Posts Tagged ‘fuel cell cars’

The Hydrogen Highway – Japan’s Bet Against Battery EVs

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Japanese automotive manufacturer, Toyota, is reinforcing the government’s push for a “hydrogen highway” with it’s latest next-generation hybrid — Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese. Recently, at the New York International Auto Show, this new entry into Japan’s race to become a “hydrogen society,” was declared the 2016 World Green Car. Twenty-three countries — represented by 73 top-level automotive journalists — had to choose between eight entries, including the Toyota Prius Hybrid. Factors that the jurors took into consideration when making their selection included:

1. Tailpipe emissions
2. Fuel consumption
3. Use of an advanced power plant technology aimed at increasing the automobile’s environmental responsibility.

(Unfortunately, these journalists seem to have missed the point that many of the — very few — hydrogen refueling stations require fossil fuels for its production, and take a lot of engineering to build. Hardly very green!)

Toyota Mirai World Green Car of the Year 2016

Energy of the Future

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes hydrogen will help Tokyo find an alternative energy source to nuclear power, and reduce reliance on imported oil. Japan is the sixth largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. Of course, an obvious option would be solar, wind and geothermal, which is why it is strange — except when you realize that the nuclear industry is a huge bureaucracy with deep connections to the government.

Group vice president and general manager, Bill Fay, of Toyota Division, points to three major factors about Mirai that will help lead the world in a more sustainable direction:

1. It has a per tank travel range of over 300 miles.
2. Unlike electric vehicles that can take several hours to recharge, refueling the Mirai can be done in under five minutes. Much like putting gasoline or diesel fuel in a car, a nozzle is inserted and a trigger squeezed to fill the tank.
3. Emissions consist solely of water vapor.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe; it is also incredibly powerful so Toyota has taken important steps in the design of its hydrogen tanks, which are tucked under and away from the back seats. Safety assurance is achieved through polymer-lined tanks that are carbon-fiber wrapped and multi-patented. Their three-layer structure is built to absorb five times the crash energy of steel. Additionally, the car has a unique frame design that distributes crash forces around the passenger cabin, the hydrogen tanks and the fuel cell stacks.

However, in the event of a high-speed collision, you’ll be relieved to know that several measures are in place to prevent any leaking and subsequent combustion of the hydrogen tanks.

First: Sensors stop the flow of hydrogen.

Second: Any leaked hydrogen is quickly dispersed.

Third: Hydrogen escapes safely and rapidly into the air.

Hisashi Nakai, who works in Toyota’s strategy planning department, dismisses concerns about hydrogen posing any dangerous explosion risks despite the highly volatile and flammable properties of the gas. Nakai insists that rigorous testing has been performed on the tank and that it can withstand any shock. “(Fuel-cell vehicles) appear to be the ideal green cars,” he says.

Of course, a cynic would say that with new battery tech on the way using graphene, a derivative of carbon, that will be virtually inert under impact, the fact that Toyota is considering replacing one explosive fuel (gasoiline) with another one (hydrogen) is a bit of a mystery.

Mirai Fuel Cell Anatomy

– No internal combustion (the process of burning something).
– No carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions — at least at the tail pipe.
– The electric motor is from an existing hybrid Lexus (Toyota’s luxury brand).
– A Power Control Unit (PCU) decides when to draw energy directly from the fuel cell stack or use stored energy from the battery.
– Hydrogen and oxygen are combined in an electrochemical reaction, which produces electricity.

The Cost of Conservation

– A comparable electric car costs 6.7 million JPY (roughly $55,000 U.S.)
– A Mirai fuel-cell car costs nearly double that amount.
– The central government throws in a subsidy of two million yen to the buyers to offset some of the purchase expense. Even though their contribution covers approximately one-fourth of the total cost of the car, the price is still very high.

Hype of the Hydrogen Highway

The Japan Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Demonstration Project is dedicated to building an infrastructure network of filling stations along roadsides, aka the “hydrogen highway.” This highly-publicized project is sure to be touted at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The Japanese government said that it will subsidize half the total building expense for the first 100 locations and will bear some of the operational costs. As of March 2016, Japan had fallen 20 percent short of its target of 100 operational hydrogen stations due to the high cost of constructing them: about 400 million yen (over $3.2 million U.S.) each. Japan is not alone; slow construction of hydrogen refueling stations around the world is cramping efforts by automakers to convince the public that hydrogen is a viable option.

