Toyota is planning to launch a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle in the next few years. The company has been showing off the concept vehicle, the FCV-R, at some recent auto shows.
Making the rounds
Toyota has been making the rounds with is its hydrogen fuel cell concept car, the FCV-R. It was recently shown at the North American International Auto Show, also known as the Detroit Auto Show, according to USA Today. It also was displayed at the Tokyo Auto Show in December.
Toyota, according to USA Today, hopes to have the car on the road by 2015. Other automakers are planning hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for entry into the market by that time. For instance, according to the Financial Times, General Motors has more than 100 fuel cell vehicles in testing in the United States and Europe and hopes to have its fuel cell cars available by 2016. According to Wired, Mercedes-Benz also plans to have an FCV available by 2015, along with Toyota and Honda.
Electric with no batteries
Fuel cell vehicles, or FCVs, differ from electric cars like the Nissan Leaf in that FCVs don’t use stored energy in batteries for power; everything else is the same. The power, according to the Energy Information Administration, comes from hydrogen stored in tanks being mixed with oxygen, drawn from the air, in a fuel cell. The subsequent reaction is a process called electrolysis, which produces an electrical current, which powers the car. No emissions are produced, and the only byproduct is a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen (water).
The Toyota FCV-R, according to The Telegraph, has two hydrogen tanks, one mounted underneath the rear passenger seats and the second underneath the trunk, where the fuel cell is located. It has, according to AutoBlog, a driving range of about 435 miles.
FCVs have a range that battery-powered electric cars aren’t currently capable of. Refueling costs are lower than gas and hydrogen is a much more abundant element than oil. The only commercially available FCV right now is the Honda Clarity, according to MSNBC. The Clarity can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 10 seconds and go 280 miles without refueling, similar to a gas-powered sedan. In 2008, it cost $25 to fill it with hydrogen, less than half the cost of gasoline. It gets the equivalent of 61 miles per gallon.
Of course, there are downsides. The first hurdle is cost. The Clarity costs $600 per month to lease, more than Chevy charges to lease a Corvette. The Toyota FCV-R, according to Engadget, would cost $125,000 as it is. According to Wired, Toyota aims to be able to sell its FCV for less than $50,000. The second problem is infrastructure. In the United States, there were only 15 hydrogen stations in four states and Washington, D.C., in 2008, according to MSNBC. The EIA states there are only 68 at present.
Energy Information Administration: http://www.eia.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=hydrogen_home-basics