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Toyota Concerned About Market Viability of Plug-ins, Sees Clear Path to Commercialization of Fuel Cell Technology in 2015

Based on its 15 years of experience with advanced battery technology and the now-mainstream Prius, Toyota has key unanswered questions regarding market acceptance of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles and who the target buyers—in numbers sufficient to meet California ZEV mandates—might be, according to Michael O’Brien, Toyota’s US corporate manager for advanced technology vehicle planning. O’Brien was speaking at the California Air Resources Board’s ZEV Technology Symposium in Sacramento, California.

As Toyota learned with the introduction of the Prius and its efforts on the 2002 RAV4 EV, O’Brien said, it is difficult to force technology adoption by consumers. The current state of market readiness of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles presents serious challenges, particularly in mass production, given issues including range; cost; a charging time still longer than a conventional gasoline refueling; a broad variation in battery pack life, and the lack of infrastructure. “Creating consumer demand for mandated advanced technology vehicles will require substantial government engagement at all levels.

California first adopted its Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) regulation in 1990 as part of the Low Emission Vehicle Program. Modified several times since, it establishes required sales levels for a range of very low and zero-emissions vehicles. The California ARB is in the process of redesigning its Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program to affect the 2015+ model years, with a focus on reducing greenhouse gases as well as criteria pollutants, and with an emphasis on plug-in hybrid, electric and fuel cell vehicles. (Earlier post.)

We are convinced that to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles anywhere near the overall target of 80%...we are going to need extremely low carbon emitting vehicles...the answer to when we are going to need these vehicles s probably sooner and quicker, so its going to be within the next decade, and that’s going to create a substantial challenge...we need to have multiple technologies in the future and not be tied to one like we are to gasoline now...Some of them may not be successful in the commercial marketplace, but it is unlikely that we will just have one.

—Tom Cackette, ARB Chief Deputy Executive Officer, at the ZEV Symposium

O’Brien and Toyota sounded a more cautious note than Brian Verprauskus from Nissan, who discussed Nissan’s LEAF vehicle and program; David Patterson from Mitsubishi on the i-MiEV; and JB Straubel from Tesla Motors. Tesla has its EVs in the market, Nissan and Mitsubishi are poised to enter their EVs in the US soon.

Prius best embodies Toyota’s philosophy on advanced vehicle technology—for vehicles to become true solutions to our climate change and environmental challenges, they must be mass market solutions. It is not enough to build niche vehicles that only a few can afford to buy or fulfill only a small subset of customer needs. We believe at Toyota that hybrids have successfully passed the threshold into the early mass market, perhaps the first advanced [vehicle] technology to achieve that goal. It is this experience and the lessons we have learned from it that shapes and grounds everything we do in the advanced technology vehicle areas.

—Michael O’Brien

Toyota has collected extensive data using hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles in real-world testing, matching conditions seen in day-to-day use, O’Brien said. This experience has convinced Toyota of three things, he said:

  1. NiMH batteries appear to be the best choice for conventional hybrid vehicles for some time to come.

  2. The higher energy density of lithium batteries will be required for EVs and plug-in hybrids. Cost will remain an issue for years to come, and will not be offset by large scale mass production volumes.

    In addition, compared to conventional hybrid vehicles, batteries for EVs and PHEVs will be exposed to very severe usage conditions and wide swings in state of charge. As a result, packs for plug-in hybrids and EVs will have a relatively broader life variation range than packs in conventional hybrids. For this reason, Toyota believes that customers may need to consider replacement of the original battery during the vehicles life, adding in an additional cost factor.

  3. While Toyota is making its best effort with Li-ion to meet broader expectations and societal goals with EVs and PHEVs, there is a need for a battery beyond Li-ion capable of higher energy density, lower cost, and more stable lifetime performance.

Within the context of technical issues, let’s consider the market. In the end, our success of failure will be decided by the customer. All of us at Toyota are committed to technological development to realize sustainable mobility, but we believe it is important to take not just one path, but to base our approach on the concept of the right car at the right place at the right time, in accordance with customer needs and emerging and available energy resources.

