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The Mercury Cars Guide : November 21st 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009 Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au ---13 Valid L1690 LEX07711/HM THE FINAL LEXUS EVENT OF 2009. Come and take two bites of the cherry. Until November 30, you can get impressive Factory Incentives from your Lexus Dealer. Better still, eligible small businesses can enjoy a second bite of the cherry by taking advantage of up to 50% of the Government Investment Allowance. Talk with your tax advisor to see if you are eligible. HURRY, THE ONLY LUXURY WE DON T OFFER IS TIME. ENDS NOVEMBER 30. LEXUS OF HOBART 267Argyle Street, Hobart Ph: 1800 631 298 lexusofhobart.com.au After hour enquires please call Stuart Hawkesford on 0417 599 159 BRIGHT FUTURE: The Honda FCX Clarity, the world's first dedicated fuel cell vehicle. Honda has a clear vision ahead IF hybrid technology is the road to the future, the fuel cell may well be the destination. Carsguide was given a peek into that future with a drive of one of the world's most exclusive vehicles, Honda's Clarity sedan, in America's green heartland. There are only 10 examples of the Clarity among the millions of cars that play the daily commute game in Los Angeles and a handful of others undergoing similar real-world trials in Japan. ''We believe hydrogen (fuel cell) is the ultimate answer to the need to produce more efficient, less polluting transport,'' Honda America environment and safety specialist spokesman Todd Mittleman says. ''There are a lot of different approaches to the future but ultimately we see fuel cell technology as the end game.'' One of the keys to the fuel cell program for Honda was to get cars out into the daily grind. Some of those pioneer cars have gone to high-profile celebrities such as actress Jamie Lee Curtis but others sit in the garages of ordinary people, including a Los Angeles attorney and a high school princi- pal. ''We didn't just want celebrities,'' Mittle- man explains. ''What we want is real feedback from real people on what it is like to live with a fuel cell vehicle. ''In terms of numbers, hybrid electric vehicles are here for a long time and will become an increasing percentage of the cars on the road. Fuel cell vehicles are a much longer-term program and we are looking at a 20 year span before they are available in significant numbers.'' While Honda won't acknowledge a price for a Clarity, some estimates put it at as much as $2 million a unit and the company has set a 2018 target for being able to sell an unsubsidised varient of the technology. In the interim any Los Angeles citizen can apply through the Honda website to be considered for leasing a Clarity. The cost to the participants is $US600 a month which, according to Mittleman, does not reflect the cost of vehicles but does include insurance and maintenance. Behind the wheel of the Clarity is an interesting place to be. The dash and controls are a mix of the familiar and science fair. Hydrogen use is monitored by a glowing ball in the middle of the dash which keeps the driver updated on how efficiently they are perform- ing by changing from a 'good-on-ya' blue to a 'lift-your-game' orange. Driving is eerily quiet from the car's electric motor which drives the front wheels using electricity generated on board by the fuel cell stack and stored in a highly-efficient and compact lithium-ion battery. While the technology is breathtaking the most amazing thing about the Clarity is that it is a wonderful drive experience. The electrically-assisted steering is among the best of its type we have experienced, the immediate get-up-and-go characteristics of the electric motor give the car a truly sporty feel and the interior is pleasant and spacious. The Clarity's fuel tank, where the hydro- gen is stored compressed to 5000psi, holds 4kg of the gas at a cost of $US5 per kilogram for a range of 400km. That pressure, down from more than three times that in the early fuel cell models, makes the hydrogen more manageable and easier to contain without seepage loss from the tank. ''It was really important that the Clarity could be related to by people who enjoyed driving cars,'' Mittleman says. ''It had to connect.'' The huge improvements over the past decade in packaging and energy density of fuel cells, batteries and electric motors have all given designers far greater freedom to bring the vehicles into the real world. In Honda's case the fuel cell has gone from a 60kW unit weighing 202kg and eating up 134 litres of space to today's 67kg, 52 litre, 120kW unit. One of the biggest challenges still facing fuel cell expansion is the infrastructure to deliver compressed hydrogen at a point of sale and the production of the hydrogen. Clarity may show the way in Australia HONDA Australia is pulling out all the stops to become only the third country in the world to have a fuel cell Clarity in its garage. ''I would absolutely love to have one in Australia,'' Honda Australia senior director Lindsay Smalley says. ''We are working towards making that happen.'' Smalley believes the need to have a real world example of future technology presently only on show in Japan and America available for key groups to touch and experience cannot be over- estimated. ''To have a Clarity in Australia would be an exceptionally powerful statement of direction for Honda and would really reinforce Honda's position on providing leadership in the indus- try,'' Smalley says. ''If we could get it we would have special interest groups, journalists, governments drive it. I would love to be able to compete in the solar challenge in a special category. An event like that would really maximise the effect.'' Part of the strategy would be to use a Clarity to talk to governments on alternative fuels not just fuel cells. ''We would also use it as a vehicle to talk to governments about broadening Australia's thinking on fuel and infra- structure. At the moment the discussion on electric vehicles is great but really there is zero discussion on natural gas and that is another opportunity. ''The time to be talking about this is now, not in the long term.'' He added infrastructure had to be in place, ready for the cars. KEVIN HEPWORTH
November 14th 2009
November 28th 2009