Japan’s Government Projections and Predictions

– There will be 4,200 hydrogen cars on the roads of Japan.

Deadline: 2018

– Toyota, specifically, plans to boost Mirai sales to 12,000 units in Japan.

Deadline: 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

– Prime Minister Abe envisions an annual hydrogen market worth one trillion yen ($8.3 billion U.S.), which would also supply hydrogen-producing technology to 5.3 million residences

Deadline: 2030

Postscript

It is hard not to rain on this parade, but … The expense of new fueling stations. The decidedly non-green way most hydrogen is being created. The major strides taking place in battery tech. The cost reductions in batteries when Tesla’s Gigafactory comes on line. All these and more are going to make the case for hydrogen difficult (or in this writer’s view impossible) to make over the coming years.

It would not be the first time Japan has embraced a technological evolutionary dead end — remember Betamax, or MD players ? — and with the full weight of bureaucratic inertia behind it, I would not be surprised if hydrogen fuel cell cars were the same.


Toyota to Dealers: Don’t Sell Cars!

Posted by Stephen On Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Yes, this is the last thing you would expect the world’s largest car maker to say, but it’s true. And it’s nothing to do with the Takata airbag scandal either. No, the problems for the Mirai are more fundamental.

Toyota Mirai

Toyota has been advocating fuel cell powered cars more than any other car manufacturer. They have one, the Toyota Mirai. It’s an electric-powered vehicle whose primary source of power is not a battery.

Instead of a battery, it has a fuel cell that converts liquid hydrogen into electricity, which then turns an electric motor. There are times when the driver may demand more power than this fuel cell can provide. For those moments, a tiny 1kWh battery lends a helping hand to meet the demand.

In return, the vehicle has zero emissions, other than water vapor and perhaps a bit of heat. How’s that for government regulations and the public relations?

Despite Toyota investing billions of dollars into this new technology, they will only release about 300 of these vehicles between the Europe and the United States this year in 2016. Compare that number to the 10 million vehicles that the automaker sells per year, and you barely have a dot on the landscape.

That doesn’t stop Toyota from believing that hydrogen power is the way of the future. In fact, with the lobbying efforts of the Japanese government, the company appears to be betting its entire future on the technology.

It seems odd then that the company would be instructing dealers not to deliver the Mirai to customers. For a company whose slogan is, “Let’s Go Places,” the Marai sedan can’t really go anywhere.

This holds true even for the dealership that moves the most; a Toyota dealer in Santa Monica, California.
Why would Toyota do this? Honestly, they have solid reasoning.

Right now, there are 72 Toyota Mirai on the road in the US. However, these cars can’t just go to your conventional gas station to ‘fill ‘er up.” There aren’t enough refueling stations to keep the cars that are out there on the road, let alone enough fueling stations to support more cars being delivered.

Furthermore, what few stations that are out there don’t work very well. In fact, the move might be to keep Toyota and its dealers legally safe.

They are adamant to point out that they are still selling the car. What they’re not doing is delivering on the cars until more filling stations open up for the car.

Some people are quick to point out that Toyota should be building their own stations, and not rely on the taxpayer’s money to do it. They are saying that the world simply isn’t ready for hydrogen power quite yet. Perhaps in 50 years, but not now.


Official Toyota FCV Design, Pricing & Launch Date Revealed

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

After years of hearing nothing but rumors about Toyota’s fuel-cell technology, and then a couple years more of only concepts and prototypes, Toyota has FINALLY unveiled the body of their production-ready FCV sedan. As you continue reading, we’ll learn all about this car’s design, pricing and launch date – everything Toyota’s told us so far.

Let’s start with the best part – pictures! First up is the global Toyota FCV model displayed last week in Japan, followed by the US-spec model displayed this week in Aspen.

Japanese-spec Toyota FCV Production Model
US-spec Toyota FCV Production Version

Aside from color, the only noticeable difference between the US-spec and the Japan-spec vehicles is the yellow reflector in the black stripe along the US-spec’s front clip. Both vehicles are nearly identical to the original Toyota FCV Concept, with the only major differences being the addition of LEDs along the front air intakes, more realistic side mirrors, and a toned down rear-end.