The ARB 2015 [ZEV] vision has a trajectory of advanced technology vehicle deployment that is steep early on. However, we believe that front-loading large scale mass production will be very challenging. We can draw on our Prius experience to understand how on consumers adopt new technology, products and the length of time required to achieve mass market acceptance.

—Michael O’Brien

Toyota launched the Prius in June 2000, and for the first four years, the buyers were a small segment of innovators and early adopters. It took 8 years for Prius to achieve the same level of purchase intention as Camry and Civic, O’Brien said, and it wasn’t until the introduction of the Gen 2 Prius, with improvements in size, comfort, and fuel economy that Prius grew beyond niche volumes.

Even with Prius, Toyota sees wide variation in natural demand from state to state. Prius volumes in California are nearly twice the level of the next highest state. Fewer than half of the current states which have also adopted California ZEV rules are currently in the top 10 list for Prius sales.

We believe the variation [in natural demand] exists because there are regional differences in importance in buying an environmentally friendly vehicle or fuel efficiency...it is likely to be a serious challenge to meet [ZEV] mandate targets outside California. In Florida, nearly half of our hybrid sales would have to be plug-ins to meet the objective. Issues related to plug-in suitability across the US will compound the problems.

—Michael O’Brien

O’Brien also referenced a recent Synovate study that found the average additional amount consumers would pay for 15-20 miles of electric range is $1,700—far below the cost of batteries that deliver that kind of range. The large study of Li-ion plug-in hybrids that Toyota is launching in January is part of Toyota’s efforts to determine the ideal balance between all-electric range and selling price, while taking into consideration vehicle lifetime greenhouse gas reduction and consumer usage patters.

Battery electric vehicles, said O’Brien, with their even large battery packs, amplify the market challenges: larger price premiums, more severe limitations in range, durability, usage, climate restrictions and inconvenience. “The appeal of electric vehicles is likely limited to shorter urban use,” he said.

O’Brien noted that Toyota’s work on fuel cell technology has advanced rapidly over the past few years. A recent test with a Highlander Fuel Cell Vehicle achieved a range of 431 miles on a single fill of compressed hydrogen, representing fuel consumption of 68.2 miles/kg. This is twice the fuel economy of a current gasoline Highlander hybrid, O’Brien said, adding that “Toyota sees a clear path to the commercial introduction of fuel cell vehicles by 2015. We believe that hydrogen and fuel cells have a potential to significantly reduce the environmental impact of the automobile.

The company’s primary concerns with this technology are the fueling infrastructure and further lowering the cost.

From our RAV4 EV and Prius experience, we learned that consumers will not adopt a new technology unless it is better in every way than what is available, and that anecdotal evidence of robust markets is not a substitute for true market acceptance.

Toyota made a huge marketing and sales effort of nearly nine thousand [dollars] per unit for the 2002 RAV4 EV to sell, including an attractive lease payment equivalent to that of a Prius at that time. But, RAV4 EV sales did not exceed several hundred units in total. We also learned that if consumers are disappointed because technology is unsuitable, it could hamper introduction of new technologies in the future.

Major challenges still face plug-ins in terms of product readiness for market and the state of technology. Longer term shifts in consumers values, new frugality, may delay technology adoption by many consumers. These suggest that there is a limited natural market for plug-in vehicles, and that strong incentives will be needed to push demand to the higher levels, and to address challenges regarding battery technology, cost and suitability.

—Michael O’Brien

In addition to government incentives to reduce the cost differential, O’Brien also suggested other measures such as providing a safety net for battery pack replacement, a focus on ensuring an adequate refueling/recharging infrastructure before mandating large volumes, state funding for fleet purchases, and further individual incentives such as single-occupant HOV access.

Comments

nordic

Here's what I think is their real concern: the vehicle becoming an appliance, needing little maintenance, lasting far longer than we are used to. So no need to trade in every few years. A pure electric vehicle needs no oil changes, no tune ups, little or no brake work, etc. It was recently revealed that Pruis battery packs have a realistic life of 300,000 miles.
If a plug in electric starts out with 100 mile range it would be more than adequate for a large majority of motorists-and upgrades are feasible through the life of the vehicle.

