Honda tests fuel cells at datacenter in California

Honda’s fuel cell power station supplies clean and quiet emergency backup power to the data center on the Torrance
Sheila Zabeu -

March 08, 2023

Honda began operating a stationary fuel-cell power station at its corporate campus in California in early March. According to the company, this is the first step toward the future commercialization of zero-emission backup power. Fuel cells can be used in a variety of applications, including stationary units as a primary or backup power source.

Now fully operational as a demonstration program, the power station has a capacity of about 500 kW and reuses fuel cell systems from Honda Clarity vehicles, with a design that allows power to be boosted every 250 kW packed into four cells. According to Honda, the solution is flexible and can have the layout of the fuel cell units adapted to the installation environment and accommodate cubic, L- or Z-shaped configurations and other packaging designs.

The fuel cell systems used in the tests have already powered Honda Clarity rental vehicles, which do not use exclusively green, less-polluting hydrogen. However, it seems that even after retirement, the fuel cells used in the cars work well to power the data centre in the event of a power failure. Previously, Honda used diesel as a backup power source in this particular datacenter that hosts proprietary data, according to a story on the TechCrunh website.

In the coming years, Honda plans to begin applying a new generation of fuel cell-based stationary systems in the company’s data centres and factories around the world, seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We believe hydrogen fuel cells as a backup power source and compensation for possible peak power events are promising. By installing and using our technology for fuel cell systems as a stationary source of power generation, Honda aims to stimulate the use of hydrogen and provide clean energy to potential commercial customers,” said Koji Moriyama, stationary fuel cell project leader and principal engineer at Honda’s US R&D business unit.

Os datacenters exigem fontes de energia confiáveis e de alta qualidade, já que qualquer interrupção no fornecimento pode levar a paralisações ou problemas como corrupção de dados e danos a servidores. Geradores estacionários típicos usam diesel e produzem mais emissões de carbono e poluentes atmosféricos.

In Honda’s view, backup power systems using hydrogen fuel cells have a promising future for clean, reliable and high-quality power generation, especially when operating with so-called “green hydrogen” produced from renewable sources such as water vapour.

It is worth remembering that fuel cells that do not use clean renewable sources are also polluting, and producing green hydrogen requires a specific infrastructure. For this reason, some automakers do not believe in the future of hydrogen-powered cars. Will the universe of data centres follow this path?

Honda seems to believe in both datacenters and automobiles. Future stationary units intended for alternative power generation commercialisation will use Honda’s new generation fuel cells, developed in conjunction with General Motors and which will also be used in a new electric vehicle based on the Honda CR-V slated for launch in 2024.

Honda intends to have battery and fuel cell electric vehicles account for 100 percent of automobile sales in the United States and the world by 2040. In addition to the application of electric vehicles and fuel-cell backup power generation sources, Honda recently announced that it will pursue developments in the fields of commercial vehicles and construction equipment.

Based on a “Triple Zero” approach consisting of three focus areas — carbon neutrality, clean energy, and resource circulation — we aim to contribute to a circular society with resource recycling and a goal of zero environmental impacts by 2050. To provide for resource circulation, we plan to maximize the useful life of materials in our products, including vehicle fuel cell systems, such as those used in Honda Clarity models. By developing recovery systems to recapture product materials when they reach the end of their useful life, we can reuse, recondition, repurpose, and recycle them into new products.