Unfortunately, Toyota hasn’t revealed anything about the production FCV’s interior. Our guess is we’ll see the whole thing sometime towards the end of this year (2014 Tokyo Motor Show, maybe?) or the beginning of next (possibly at the 2015 Detroit Motor Show). Either way, we can’t wait to see more.

The production Toyota FCV is officially slated to launch in Japan in April of next year, with a US launch around the beginning of summer 2015. However, the US-launch especially will be rather limited… The FCV will start out with California-only availability, given that’s the only state with a hydrogen refueling infrastructure.

As for pricing, Toyota says that the Japanese market will get the first Toyota FCV for around 7M yen, which is around $68,700. However, Toyota specifically stated that this price may not carry over into the US/EU markets, depending on the price of exporting and the different legal requirements for each locale. In other words, even though we’ve seen the exterior of the FCV, there’s still a lot left undecided inside the car and in the background.

The good news is that Toyota has already surpassed their early estimates for fuel efficiency and driving range. The car was originally estimated to achieve a driving range around 300 miles, but the estimate has risen substantially now that production is in sight. The production FCV is expected to offer a driving range around 435 miles, or 700 km, which Toyota rightly notes is in line with the range of today’s gasoline engines. And that’s with the same refueling time of ~3 minutes, and the same 0-60 time of around 10 seconds.

You’ll have to stay tuned later this year for more detailed information, but in the meantime you can watch the promotional video Toyota released below:


Production of Toyota FCV Confirmed for December 2014

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

It’s just been officially confirmed that Toyota will begin production of their first commercial hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle in December of this year. We’d heard that Toyota was aiming for a 2015 launch date, so it seems that things are moving faster than expected.

The news comes from The Japan Times, who offered a few more details about the hydrogen fuel-cell car’s release. Apparently, Toyota will actually begin production about halfway through December so that they can have their first FCVs on showroom floors just in time for Christmas.

Toyota FCV Concept

For those of you who’re new to Toyota’s hydrogen fuel-cell hype train, the car that they’ll bring to market will be based on the Toyota FCV Concept (pictured above). If you’re willing to go back a ways, we saw the first iteration of the FCV Concept all the way back in 2011 as the FCV-R. The most recent, and most relevant, iteration of the FCV Concept was first seen at the 2013 Tokyo Auto Show last November.

What kind of amazing fuel economy can you expect from Toyota’s first hydrogen car? Its total driving range is estimated to be about 435 miles with a top speed of 106 mph. The hydrogen-powered electric motor will likely output something around 135 hp – the perfect amount for responsive city driving.

The production Toyota FCV will go on sale for roughly ¥8,000,000, which is around $78,000 for our US readers. However, Toyota doesn’t plan to keep its FCV-based vehicle priced that high for long: Prices will likely drop bit by bit over the next five or six years until the next FCV debuts for less than half the price of the original “in the 2020s”. Toyota specifically said they’d like to hit the ¥3,000,000 mark ($29,250), but ¥5,000,000 ($48,775) is a more realistic goal. At this price point Toyota feels it would be easy to boost sales and expand production capacity.

Speaking of production, Toyota hasn’t made any mention of where their FCV-based vehicle will, or won’t, first go on sale. Since the car will be manufactured at the Motomachi plant in the Toyota, Aichi Prefecture in Japan, we know it’ll be available there. However, Toyota hasn’t given us any recent updates about when and where the hydrogen car will make it onto international shores. We’re hoping it’ll be by the end of 2014, but nothing’s set in stone.

Really, the problem isn’t whether or not Toyota can manufacture enough hydrogen cars to meet a high international demand. The thing that would keep Toyota from offering a US or EU FCV is the lack of refueling infrastructure. Even in California, hydrogen refueling stations are few and far between. However, Toyota has shown that a comprehensive, nationwide hydrogen-refueling infrastructure would be 4x cheaper to build than the electric charging infrastructure that’d be necessary for the widespread use of EVs.

Either way, we’ll keep you updated as soon as we know more about where Toyota’s first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle will be available. In the meantime, we’re just glad that Toyota is moving ahead of schedule… We’d originally expected to see the first production FCV at Christmas of 2015, so Toyota is moving a full year faster than anticipated if they can manage to meet their December goal.