Will S

I believe the RAV4 EV sales were low because it was an SUV, which is anathema to those concerned about fuel efficiency and consumption (e.g., coal is the number 1 source of electricity in the US).

Note the spike in sales of hybrids (especially Prius) during the 2008 gas price run-up. Expect to see that again in the not too distant future.

Fuel cells will have to overcome not only price and durability, but the inefficiency of the hydrogen conversion process itself.

HarveyD

It seems obvious that Toyota would like to do the transition one (10-year) step at a time to offset development and marketing cost. That's how car manufacturers have operated for the last century.

their first step with HEVs (until 2015?), effective mass production/sales 2005 - 2015)

their second step with improved lithium PHEVs (2015 - 2025?)

their third step with post-lithium BEVs (2025 - 2035?)

Some of the ways to accellerate the transition (i.e. to shorthen each step) would be (1) with government financial incentives such as loans or subsidies. 2) with government (California style) GHG reduction regulations. 3) with progressive much higher taxes on liquid fuel.

A proper dosage of all three methods could even do better.

fred schumacher

Toyota's experience with the Prius will not help it much for developing a PHEV. A parallel hybrid is an evolutionary dead end, retaining the cost, complexity and weight of an IC drivetrain while adding same electrically.

The issue of cost reinforces the primary problem of automotive fuel efficiency design: morphology. We're using the wrong tool for the task. When nearly 90% of vehicle miles occur with only the driver inside, the standard morphology producing a 4,000 pound vehicle moving a 200 pound payload is the wrong solution. Radical downsizing will achieve efficiency goals without reducing utility in most cases.

The achilles' heel of fuel cells that never gets talked about is winter performance. There are two problems: one, limited cold weather performance and two, emissions of low temperature water vapor. At temperatures below freezing, a fleet of fuel cell cars will coat roads, sidewalks and vehicles with glare ice. This is why fuel cell activity has been primarily relegated to southern California with its mild climate. At my home in northern Minnesota, a fuel cell car would be unusable nearly half the year.

HarveyD

Good points Fred.

Between complex immature Fuel Cell technology + associated Hydrogen distribution problems and future immature e-storage on-board units with exsting electicity supply; the final choice (in my humble opinion) will be the BEVs.

One problem remains with both technologies. Everybody expects the same or better performace, range, endurance, cost, speed, accelleration etc than with the 120 years old ICE technology. First or even second generation BEVs or FC vehicles may not achieve what ICE vehicles took 120 years to develop.

Sometime during the transition period (20 to 40 years) BEVs will certainly progress far beyond current ICE vehicles. Like with horses and buggies, many will try to hold on to their noisy, dirty, polluting ICE gas guzzlers. That generation will pass or completely fade away by 2030/2050.

Could the water produced by the on-board FC be temporarily stored (on-board) and be released in the garage or used to wash the car, water plants etc.?

kelly

By 2002 GM had crushed the EV1's, spent a $100 million buying/reversing CARB laws, and sold the RAV4 traction battery(EV95-NiMH) patents to Chevron Oil.

Chevron filed/won EV scale NiMH patent suits and the RAV4 had no batteries: http://www.ev1.org/

Nordic may have hit the nail, "Here's what I think is their real concern: the vehicle becoming an appliance, needing little maintenance, lasting far longer than we are used to."

If other words, fear of killing the ICE/hybrid Golden Goose.

fred schumacher

Re: "Could the water produced by the on-board FC be temporarily stored (on-board)"

Yes, I think water would have to be sequestered on board for winter use. One kg H2 (one gallon gasoline energy equivalence) would produce 18 kg. water, about 5 gallons by volume. To allow for 300 mile range at 75 miles per kg. H2, 20 gallons of onboard, heated and insulated water storage would be needed.

Re: "the vehicle becoming an appliance, needing little maintenance"

Electric vehicles will still require lots of maintenance. There are the usual wearing parts: brakes, tires, shocks, struts, ball joint/tie rod ends. IC engines have become very reliable. What has become less reliable on vehicles is, ironically, electronics. Fuel cells are so complex that repairs on them will make today's repairs seem child's play.

