The recently announced hydrogen fuel-cell-powered 2024 Honda CR-V is just one part of a broad plan from Honda to facilitate large-scale carbon neutrality. 

Honda is Developing a New Hydrogen-Powered CR-V 

In an automotive climate dominated by battery-powered electric vehicles, Honda has charted a slightly different course for driving down carbon emissions – hydrogen power. Specifically, Honda plans to start selling an all-new hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV) next year. Based on the Japanese automaker’s 6th-gen CR-V that arrived in 2023, this hydrogen fuel-cell variant looks poised to offer an alternative to the much-hyped electric-powered future.

Hondas History with Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicles 

2021 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell -
2021 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell -

Honda certainly knows a thing or two about FCEVs. They have been conducting real-world research and development on the technology for over 20 years, the last 10 of which have been in partnership with General Motors. What started as the FCX – for Fuel Cell Experimental – in 2002, morphed into the Clarity, a line of alternative fuel-powered vehicles. Most recently, the 2017 Clarity series included a 100% electric model, plug-in hybrid option, and FCEV.

Ending production in 2021, the Clarity Fuel Cell was limited to 3-year leases in Southern California only, due to the region’s existing hydrogen fuel station network. Offering a 366-mile driving range and 5-minute fueling time made the Clarity an appealing alternative to the battery-powered EVs at the time – and today. However, Honda only built 48 total units as the Clarity was more a practical experiment than a money-making production venture.

The Future of Honda Hydrogen Powered Cars 

Hyundai N Vision 74 -
Hyundai N Vision 74 -

Going forward, Honda aims to flip the hydrogen cars’ pros and cons conversation in their favor so as to drive commercially viable levels of customer adoption. A major consideration for this is of course hydrogen car costs. To that end, the next-generation fuel-cell system (FCS), which debuts on the 2024 CR-V FCEV, will cost two-thirds less and be twice as durable as the previous version. Honda has accomplished this with “innovative materials” and an overall improvement in the manufacturing process.

An interesting aspect of the incoming CR-V FCEV is that it will combine hydrogen fuel-cell power with a plug-in hybrid power unit. This gives owners the ability to run on hydrogen with a small battery-powered backup motor that can be charged at home. It’s an interesting twist on the current plug-in hybrids that run on electricity but have gas power waiting in the wings as needed. And Honda isn’t the only game in town on this approach. Hyundai is also at work on combining hydrogen and battery power as noted in our sneak peek at the N Vision 74.

2024 Honda CR-V FCEV -
2024 Honda CR-V FCEV -

The benefit of hydrogen power over pure electricity is typically a longer driving range and far quicker fill-ups. This combined power delivery approach should ease consumers’ minds on range anxiety while they wait for Honda to build a robust network of hydrogen filling stations. It will be interesting to see how this new hydrogen-powered FCS stacks up in efficiency against the legacy fuel sources we detail here.

That filling station network is part of a broader plan to facilitate the carbon neutrality of society as a whole – a far grander ambition. To make it happen, Honda intends to tap renewable energy sources for running the water electrolysis process that creates the hydrogen fuel, much like Porsche is doing with their synthetic eFuel initiative. From here, they plan to create “hydrogen ecosystems” that have storage and filling capabilities. Honda has already been at work on this aspect, in partnership with Shell, with some $14 million invested so far.

Hondas Commercial Plans for Fuel Cell Systems 

Next Generation Fuel Cell Mock-Up -
Next Generation Fuel Cell Mock-Up -

Along with the retail vehicle plan, Honda is spearheading the use of their next-gen FCS in the commercial vehicle, stationary power system, and even space technology segments. In order to meet all this planned demand, the automaker is targeting production of 2000 fuel-cell systems annually within the next two years at the Fuel Cell System Manufacturing Center that Honda runs with GM in Michigan. This builds on the existing battery production partnership between the two automakers that we look at here.

Longer-term, the goal is for a production rate of 60,000 fuel-cell systems by 2030 and 100,000 by the middle of that decade. Concurrently, Honda has targeted halving the cost and doubling the durability of the third-gen FCS by 2030. On the passenger car front, Honda expects usability and overall cost of the new FCS to be on par with modern diesel engines.

Honda’s Bold Vision for Eliminating CO2 Emissions 

2021 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell -
2021 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell -

These are bold statements, but the Japanese automaker has been working towards this for decades now. They operate under the belief that FCEVs powered by hydrogen – that has been generated using renewable sources – are the key to a sustainable transportation future by eliminating CO2 emissions from the entire process. If Honda can get it right, they stand to upend the automotive status quo and perhaps the use of fossil fuels as we know it.

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Niel Stender

Niel Stender grew up doing replacement work on his 1990 Cherokee and 1989 Starion, so it’s not surprising that he would put his mechanical engineering degree from the University of New Hampshire to use in the car world as a vehicle dynamics engineer. Now engineering sentence structures, his writing infuses his auto experience with his time in marketing and his sales experience. Writing about cars for close to a decade now, he focuses on some of the more technical mechanical systems that are found under the hood and throughout a vehicle.

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