Toyota Confirms Annual Sales Goals for their 2015 Toyota FCV

Posted by Stephen On Friday, December 20th, 2013

2013 has been a monumental year for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. From Japanese automakers alone, we’ve had the three big names – Toyota, Nissan and Honda – all confirm that 2015 will be the year when we see the first FCVs. It was no surprise, then, when we saw hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles showcased at both the LA and Tokyo Motor Shows last month.

Even more unsurprisingly, Toyota remains at the forefront of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle development. And, while there’s still a lot we don’t know about the upcoming hydrogen cars, the Japanese titan is constantly shedding new light on this elusive subject.

For reference, the image at the top of this post is the Toyota FCV Concept we saw last month. Toyota expects the car to launch for somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000, likely leaning heavily towards the latter. They’ve said that at least $50,000 of the car’s price will be put towards the manufacture of the hyper-advanced powertrain.

Despite the 2015 Toyota FCV’s high price tag, Toyota stated this week that they expect annual sales to fall somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 units in 2016 and beyond. The statement comes from an interview between Automotive News Europe and Soichiro Okudaira, Toyota’s chief officer of R&D.

In the interview, Okudaira elaborated that he believes hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will become price competitive with other alternative zero-emissions vehicles (a.k.a. EVs) well before 2030. He said, “Beyond 2020 … Fuel cell cars will reconsider just one alternative of the eco-cars.” Accordingly, he claimed that Toyota expects sales of their FCV car(s) to increase exponentially in 2020 and beyond.

To say that the price of an entry-level FCV vehicle can fall from $100,000 to less than $20,000 in five years is certainly a bold claim to make. But, Toyota actually has the proof to back it up: If you look back to their 2007 demonstration vehicle, the powertrain cost 750,000 euros, or $1,030,800, to produce. In 2015, the same powertrain will only cost $50,000; that’s a 95% reduction over 8 years. If they could make a similar cost decrease happen between 2015 and 2020 , then a sub-$20,000 FCV around that time is feasible.

Of course, the first step is actually selling those hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. 5,000 to 10,000 units per year is a lofty goal when you consider that other manufacturers are setting their sights on 1,000 units per year and under. As they did with hybrids and the Prius, Toyota is looking to establish their hydrogen fuel-cell dominance early so they can reap the benefits for years to come. If history is any indication, selling tens of thousands of Toyota FCVs by 2020 is a very real possibility; especially if international governments cooperate in the introduction of hydrogen fueling stations.

Either way, it’s clear that Toyota is intent on making progress, and they’ve done a great job so far. The FCV Concept we saw in Tokyo looked great, and we’re sure that the new iterations we’ll undoubtedly see throughout 2014 will be even better. And, there’s at least one benefit of starting the car at ~$75,000 – there’s no way Toyota will release a bad-looking car at that price.


Honda FCEV Concept Confirmed for LA Auto Show

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Honda FCEV concept

While Toyota debuts their brand-new FCV Concept in Japan at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, Honda will premiere their own hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle next week at the 2013 LA Motor Show in the US.

Being that both motor shows open doors on almost exactly the same date (next Wednesday vs. next Friday), it seems that we’re poised to officially begin the race for hydrogen fuel-cell dominance in the automotive market. The Toyota FCV Concept that we saw last week looks extremely promising. As you continue reading, we’ll explore whether or not Honda’s FCEV Concept holds any of the same potential.

Introducing the Honda FCEV Concept

The image at the top of this page is, unfortunately, the only one that we currently have of the Honda FCV Concept. As you can see, it’s markedly less detailed and realistic than the images of Toyota’s FCV Concept published earlier last week. But, it’s enough to allow the vaguest of expectations to be set.

For instance, the image depicts what looks to be a very sporty coupe with lots of stylistic goodies – a low ride, muscular wheels, an aggressively wide-set grille, and an overall aerodynamic design.  According to Mike Accavitti, VP of American Honda, “The Honda FCEV Concept demonstrates the company’s vision for the future of personal mobility and our commitment to developing advanced alternative fuel vehicles.”

In other words, it looks like Honda is acutely aware that driving a hydrogen-powered vehicle is frustrating at a time when fueling stations are few and far between. So, you might as well have a lot of fun driving between them — and that’s where the FCEV Concept comes in. It’s high-performance with zero-emissions.