Greg Blencoe

Fred,

You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Here are the facts regarding the two points you mentioned:

1. Cold weather performance of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Honda FCX Clarity, Toyota FCHV-adv, and Kia Borrego hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can operate in extremely cold temperatures

Here is an excerpt from a Canada.com article that was published today:

“The V Flow’s other breakthrough seems so simple in hindsight. Conventional fuel cell stacks lie horizontally in the vehicle, which consumes valuable space. The V Flow stack stands vertically between the FCX’s front seats. Reorienting the stack not only reduced its space requirement, it eliminated a major drawback: When the fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen (to produce electricity), it also produces water that needs to be drained. During the winter months, any water left within the fuel cell at shut down freezes which renders the fuel cell useless. The V Flow uses gravity to rid the cell of the water. This twist also allows the fuel cell to be started at -30 C, meaning it’s capable of working just about anywhere in the world, including northern Canada.”

Furthermore, the Toyota FCHV-adv hydrogen fuel cell vehicle which was released in June 2008 and gets 516 miles of driving range can also operate in temperatures as low as minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 30 degrees Celsius).

Moreover, the Kia (Hyundai) Borrego which was released last November and gets 426 miles of driving range can also operate in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius.

http://hydrogendiscoveries.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/honda-fcx-clarity-and-toyota-fchv-adv-hydrogen-fuel-cell-vehicles-can-operate-in-extremely-cold-temperatures/

2. Emissions of water vapor

There are water emissions from cars today that have internal combustion engines. How do those water emissions compare with ones that come from fuel cell vehicles? The U.S. Department of Energy says in the following link that:

“Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles emit approximately the same amount of water per mile as vehicles using gasoline-powered internal combustion engines.”

http://hydrogendiscoveries.wordpress.com/2008/02/25/hydrogen-myth-fuel-cell-vehicles-will-create-permanently-slippery-dangerous-roads/

Greg Blencoe
Chief Executive Officer
Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
"Hydrogen Car Revolution" blog

HarveyD

Resistance to change is a very common human trait. Very few human really wants to unset the cart. We like what we became accustomed to.

PHEVs and BEVs will require almost as much maintenance because current ICE drive trains are mostly touble free.

Electric ancillary units may eventually require less maintenance than the current mechanical units, but it may not neccessary be so during the first generation.

It will years for garage mechanics to become proficient and many may never go through the transition successfully. Older mechanics will resit more and be difficult to retrain.

Jim

I don't know why the Gov't can spend Billions on "Cash for Clunkers" but can't get Chevron to release its NiMH patents. I'm all for capitalism, but there is also a notion of eminent domain when it's in the country's best interest.

The hybrids and PHEVs represent the camel's nose sneaking back into the EV tent. PHEVs are probably the long-term better solution anyway, so Chevron may have only delayed the inevitable.

I wonder how much GM got for those NiMH patents? Probably not enough. If they had held onto them, then they'd be paid for every Toyota hybrid built and maybe instead the oil companies would have been in trouble....

Arne

Toyota have made every effort to make the Prius no worse than an ordinary car, following their dogma: 'consumers will not adopt a new technology unless it is better in every way than what is available'. But the Prius is still a gasoline car, offering no real advantages other than the low fuel consumption. The strategy that worked for a hybrid may not work as well for an EV.

I am afraid that by focusing too much on creating a vehicle without any drawbacks, they will miss out on the one with huge advantages.

We'll see who's right. I have a feeling my next car will not be a Toyota.

kelly

Greg Blencoe,

I want to buy a fuel cell car. What is the price?

HealthyBreeze

If we posit that Fuel Cells will cost less than $10K someday, and produce the 30 to 50 Kw necessary for sustained highway or hill driving...then, in theory they ought to get 2-3x the number of miles per liter of liquid fuel as an ICE. Ok. Swell.

If we posit that BEV battery pack will cost less than $10K someday, and hold the 60-100 KwH needed to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and recharge to at least 50% in 5 minutes at a recharge station, then they will probably go 3-4x the number of miles per liter of liquid fuel burned at a co-generation power plant.


