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LA show: Honda springs surprise hydrogen concept car

Battery included: Honda's eye-catching FC Sport concept.

Honda has revealed a surprise fuel cell-powered supercar at this week’s LA show

Honda logo20 Nov 2008

HONDA has rolled out yet another supercar concept, but one with a very big twist.

Looking like a cross between a Lamborghini Countach in silhouette, Clarence the cross-eyed lion front-on and a modern jet-fighter from behind, the FC Sport design study is a hydrogen-powered electric concept vehicle.

It is based on the FCX Clarity sedan that is available in very limited and controlled numbers for lease in Japan and some parts of the United States.

Do not get too excited, though, because this is merely a show car that has been devised to give us a glimpse of what Honda may conjure up some time in the latter part of the next decade.

Nevertheless, the FC Sport has been designed to display the myriad new packaging possibilities of fuel-cell technology within a supercar framework.

Among its many features are a staggered three-person seating arrangement (similar to the McLaren F1 supercar), a low centre of gravity and, of course, absolutely zero emissions.

At the FC Sport Concept’s heart is the Clarity’s ‘V Flow’ fuel cell technology – carefully arranged in a modular format to maximise packaging – to provide what Honda calls “supercar levels of performance”.

Aiding this is a thorough low-weight regime and systematically-honed aerodynamics. Most of the car’s mass is centred between the front and rear axles, creating “a balanced” weight distribution outcome – although the Japanese company has not revealed what the actual figures are.

15 center imageHonda says the modular formation of the fuel cell stack and related components ideally demonstrates what can be achieved with a platform-specific, hydrogen-powered fuel cell powertrain. The latter lives between the rear seats, with a battery pack residing low in the centre of the FC Sport, while the electric motor itself is located forward of the rear axle.

Onlookers might also spot the pair of hydrogen fuel storage tanks situated above the rear axle – an addition that Honda likens to a faring-free superbike showing off its engineering and technological prowess.

This opens up a relatively spacious cabin for a supercar, with enough room for a trio of seats.

Like the iconic McLaren supercar of the 1990s, the driver’s pew is placed in the middle in what Honda refers to as a “race car-like” cockpit, flanked by the lucky pair of passengers on either side and just behind. Entry and egress occurs via a rear-opening canopy that lifts upwards.

According to Honda, the FC Sport’s “sleek, low-profile body is designed to convey a high-technology appearance with sculpting that combines angular shapes in the front of the vehicle that taper into geometric, hex forms in the rear”.

Radiators in the rear ‘hex’ cool the fuel cell stack while high-speed aerodynamics are aided by Formula 1-style ‘barge boards’ behind the front wheels.

Besides running on hydrogen power and boasting lightweight construction, the FC Sport’s environmental credentials run to green construction techniques that are designed to reduce this car’s carbon footprint.

“An organic, bio-structure theme is carried through to the body construction where exterior panels are intended to use plant-derived bio-plastics,” Honda states.

Reflecting this is the concept’s Glacier White body colour, with Honda choosing dark wheels and a heavily tinted glasshouse to provide a symbolic contrast “befitting the vehicle’s unique combination of clean power and high performance”.

Development proceeded at Honda’s Advanced Design Studio in Pasadena, California, under the leadership of designer Jason Wilbur, with the express objective of using existing fuel cell technology as the basis for an ultimate Honda sports car.

Honda Research and Development Americas, which runs the studio, commenced in 1975 with local market research activities and has steadily grown to encompass all aspects of new vehicle design and development.

Although Australians have not been privy to some of its more recent work, visitors to America will see the company’s signature work in models such as the big Pilot SUV, US-only Ridgeline truck, boxy Element ‘lifestyle’ vehicle and pretty Civic Coupe.

Honda has another California design centre specifically for its upmarket Acura brand located in Torrance among 11 R&D facilities in North America alone.

“The Honda FC Sport explores how to satisfy automotive performance enthusiasts in a world beyond petroleum,” said American Honda Motor Company vice-president Dan Bonawitz.

“People who love sports cars will still have a reason to love in a hydrogen-powered future.”

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