Honda FCV Concept Set for 2015 Production

Interestingly, Honda claims that they’re aiming to make the FCEV Concept production-ready by 2015. This is interesting for two reasons:

First, 2015 is the same year that Toyota has promised to launch the production-version of their FCV Concept. They’ve been saying this all year.

Second, in January of this year (2013) Honda said that they expected their first commercial fuel-cell vehicle to be in production by 2017, not 2015. And, at the time they were planning to work with Daimler and Ford to make that date happen. However, there’s no mention of either partner in Honda’s official press release detailing the FCEV concept’s debut. So, not only have they abandoned the collaboration with Daimler and Ford, they’ve also somehow moved up the FCEV’s projected production date!

Weird, huh? I guess those guys were slowing things down. Who’da thunk too many cooks could spoil the eco-friendly broth?

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to clarify anything else about the Honda FCEV Concept until next Friday when they pull the curtains off the metal version at the 2013 LA Motor Show. The only other particularly interesting vehicle that Honda will showcase in LA is the revised 2014 Honda Civic Coupe. So, come back after November 22nd for the real deal.

Until then, thanks for reading and check back soon for more low down on Japanese cars.


Toyota’s Tokyo Concepts Pt. 1 – The FCV Concept & FV2 Concept

Posted by Stephen On Friday, November 8th, 2013

If you’re wondering who’s going to make the most prolific appearance at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, look no further than Toyota. In addition to the Lexus concepts we discussed yesterday, they’ll be bringing seven new concepts under the main Toyota marquee, although a couple are just expanded editions of previous concepts.

Obviously, it would be very difficult to give that many concepts the thorough treatment they deserve if we tried to squeeze previews for all five into just one blog post. So, today we’re going to discuss the two most important concepts that Toyota is bringing to the show, and then we’ll cover the other slightly-less-important concepts tomorrow.

Sound good? Let’s get started…

Toyota FCV Concept

Toyota FCV Fuel Cell Concept Car at Tokyo Motor Show

What we have here is the long awaited Toyota FCV concept, which is officially the first hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle from Toyota. This concept previews a production model which Toyota intends to launch “around 2015”. According to Toyota, the concept actually boasts a driving range of approximately 500 km, about 310 miles, all with a refueling time similar to what you’d get from a regular gas-pump.

Practically speaking, the FCV Concept fits into the realm of family sedan. It seats four people with four doors, and the engine outputs a low-key 134bhp.

The exterior isn’t quite what you’d expect from a typical Toyota sedan, though. Apparently the FCV Concept’s design is inspired by a catamaran (the yachts with two hulls and a sail in between). That explains the almost wave-like feeling you get looking at the side of the vehicle. But, the design does more than just look good… It’s also very aerodynamic, which helps the concept achieve such incredible hydrogen fuel economy.

Toyota FV2 Concept

Toyota FV2 Concept at Tokyo Motor Show

Toyota’s next concept is an entirely unprecedented world premiere. In other words, we haven’t seen or heard anything about this concept until today when Toyota unleashed its preview images for the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show.

Officially called the Toyota FV2 concept, which will literally means “Fun Vehicle 2”, this is a concept which aims to connect perfectly with its driver. The exact words that Toyota used were “connecting with the driver’s heart”.

Apparently, the FV2 Concept accomplishes this intimate connection through its steering system, which doesn’t operate with a normal steering wheel. Instead, the driver will use their body weight to direct the FV2 while the vehicle contributes to the cause with automated safe-driving protocols and advanced warnings for blind spots. The car is advanced enough that it can actually measure your mood while you’re driving based on image recognition and an ability to “learn” your driving habits.

As you can see, these are two incredibly progressive concepts from Toyota. While we may never see anything like the FV2 in dealerships, the FCV Concept will be a production model in the not-so-distant future. In just a couple years’ time, Toyota aims to have their first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle on the market.

We can’t wait until doors officially open for the Tokyo Motor Show so that we can all learn more about these two concepts. In the meantime, stay tuned tomorrow for more information about the other concepts the world’s largest Japanese brand is bringing to its home-turf motor show.


