By John DeFore

honda.gifThe era of mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has finally arrived — although the “mass” part of that statement is debatable. On Monday, an assembly line in Japan produced its first Honda FCX Clarity, the first such car in the world meant for public consumption.

Admittedly, the car currently costs a fortune to build: The production cost for each car is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But Honda is letting them go at a loss, betting that economies of scale will eventually make production more affordable if a fueling infrastructure makes widespread sale plausible. For the time being, customers can’t buy one outright — they’re available only through a three-year lease. But at $600 a month, with all service and maintenance included, a lucky few will be able to drive the sleek maroon car (which is actually available in only one color, “Star Garnet Metallic”) for about the price of a conventional high-end sedan.

Naturally, you have to live in Southern California, that haven for eco- friendly car innovation, and being famous doesn’t hurt: Actress Jamie Lee Curtis is among the first five individuals getting one.

Wannabe owners outside of California, of course, wouldn’t be able to run the car anyway, since fueling stations are next to impossible to find. On this Honda web site, page four of the section aptly titled “The Dream” envisions a future system in which Clarity owners will be able to refuel in their own garages, using a Home Energy Station that “will serve as a power source for both the fuel cell and the home…By creating one efficient home energy system that heats water for the home, produces hydrogen fuel for a fuel cell vehicle, and sources the electricity to power everyday appliances.”

While the car’s promotional site has said Honda aims to “deliver about 150” of the vehicles in the first three years, the company upped that figure to 200 when speaking to the media this week.

Copyright © 2008 | Distributed by Noofangle Media