In his talk at the 2014 J.P. Morgan Auto Conference in New York, Bob Carter, Toyota Motor Sales (USA) Senior Vice President, Automotive Operations said that the company in spending an average of more than $1 million an hour this year on R&D. Carter said that a prime example of the R&D focus is the hydrogen fuel cell sedan to be launched to the public in California next summer (earlier post) and, he suggested, thereafter to the East Coast.
Toyota’s basic stance on hydrogen is that fuel cell vehicles, in addition to offering high total energy (well-to-wheel) efficiency, are extremely versatile, with a long cruising range and a short fueling time. Carter noted that Toyota has reduced the cost of the fuel cell powertrain by 95% , and is confident it can reduce the cost further.
That leaves the issue of the hydrogen infrastructure, which, as Toyota has said often recently, needs to be developed.
In his talk, Carter acknowledged that US DOE estimates put the cost of hydrogen fuel initially higher than gasoline, but said that longer term the cost will come down and be more economical.
Based on those numbers, we estimate that to fill our fuel cell sedan to go 300 miles initially will cost about $50 and then go down to about $30. So our fuel cell vehicle is not only better for the environment, it may also be more economical to operate than conventional cars. In short, of all the advanced powertrain systems we have in our portfolio, we see hydrogen fuel cells as being THE no-compromise, primary-option vehicle for the next 100 years.—Bob Carter
Working with the University of California, Toyota has modeled specific locations that will result in a 6-minute drive to a station for most owners. As a result, Toyota believes that just 68 stations will handle a population well in excess of 10,000 fuel cell vehicles.
The state of California has earmarked $200 million to build at least 100 new stations by 2024, with 40 of them to go online by the end of 2016. Toyota plans to help kick-start infrastructure through collaboration with regulators, energy providers and academia.
The company is putting up $7.2 million and entering into financial arrangements with First Element Energy and Linde LLC to support the long-term operation and maintenance expenses of new hydrogen refueling stations in California.
News about the East Coast may be coming in the future, Carter suggested.
This commitment to the fueling structure is “unprecedented” in automotive history, but we believe it’s a vital investment in the future. Today, we’re on the cusp of the “automotive hydrogen age”...so this is the chance to get in the ground floor on what we strongly believe will be the “Car of the Future”.—Bob Carter