Fuel cells are not a new invention, with the first working one being credited to 19th-century Welsh judge and scientist William Grove, who, when he wasn’t busy presiding over cases in court, liked to pursue his passion for scientific work in the fields of chemistry and physics. This led him to create a “gas voltaic battery” in 1842, a device that produced electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen. The first road vehicle to use a fuel cell came in the shape of the Chevrolet Electrovan in 1966, and many more concept machines using this alternative fuel source have come and gone since, but those have mostly been of the four-wheeled variety.
This may be about to change, as Japanese car and motorcycle manufacturer Honda has reportedly filed a patent application for a new hydrogen-powered motorbike, bringing fresh movement to a niche that has seen little development since the Suzuki Crosscage concept bike back in 2007. Honda hasn’t released any prototypes or official information yet, but the patent application drawings seem to show a relatively normal-looking sports bike layout with a perimeter frame, a telescopic fork and a shaft drive. The fuel cell that uses a catalyst to combine hydrogen with oxygen from the air—generating electricity for the motor in the process—is located under the seat and ensures that instead of toxic exhaust gases, the only thing coming out of the back of this bike will be water.
One of the biggest drawbacks for hydrogen vehicles of any type is the lack of refueling stations, a fact that a new alliance between Honda, Nissan, Toyota, the Development Bank of Japan and others is aiming to address. Created by the Council for a Strategy for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells—a body run by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry—the new venture is aiming to build more hydrogen fuel stations to help achieve the government-set goal of 160 hydrogen stations by 2020. A total of 40,000 fuel-cell vehicles are supposed to roam the streets of Japan by then, and it seems that besides the Honda Clarity car, there might also be a water-emitting motorbike coming.