New Daihatsu Kopen Concept Coming to the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

You may recall last week when we discussed the news that Daihatsu has plans to debut a new Copen concept at the upcoming 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. Well, this week we have official confirmation as to what that concept will be… In a somewhat unimaginative throwback to the original roadster, what you see below has been dubbed the Daihatsu Kopen Concept. With a K.

Daihatsu Kopen concept car - Tokyo Motor Show 2013

But, that’s not all. In addition to the blue version pictured above, Daihatsu also released images for green and orange versions, pictured below:

Daihatsu Kopen concept car in green - Tokyo Motor Show 2013

Daihatsu Kopen concept car in orange - Tokyo Motor Show 2013

As you can see, there are slight differences between the three different-colored concepts in addition to their respective hue.

For example, the green Kopen includes thick black styling around the wheelbase, and features a more angular grill and front clip design. Also notice that the green and orange versions have red-orange interior styling, while the blue version gets more conventional beige-colored seating.

All of this suggests that Daihatsu will showcase multiple Kopen concepts at the Tokyo Motor Show next month. It’s possible that each different color will represent a different set of features. For example, it might be that the sporty green Kopen will be the premium performance-oriented model, while the blue might feature a hybrid powertrain, and the orange might be the entry-level gas-only version.

Again, these are not intended to be accurate speculations; consider them as mere ideas to help you come to your own conclusions for what each color might mean.

If you want to learn more about the Copen-inspired Kopen Concepts, we have a more detailed post here. Unfortunately, there’s little more that we can tell you until either (A) Daihatsu releases more information ahead of Tokyo, or (B) Tokyo arrives and we see the cars “in the metal”.

In the meantime, we actually have further confirmation of two more Daihatsu concepts coming to the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show.

The FC凸DECK & Deca-Deca Concepts

Daihatsu FCDeck concept - Tokyo Motor Show 2013

This is probably one of the most uniquely designed concepts we’ve seen all year… Who would’ve guessed it’d come from Daihatsu? It looks more like something you would expect to see from …. Lego!

Unfortunately, all that Daihatsu told us is that this is a fuel-cell powered mini truck based on the FC Sho Concept from the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. However, we do know that the concept will also showcase its own freestanding power supply.

Looking at the design of the FC凸DECK Concept, it seems reasonable to assume that the power supplies are capable of slotting into the rear of the truck.

To go with the FC-Japanese-symbol-DECK (that’s actually the Japanese kanji for “convex”, not something from Tetris), Daihatsu will also showcase the Deca-Deca minivan (below) derived from the aforementioned mini truck. That means it’ll also probably be fuel-cell powered.

Daihatsu Deca-Deca concept van - Tokyo Motor Show 2013

See the thin grill between the headlights on this concept? Not that it matters, but it’d actually be really interesting to see that pattern adopted by a sports car. Just one writer’s opinion.

All in all, it’s looking like the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show will be a great showing for every Japanese car maker – even Daihatsu! It’s pretty unlikely that we’ll hear anything more about any of these concepts before Tokyo, but definitely stay tuned for further updates after November 22nd when they’ve all three made their official debut. Until then, thanks for reading!


Toyota Debuts Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Prototype to the Press

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Toyota FCV-R Concept

Last week, Toyota held a media-only event to show off its new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle prototype. In case you’ve forgotten, the finished production model of Toyota’s first ever FCV is set to launch next year as a 2015MY, and this prototype is one of the few peeks we’ve had at what to expect.  It’s the result of years and years’ worth of work for Toyota, and as you continue reading you’ll learn everything about their upcoming FCV that can be learned from this prototype debut.

The most significant new development is a hint towards the final FCV’s design.  We now know that the car will be a sedan built on the same chassis as was previously used by the Lexus HS 250h, which is now only available in Japan as the Toyota Sai. Aesthetically, we expect that the car will resemble the Toyota FCV-R Concept we originally saw in 2011, which was refreshed this year at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show.  Size-wise, expect a sedan similar in size to the Prius; bigger than a Corolla, but smaller than a Camry.

With the debut of the prototype, we also confirmed a bit more about the car’s unique powertrain mechanics.  For one, we know that the powertrain will output approximately 135 horsepower, which isn’t shabby at all.   Especially when you consider that the super-dense fuel cells Toyota has developed allow room for an almost-Leaf-sized electric battery to aid in acceleration, reportedly giving the car a plenty of “pluck”. As to exactly how efficient the production FCV will be, Toyota estimates that the car will drive 300+ miles on 11 pounds of H2.

