The Honda FCX has become the first fuel cell vehicle in the world to receive government certification, paving the way for the commercial use of fuel cell vehicles.

Both the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have certified the hydrogen-powered FCX as meeting all applicable standards.

The FCX has been certified by CARB as a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) and by the EPA as a Tier-2 Bin 1, National Low Emission Vehicle (NLEV), the lowest national emission rating. The FCX will also meet applicable US safety and occupant protection standards.

“While there still remains much work ahead to make fuel cell vehicles a mainstream transportation option, this certification is an important first step,” said Jeff Holmstead, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

Honda will lease a small number of FCXs in the US and Japan by the end of this year. During the first two-to-three-year period, Honda will lease about 30 fuel cell vehicles in California and the Tokyo metropolitan area, two locations with access to hydrogen fuel supply.
The company currently has no plans, however, for mass-market sales of fuel cell vehicles.

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“Certification allows Honda to place fuel cell vehicles in commercial operation ” said American Honda executive vice president Tom Elliott.

“We’ll have an opportunity to evaluate fuel cell vehicles in real world applications and to study the development of a refuelling infrastructure to support fuel cell vehicles.

“However, it is important to remember that significant cost, technology and infrastructure issues remain prior to the mass marketing of fuel cell vehicles.”

The latest version of the Honda fuel cell vehicle achieves 15% more maximum drive motor torque than previous models and also provides improvements in mid-to-high range power output characteristics and acceleration. It also has an increased driving range of 220 miles, about 25 miles more than the previous model.

Honda started fuel cell research in 1989 and has been road testing vehicles in the United States and Japan since 1999.