with its power plant is required. Considering the difficulty in the acquisition of green hydrogen, some automakers do not believe that hydrogen powered cars have any future.
Apart from what all others think, Honda still believes in hydrogen powered cars. And this demonstration of hydrogen fuel cells being used to power data centers is also a type of advertisement for next generation fuel cells by the company being developed with General Motors.
Next gen fuel cells are ready to power upcoming Honda hydrogen powered vehicles, Honda CR-V, and they are due in 2024. Further, the company is planning to use these fuel cells for backup power which means it would not be as circular when commercialized.
On a positive note, Honda intends to use it exclusively as green hydrogen once it is commercialized as backup power unit. With the pilot being a convenient way for Honda to talk up its new fuel cells, thus aging hydrogen fuel cells get new life in Honda.