Honda uses hydrogen fuel cells that were once used in the discontinued Clarity – the only hydrogen-powered car in the US – and now uses them as backup power for its own data centers in Los Angeles.
The automotive giant said TechCrunch (opens in a new tab) that it’s just a “proof of concept” for now, but he hopes to make it a practical reality and eventually sell it to other data centers – perhaps used by colocation or cloud hosting providers.
In the back-up demonstrator, the fuel cells came from a Clarity fleet that was once part of the leasing market. Honda no longer uses this type of fuel cell in transportation, but believes it still works efficiently enough to provide backup power for its server farm, which it uses as cloud storage for proprietary automotive design data.
The data center in question used to use diesel fuel to power its backup system, which is a common choice for most data centers. However, switching to hydrogen is not as green as you might think.
Honda told TechCrunch that it is not exclusively using green hydrogen in this test regimen. While the byproduct of using hydrogen energy is just water and heat, getting hydrogen first can mean relying on fossil fuels in many cases.
Hydrogen production would need to be massively scaled up and backed up with the right infrastructure to deliver completely green hydrogen, which of course takes a lot of effort and money and explains why car companies are reluctant to adopt the technology.
However, Honda has not given up on an alternative fuel source yet. In partnership with General Motors, it has developed a new generation of fuel cells that will power a new car due next year, “based on the Honda CR-V”.
These fuel cells are also expected to be used for backup power in more data centers as Honda seeks to commercialize them. She also wants them to be completely green.
In addition to data centers, Honda also wants hydrogen to generate power for other industries. This includes using them for “peak mitigation”, where hydrogen generators would be used during peak hours to consume electricity on the grid when prices are at their highest and efficiency is high.
While all of this is still in the concept phase, Honda hopes to create a “new business model” out of it in the future.