Now the only problem is providing drivers with the means to get that 11 pounds of condensed hydrogen on a regular basis. After all, it’s not something you just brew up at home in your kitchen.

Fortunately, everybody knows that 2015 will be the year when a surge of FCVs hit the market, so government agencies and private companies are working furiously to ensure that hydrogen fueling stations are available when drivers start needing them. Just this week, California government officials confirmed that they’re now streamlining plans for a standardized fuel cell refueling infrastructure. So, California drivers, at least, are sure to enjoy plentiful H2.

Obviously, this is all very exciting as Toyota’s FCV literally has the power to transform the auto industry as we know it. Toyota will release their first fuel cell vehicle at a price that will allow it to compete with many of the most popular EVs – likely above $50K, but not by much.

The next major development for Toyota’s FCV will be at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show when the Japanese giant shows us a slightly augmented version of the prototype it showed journalists last week. Until then, stay tuned for any further updates, and as always, thanks for reading!


Honda and Toyota Getting More Aggressive With Hydrogen Fuel Cell Future

Posted by Stephen On Friday, July 5th, 2013

Hydrogen fuel cell cars have had a surprisingly controversial history. Ultimately, it comes down to a weird pseudo-rivalry between HFCs and EVs…

On the one hand, you have brands like Toyota who’ve been very aggressive from the start that H2 cars are the future of the automotive industry. They’ll cite the built-in advantages that come with hydrogen, such as gasoline-like range, more power, and a more convenient refueling time, in addition to zero-emissions and infinite renewability.

Honda hydrogen car

However, on the other hand you have brands like Tesla, who’s CEO swears that hydrogen technology is a dead-end, and that EVs will dominate the near future of the automotive world because of cheaper development costs and current technology.

Now, regular readers will know that we’ve talked quite a bit about the Nissan Leaf, as well as a couple other Japanese all-electric cars over the past few months. So, today we thought it’d be a good idea to check-in on the other side of the argument and identify where our favorite Japanese brands stand in their progress towards HFC viability. More specifically, we’re going to discuss two recent developments from Toyota and Honda.

Honda & GM’s Definitive Master Agreement

On Tuesday of this week, it was officially announced that Honda and GM would be partnering up with a brand-new “definitive master agreement to co-develop next-generation fuel-cell systems and hydrogen storage technologies.”

Quite a mouth-full. To give you a basic rundown of the press release, both GM and Honda recognize that to some degree, the skeptics are right. Hydrogen technology IS expensive, and development WILL take longer simply because of the complex nature of a viable H2 solution. So, the two powerhouse automakers are partnering up to share expertise, leverage economies of scale, and eventually utilize common manufacturing strategies.

Specifically, this master alliance aims to accelerate the development of a widespread refueling system, which stands as one of the biggest hurdles to the widespread use of hydrogen. One of the key ways they’ll do this is through improved hydrogen storage, which currently inhibits the acquisition of commercial hydrogen. Both automakers desire to implement these new technologies by 2020.

But, as promising as this new alliance sounds, there’s one Japanese brand that’s getting even more aggressive, and it’s doing so all by itself.

Toyota Bringing 2015 Lexus FCV-R to 2013 Tokyo Motor Show

Last week, Bloomberg filled us in on a few juicy details regarding Toyota’s promised 2015 hydrogen car. Since we haven’t heard very much about it up to this point, we’re pretty excited to delve a little deeper into Toyota’s plans.

So, here’s what we now know:

* Toyota’s first HFC vehicle will be a Lexus sedan
* It will cost between $50,000 and $100,000
* It will offer a range of 300 miles
* We will definitely see a concept at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show
* We might see a production model in 2014, labeled as a 2015MY

As you can see, the future is getting closer. These next five years seem like they’ll be make-or-break time for hydrogen advocates everywhere, as commercial production becomes more and more viable. 2020 will mark roughly 25 years of dedicated HFC development, depending on which brand you’re looking at, and if the cars aren’t getting competitive by then, chances are the technology really is a dead-end.

As always, thanks for reading, and we’d love to hear your own thoughts, comments and opinions below.

Sources: Autoblog Green, Bloomberg, Carscoops, Autoblog Green