The auto industry’s fuel cell mini-trend gained a bit more momentum recently, as Toyota Motor Corp. unveiled a close approximation of the hydrogen-powered car it plans to market in 2015.
Known as the Toyota FCV Concept, the car uses a smaller, more powerful fuel cell stack than its predecessors. It is also specifically styled with large air intakes and a sweeping profile to optimize the fuel cell theme. ”From this stage to production, there might be a few additional tweaks,” Toyota spokeswoman Katy Soto told Design News. “But we are revealing it now as a close representation of the production vehicle.”
Click on the Toyota FCV Concept car below to start the slideshow.
At this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota unveiled the FCV Concept, which it says will be a close representation of the fuel cell production vehicle due out in 2015. (Source: Toyota)
The concept car, introduced at the recent Tokyo Motor Show, has a driving range of about 300 miles and a refueling time of about three minutes at 70 MPa (about 10,000 psi). Toyota said that it also uses a high-efficiency boost converter to raise the voltage, making it possible to use fewer fuel cells and a smaller drive motor. The smaller stack also leads to lower costs, Toyota said.
Toyota isn’t talking about specific dates or production volumes yet, but it is steadfastly sticking to a timeframe calling for a 2015 rollout. The giant automaker is one of three companies to recently announce. At the Los Angeles Auto Show, Hyundai said its fuel cell-powered vehicle would reach California showrooms in July and Honda announced plans to bring a hydrogen-powered vehicle to market in 2015.
Industry analysts expect production and sales of the vehicles to be small -- about 4,000 annually by 2020, according to a recent study by Navigant Research. The big roadblocks to success are high cost, particularly of platinum-based fuel cells, and lack of infrastructure.
”In reality, the only existing infrastructure is in California and New York,” David Hurst of Navigant Research told us. “So there aren’t going to be huge numbers of vehicles, in part because the vast majority of consumers couldn’t drive them if they wanted to.”
That is quite a nice-looking car and its great to see these innovative designs for hydrogen-powered vehicles finally set to hit the mainstream. It's promising that three of the top car companies in the world will soon make them commercially available, even if there are still challenges ahead in terms of the technology and the numbers that will reach the market are small.
I know there are many people that will instantly point out what is not possible when looking at a new technology, but I'm always pleasantly surprised to see companies that are willing to put their new ideas to a road test. Even in failure, much more is learned from building a product than debating it.
I have to agree with tekochip, it is nice to see the technology put out for road testing. However, I think the plan for these manufacturers is to make a stable of zero emmisions compliant vehicles for the CA market so they can continue to sell a boatload of ICE vehicles. The EV would seem the most logical route given the number of models available. However, I think the EV line is flat lining until the battery range is extended or the charge time is significantly reduced. Therefore, the auto companies have to roll into another zero emission platform to get the numbers.
I also think this is kind of a marketing ploy. Nothing like driving something very few other people have makes people buy these things. Sort of like having the latest and greatest smart phone (though the comparison is weak, CA has lots of religous environmentalists who will spend cash on the latest and greatest).
By the way, is the fuel cell vehicle market also distorted with absurd tax subsidies? Will my tax dollar be helping people buy this car?
The second slide shows where the high pressure tanks will go. Hopefully, Toyota will learn from Tesla's experience and armor-plate the underside. Otherwise, puncturing a 70 MPa tank will make the Tesla battery fires look like mere sparks.
Can'n, one thing that concerns me about fuel cells is that they use platinum. This is a material that is very expensive and not very abundant (hence the high price). It is used in catalytic converters on cars today. We already have a problem with people cutting off the catalytic converters off of cars (mostly SUVs because they are easier to get to) for the platinum. I heard on the news recently that here in Naperville we had eight stolen in one day (night). This could become another problem as it will up the price dramatically.
naperlou, fuel cell cars don't need a catalytic converter at all and what platinum they use will presumably be buried so deep inside the bodywork that it will be impractical for thieves to steal the fuel cell.
GTOlover, I agree with your assessment of this just being a "ploy".
I've been following the saga of the Honda Civic GX natural gas car. Honda owned a controlling interest in Fuelmaker, a Canadian gas compressor and storage system for private use, so their GX customers could refuel their cars at home while the car was parked in the garage. Inexplicably, Honda suddenly forced Fuelmaker into bankruptcy in April 2009, leaving their GX owners stranded. Some have improvised to keep their cars going, but it's been tough. If they happen to live close to a UPS depot or a PG&E CNG refueling station, they can refuel their cars there, but that's impractical for the vast number of Californians who live 30 or more miles from a refueling factility. The only conclusion I could draw from these events was that American Honda Motor Company imported and sold these vehicles in the California market for the sole purpose of barely meeting the state quota for zero-emissions and low-emissions vehicles so they could continue to sell their regular gasoline-powered vehicles.
Given the history of how Honda deceived their own loyal California customers, I would view Toyota's move into fuel cell vehicles with suspicion, especially something powered by hydrogen, for which there is no fuel distribution infrastructure whatsoever.
Andrew P., I am not worried about fuel cell vehicles. What worries me is current conventional vehicles. It will be a while before fuel cell vehicles will be available in any number. On the other hand, once they do become available it might still be tempting to steal them for the metals. It will have to be seen what the situation is then.
There are lots of ideas that look "cool" until one etracts his slide rule from his rectum, so let's do so.
Hydrogen doesn't just squirt out of a hole in Texas, nor even from some country we might conquer. We have to get it by electrolyzing water. Thus hydrogen is an energy storage medium, rather than a primary source.
Electrolysis is about 65% efficient. Then you lose perhaps 10% compressing the gas, and then the fuel cell is only about 55% efficient, especially if it is made compact enough to fit under the hood. Thus the "round trip" efficiency from electricity to hydrogen and back is only about 33% (1/3). Heck, even the "good old" lead battery gets about 85%.
Hydrogen is great for filling buoyant balloons, welding specialty metals, and talking in a funny voice, but not for driving your car to work and back.
California’s plan to mandate an electric vehicle market isn’t the first such undertaking and certainly won’t be the last. But as the Golden State ratchets up for its next big step toward zero-emission vehicle status in 2018, it might be wise to consider a bit of history.
By now, most followers of the electric car market know that another Tesla Model S caught fire in early February. The blaze happened in a homeowner’s garage in Toronto. After parking the car, the owner left his garage. Moments later, the smoke detector blared, the fire department was called, and the car was ruined. To date, no one knows why.