I like BEV better for maturing first, and having a more efficient well-to-wheels system.

There's a great illustration on NanoSolar's Blog page, http://www.nanosolar.com/company/blog for Aug. 7, 2008, where they compare how far you can go on the biodiesel produced on 1 hectare of land in a year vs the solar power produced on the same land area. They suggest biodiesel could take you 21,500 Km, whereas photovoltaic could take you 3,250,000 Km. 2 orders of magnitude is pretty compelling...and we already know how to distribute electricity better than H2.

HarveyD

Good point Healty B.

Sanyo just came out with a new ultra thin, 23% capture efficiency, solar cell, with half the costly material. This could translate into much lower cost per watt in the near future.

Using those new cheaper more efficient solar cells for your example, the already extremely wide gap between solar e-power and biofuel production would be wider yet.

With cheaper more efficient solar cells + e-storage units, Sun derived e-power may very well become the cheapest most reliable source of electricity for electrified nations during the current decade. Desert ensused sunny land, large roofs etc will certainly increase in value.

fred schumacher

Greg Blencoe

Where I come from -30C is not considered cold. It's only the beginning temperature for what is considered getting cold. It can be colder than -30C at any time between mid-November and end of March and colder than that for long periods of time. Even in southern Minnesota, -30C can happen anytime in December, January and February. If that is the lowest fuel cell cars can get to, it's not a functional form of year-round propulsion for New England, the upper Midwest, the Intermountain and the Northern Plains.

Yes, fuel cell cars would emit about the same water vapor as ICEs, however, ICEs emit that vapor at much higher temperatures. Even so, on cold days, black ice will form at stop lights from vehicles idling while waiting for the light to change. Fuel cell low-temp water vapor released into the atmosphere directly will be like running a tanker truck down the highway spraying a fine mist everywhere.

You may know more about fuel cells than I do, but I think I may know more about cold weather.

kelly

Greg Blencoe,

I want to buy a fuel cell car. What is the price.

I'm asking again. Fuel cells went to space before 1969. The 1974 CitiCar battery EV was $4,495 USD. I've been paying taxes during the decades and billions of tax funded fuel cell (FC) research since.

The only FC vehicle I've found for sale is a 1 hp materials handler for $16,900: http://www.oorjaprotonics.com/index.php

ARE YOU ASHAMED TO SAY THE EV FUEL CELL CAR PRICE IS STILL $100,000's USD? ....ing lies.

Roger Pham

Toyota's considerable experience with real-life automotive battery systems should be a very credible voice in this debate.

The Prius (parallel hybrid) is on to something big: very high fuel efficiency. The Atkinson-cycle engine in the Prius is capable of ~39% thermal efficiency at peak. If the Prius is to have a hydrogen-optimized ICE, the peak thermal efficiency would be >50%. The very fast combustion rate of H2 in even very lean mixture allows for more mechanical energy extraction from exhaust gas, couple with cooler combustion and rapid combustion, further reduces combustion heat loss and allowing increase in fuel efficiency . So, if the current Prius is capable of 50 mpg, the hydrogen-Prius would be capble of 50mpg x 50/39 = >64 mpg potential, which is almost FC territory.

I'm afraid that your point is moot, Fred, since the higher exhaust temp of ICE will release water as a vapor when H2 is used in an ICE.

Hydrogen is the straightest path to carbon-free, renewable-energy transportation in the foreseable future, pending Lithium-Air battery chemistry, which may be a complete game changer in itself. Starting installing more solar PV's and more wind turbines in order to harnest excess renewable electricity to make H2.

fred schumacher

"I'm afraid that your point is moot, Fred, since the higher exhaust temp of ICE will release water as a vapor when H2 is used in an ICE."

