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.”
But the battery problems, and there are many, include weight to range ratio or energy density per pound and time to recharge. In trying to compete with the internal combustion engine, the all electric vehicle can't cut it for mileage between refueling, time to refuel or low temperature performance. The battery IS the issue.
Fuel cells have the potential to solve those problems for electric vehicles as might some future re-chargeable battery technology which is not here yet.
"If it wasn't for Energy Sec Chu, research would be much further along. He love of pure electric and powered from the grid just about ruined the future of vehicle fuel in America."
You do have to ask yourself which way to go for alternative fuel and more importantly why. Just to say too bad hydrogen got cut is not the reply. Is hydrogen the absolute best way to go and why. We know ethanol is not the way to go. We pushed that for a long time (other than farmers) in the wrong direction. Hydrogen has the big problem of limited resource on platinum and efficiency.
So you got:
electric->hydrogen->electric->motor for hydrogen.
electric->battery->motor for battery.
Battery can be very efficiency if you are in the middle of the charge range.
Answer to why not burn hydrogen in an engine instead of catalyst. If you burn the hydrogen, you are using heat to extract mechanical energy out of it. With heat extraction, you run into limits of thermaldynamic efficiency. Like most cars are around 20%.
With catalyst, you are extracting energy from hydrogen directly at a lower temperature without burning. Energy is in form of electricity. You skip the heat generation that results in thermaldynamic inefficiency. From electric to motor is usually up to 90% or more efficient.
@bdcst, the inexpensive way to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen has been around for many years, and it produces them at about ambient pressure. The expensive part is in boosting the pressure up to the level needed to fill the tanks at 5000PSI or more, while also removing the water vapor. So the whole system is complex and quite expensive. In addition, the additional power draw from the grid is no small challenge. Just like the plug-in electric vehicles, one is no problem, but when everybody on the block gets one there is a big problem.
And as for just running an ICE off the hydrogen, the problem there is the lower efficiency. Hydrogen fuel ICE vehicles have been done experimentally for many years, but they have always been excessivly expensive, and way to complex for mass production.
Now a fuel cell that could run on methane or propane directly would be a real achievement, except that it would probably need an expensive catalyst. And around this part of the country people are getting caught stealing catalytic converters every week, so I am certain that fuel cells would quickly become a target as well. which would really discourage their use.
Mention hydrogen baloons or airship and everyone runs for cover thinking about the Hindenberg. Mention electric cars and people run for cover because batteries caught on fire on Teslar. Now here we have hydrogen car at 10,000 psi and nobody even thinks about accidents. Hydrogen is the smallest particle in the universe. That means it escapes easily from lines and seals. They burn in air at mixture of 45% to 96%. Widest range of mixture next to acetylene. Park in a garage and leakage will collect in the roof. Hydrogen takes very low energy to ignite. 1/10 that of gas. Even an invisible static spark from a person is enough to ignite it. You are going to blow the roof off the house.
Lastly, fuel cell is unsustainable because price of platinum is already sky hight. Is a matter of time before China implement emission control after half the people suffocate just like Los Angeles in the 60's. Yup, we use to burn garbage in the backyard in LA until smog started to burn people's lungs. Once China implement emission control, there will be platinum war. Do we really want to jump from one scarce resource like oil to another even more scarce like platinum. Points to think about.
I'm confused, so perhaps I'm missing something here. The last time I looked it up, pure hydrogen had an octane rating of 114; perfect for a small, high compression ICE. So why not just feed the compressed hydrogen to an ICE and ignite it?
Fuel cell or ICE, it's still a zero emissions vehicle, so why is it subject to any kind of MPG target? Or is that just government logic?
It just seems that running an ICE directly on hydrogen would be more efficient than recycling it through an expenseve fuel cell to run an electric motor.
Yes, the refueling infrastructure is the biggest issue for hydrogen powered vehicles. I see two economic issues. First, designing a fuel cell stack that uses a less expensive catalyst than platinum. Second, developing high efficiency, inexpensive technology to convert water and electricity into hydrogen. The latter would permit vehicle owners to produce and store their own fuel, preferrably using off peak electricity overnight to do so.
I suppose one could boost the storage and conversion efficiency of the hydrogen electric cycle by also capturing oxygen and running the fuel cell stack on pure O2 rather than relying upon ambient air supply. However, additional weight of an oxygen tank and the costs associated with safe handling might negate that approach.
It comes down to the delivery mode, energy density of the fuel and conversion efficiency into locomotion. Pick your poison!
If it wasn't for Energy Sec Chu, research would be much further along. He love of pure electric and powered from the grid just about ruined the future of vehicle fuel in America. In Japan and Europe the infrastructure to support fuel cell cars has being built for a few years now. Finally, we are seeing the fuel cell once again become a serious player in research funding.
Actually I seem to recall hearing about the potential for hydrogen-powered cars for many years, and it's really good we're finally starting to see them now. I would've thought we'd be further along by now, but to change market perception and to develop viable technology takes time. These designs and the support of these major manufacturers has great promise, as you mention, Debera.
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.