Toyota Aims to Reduce Fuel Cell Vehicle Cost to 1/10 of Current By Commercialization in 2015; Reduction to Another 1/10 With Scale
|Toyota’s targeted cost reductions in fuel cell vehicles. Source: Toyota. Click to enlarge.
In a news conference at the Japan National Press Club on Friday, Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda said that the company plans to begin mass production of electric vehicles in the US in 2012, followed by US production of fuel cell vehicles in 2015. Toyoda positioned EVs for short-distance travel and fuel cell cars for longer ranges. The 2015 date for fuel cell vehicles reinforced remarks made in June by vice president Masatami Takimoto about commercialization prospects.(Earlier post.)
During his presentation at the recent California Air Resources Board (ARB) ZEV Technology Symposium, Tatsuaki Yokoyama, from Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, said that Toyota aimed to reduce the cost of fuel cell vehicles to 1/10 of the current level by design and materials improvement by commercialization in 2015. Following that milestone, the company is targeting reduction to a subsequent 1/10 through scales of economy resulting from increasing mass production.
Design of the fuel cell system and hydrogen storage system plays a critical role in achieving the cost reduction, Yokoyama said. Toyota is simplifying the design of its stack, resulting in downsizing and downweighting, and reducing the amount of platinum catalyst required. (For comparable efforts by General Motors, see earlier post.)
Toyota is also seeking to reduce the cost of fuel-cell system specific materials, through cooperation with materials manufacturers. The third major avenue of cost reduction is the application of mass production technology to the fuel cell stack, the tank, and other components.
As an example, Yokoyama used the carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) hydrogen storage tank. The hydrogen storage tank consists of a CFRP outer shell, with a liner for H2 sealing. Toyota is seeking to reduce CFRP by reducing the wall thickness, by optimizing the laminar structure among other efforts (design). It is also seeking to reduce the cost of CFRP by shifting from an aviation grade to a general-purpose grade (materials). The company is working to develop a low-cost CFRP for a high-pressure hydrogen tank.
Conditions for mass introduction. For mass introduction of fuel cell vehicles, Yokoyama said, Toyota sees that the profitability of every stakeholder—auto OEM, energy supplier, and customer—is essential. In other words, low-cost FC vehicles and a sufficient supply of low-priced hydrogen needs to be available.
Furthermore, he said, both fuel cell vehicles and the hydrogen infrastructure must prove durable and reliable in practical use, and proven in the real world. He noted that it took seven years even for “successful” hybrid electric vehicles to reach annual sales of 100,000 units globally.
Why fuel-cell vehicles? Like the other major automakers, Toyota is positioning fuel cell vehicles as more suitable for longer-range, larger vehicle applications compared to EVs, given the state of battery technology.
This is not an either-or choice between hybrids and electric cars. We [Toyota] will develop a wide range of vehicles to meet the diverse needs of customers. Some will opt for electric cars for shorter distances; others will choose fuel-cell vehicles for longer drives.—Akio Toyoda
|Cover area of EVs, Plug-in Hybrids, and Fuel-Cell Vehicles. Source: Toyota. Click to enlarge.
Based on Toyota’s calculations, fuel cell vehicles begin to best Li-ion equipped EVs in terms of mass required to achieve a practical cruising range of 300 miles after slightly more than 100 miles. In other words, Toyota concludes that the EV is viable for intra-city travel, while the fuel cell (hybrid) vehicle is optimal for inter-city travel.
Toyota’s calculations also find that the well-to-wheel total efficiency of the fuel-cell hybrid vehicle, as measured in the Japanese 10-15 cycle, is 40%, given hydrogen produced from natural gas and on-board storage of 70 MPa.
|According to Toyota’s calculations, the fuel cell hybrid has an advantage in well-to-wheel efficiency. Click to enlarge.
That compares to 33% for an EV (with gas-fired power generation producing the electricity); 34% for a Prius-like hybrid; and 19% for a conventional gasoline internal combustion engine. (The fuel cell vehicle efficiency difference between 35 MPa storage and 70 MPa storage is approximately 2%.)
In terms of some of the major technical challenges facing fuel cell vehicles (cold start/driving capability); range; FC durability; and cost), Toyota has demonstrated significant improvements in cold start/driving capability (-30 °C) and cruise range with its current FCHV-adv model. (Earlier post). The company is especially focused on FC durability and cost reduction targeting commercialization in 2015.