The issue is not moot. An ICE burning H2 will release high-temperature water vapor. A fuel cell combining H2 with O2 will release low-temperature water vapor and fine water droplets, a quite different situation. Dennis Simanaitis of Road and Track magazine describes this phenomenon while driving the chase car behind a Toyota FCHV on the Alcan Highway:

"At one point the RAV4 is out of windshield washer fluid, but FCHV puts out a fine — and pure! — mist uphill. A brief tailgating solves the problem." ("Fuel-Cell Records: Fairbanks to Vancouver" Road and Track, January, 2008 http://www.roadandtrack.com/article.asp?section_id=36&article_id=6199&print_page=y

That "fine and pure mist" is a serious problem for winter driving and needs to be addressed if fuel cells will ever get past the hyper-expensive development stage and into general usage.

Henry Gibson

One company has a contract with the military to get water out of diesel exhaust.

H2 from solar PV's and windturbines is very expensive. The electricity from PV should be used to charge efficient batteries at far higher efficiency.

Get the highest energy density deep cycle lead batteries as TZERO once did and form them into a large battery with somewhat less than the voltage of the Prius battery. Get a boost voltage regulator to charge the Prius battery from the lead battery. Then get a buck voltage regulator to charge the lead battery from the Prius battery. These regulators can be quite simple. With a slightly different set up, Ron Gremban of CALCARS invented a similar operation with a simple relay. This sytem can allow cheap lead batteries to have a fairly long life in a Prius and give an all electric range of 20 miles or more. Firefly and EFFPOWER can make even lighter weight lead batteries.

One hundred kilograms of ML3X ZEBRA cells and case will give you 50 miles or more of full electric range in a Prius with the above system. The amount of energy that can be regenerated on a long down hill is doubled at least and some of it can be used to make the internal cells even hotter for heat storage. If a Prius owner fails to plug in the ZEBRA battery heater for three or four days and the battery is disabled, the standard Prius hybrid function is still available, and the battery can be designed to bring it back into operation quickly with regenerated or direct power from the generator.

TZERO proved ten years ago that lithium batteries or better ones were not needed for electric cars and that lead batteries could be made to work. EFFPOWER design batteries could replace even the nickel metal hydride batteries now in a Prius for less cost, even if they had to be replaced every three years.

The Prius is not anywhere near an engineers design for an inexpensive car. It is a combination of interesting designs that people thought appropriate. And there were quite a few buyers of this piece of automotive art. Just like people will buy a big fancy house.

First cheaper design point. A single piston is all that is needed for a range extender. It can be operated in three modes: high efficiency, high power, or off.

Second cheaper design point. The gear shifting and fancy gear systems can be eliminated if you have figured out how to use a large electric motor at all. Think of diesel-electric locomotives.

Third cheaper design point: if the vehicle is cheap enough it will sell in some market. The market for plug-in-hybrids is the car which makes short trips most of the time, or is used within a city. The average efficient output of the range extender will allow an infinite range of low speed city driving without delays due to low vehicle speeds. It will also allow full operation above the minimum speed on most motorways.

Fourth cheaper design point. Any hybrid type operation allows greater efficiency because a smaller more efficient engine can be used in a more efficient range.

Do not forget George Constantinesco. "His idea was to produce a low cost one hundred guinea "peoples' car'' which would travel 100 miles on one gallon of petrol at the most commonly used road speeds of 30 to 40 miles per hour. George arrived at this figure after conducting a comprehensive survey of average car road speeds and designed his car to benefit the most people, rather than a car of higher speed which would only benefit a minority. He considered that this performance and low cost could be achieved by using a cheap 500 cc single cylinder two stroke air cooled engine together with his Torque Converter transmission which would eliminate the conventional gear box and clutch. Experience in this field could then be applied to the transmission of much higher powers in heavy vehicles such as railway locomotives." (http://fluid.power.net/fpn/const/const005.html)

Forth major design point. An expensive car requires very high performance a cheap car does not. Large scale production makes a car even cheaper.


Toyota is trying to deny that very workable plug-in-hybrids can be built with ZEBRA battery technology by simply ignoring its existence and the price of the battery can be much lower if they were to buy it instead of ignore it. The battery has been tested in automobiles for more than ten years. It has been used in buses, trucks, locomotives and submarines. One company was going to build them to power electronics in hot oil wells.

3PeaceSweet

Assuming a battery costs about $500/kWh and each kWh would give you 3-4 miles electric range it couldn't be that difficult to offer a plug in prius with 10, 20 or even more all electric range for a small premium. Most people pay slightly more to get extra features on the car, why not a larger battery too?

Each $500 spent on the battery would provide more than 1,000 electric miles per year assuming ~330 charges a year. If you could charge in more places (work, friends, shopping etc) you could easily double that number.

Its much better to get lots of PHEV-10's on the road as soon as possible, no range anxiety, charging infrastructure can be developed at the same time and batteries will get tested in real life applications.

kelly

The required Zebra battery high temperature operation make it unsafe in automobiles.

Ken

Let's look at infrastructure not vehicles for a moment.

I doubt anyone will argue that FC vehicles will be more common than EVs and PHEVs for the next six years.

OK, Toyota says 2015 for fuel cells. Since the industry always means Dec 31 that means six years plus. Rather consistent with prior estimates.

The hydrogen infrastructure (HI) doesn't exist. And since we don't know what volumes of FC will come out by, or in 2015, it is very hard to establish an infrastructure construction plan or schedule.

OTOH EVs and PHEVs will need grid power (some will be charged by PV but that won't be the rule for quite some time) so we should assume the grid and utilities must prepare to supply more.

Building the HI will be of benefit only if the FC becomes economically feasible. But improving the grid and utility generation benefits everyone even if the EV and PHEV does not prevail.

So I think major HI investment is a bad deal for now. But emphasis on the grid and utilities will produce a good return.

What would be the arguments for serious spending on HI now?

3PeaceSweet

Hydrogen from natural gas will cost about twice as much (on a btu basis) as the original gas due to losses in steam reforming and storage.

Rogers example of the prius running on hydrogen would actually be running on natural gas with an effeciency penalty of 0.6 due to the steam reforming so your actuall efficiency counting the primary energy input to the hydrogen would be more like 40mpg which you could beat just running the prius on the natural gas (although when you account for refining & transport of the oil the gallon of petroleum has had about 10-20% of its energy used so raw mpg should perhaps be closer to the low 40's

Hydrogen from electricity will cost at least twice as much as the hydrogen from natural gas, unless it comes from very cheap off peak electricity from an abundance of nuclear and wind power (very low marginal costs) and a far better use of this electricity is to power heat pumps to store the energy as the heat and / or cold which will be required the next day or in 80% round trip efficient pumped storage, batteries & flywheels.

The saved natural gas from electricity generation and building heating (insulation & heat pumps) can be used for transport directly in small vehicles or dual fuelling in diesel engines in larger vehicles.

3PeaceSweet

Hydrogen from natural gas will cost about twice as much (on a btu basis) as the original gas due to losses in steam reforming and storage.

Rogers example of the prius running on hydrogen would actually be running on natural gas with an effeciency penalty of 0.6 due to the steam reforming so your actuall efficiency counting the primary energy input to the hydrogen would be more like 40mpg which you could beat just running the prius on the natural gas (although when you account for refining & transport of the oil the gallon of petroleum has had about 10-20% of its energy used so raw mpg should perhaps be closer to the low 40's

Hydrogen from electricity will cost at least twice as much as the hydrogen from natural gas, unless it comes from very cheap off peak electricity from an abundance of nuclear and wind power (very low marginal costs) and a far better use of this electricity is to power heat pumps to store the energy as the heat and / or cold which will be required the next day or in 80% round trip efficient pumped storage, batteries & flywheels.

The saved natural gas from electricity generation and building heating (insulation & heat pumps) can be used for transport directly in small vehicles or dual fuelling in diesel engines in larger vehicles.

Nick Lyons

@3PS:

I'm with you. Most days a round-trip from our home is less than 10 miles, top speed is under 50, and I could be plugged in whenever at home. I would rarely buy gasoline driving a PHEV-10. Electricity is hydro here, so it's all good.

@fred: Having moved to Alaska later in life and seen many a car on its roof due to black ice, I share your cold-weather concerns about H20 exhaust from fuel-cell vehicles. And for interior Alaska, -22F could be 30 degrees above the daily high. Fuel cells would need to be defrosted of constantly heated when off in order to start.

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