Toyota opens CES with strong affirmation of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; “staggering” rate of cost reduction; FCV on sale in US in 2015
Toyota opened the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with a strong affirmation of the benefits of and potential for hydrogen fuel cell technology. “We aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel; just everything necessary to make them turn,” said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA, Inc. “Fuel cell electric vehicles will be in our future sooner than many people believe, and in much greater numbers than anyone expected.”
Toyota showcased both its latest fuel cell vehicle concept (the FCV Concept, earlier post), showing what the four-door mid-size sedan will look like in Radiant Blue; and the camouflage-taped engineering prototype used for extensive and extreme on-road testing in North America for more than a year. The prototype has consistently delivered a driving range of about 300 miles (~500 km), zero-to-sixty acceleration of about 10 seconds, with no emissions other than water vapor. Refueling of its hydrogen tanks takes three to five minutes.
The new Toyota FC Stack has a power output density of 3 kW/L, more than twice that of the current “Toyota FCHV-adv” FC Stack, and an output of at least 100 kW. In addition, the FC system is equipped with Toyota’s high-efficiency boost converter. Increasing the voltage has made it possible to reduce the size of the motor and the number of fuel cells, leading to a smaller system offering enhanced performance at reduced cost.
For years, the use of hydrogen gas to power an electric vehicle has been seen by many smart people as a foolish quest. Yes, there are significant challenges. The first is building the vehicle at a reasonable price for many people. The second is doing what we can to help kick-start the construction of convenient hydrogen refueling infrastructure. We’re doing a good job with both and we will launch in 2015.—Bob Carter
Carter said that Toyota’s investment in fuel cell R&D over the last 20 years has been “massive”. Since 2002, Toyota has been testing and developing a series of prototypes in North America. In those 11 years—and more than a million miles—it has significantly reduced the cost of building a fuel cell powertrain. Toyota estimates a 95% cost reduction in the powertrain and fuel tanks of the vehicle it will launch in 2015, compared to what it cost to build the original prototype in 2002.
Toyota has been in the automotive drive-battery business for a long time. We love batteries. We are the world leader in hybrid electrics. That dedication to battery technology will continue. But compared to battery-electrics, the rate of cost reduction we have seen in fuel cell-electric technology has been staggering. That’s why hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles will be in our future sooner than many people believe and in much greater numbers than anyone expected.—Bob Carter
The FCV represents a major engineering achievement, where the size and weight of its powertrain system was significantly reduced while maintaining total power output of more than 100kW. A fully-fueled vehicle will be capable of supplying enough energy to power a house for a week in an emergency. Engineers are currently looking to develop an external power supply device that could be used in this manner.
There’s no doubt that the success of this technology will depend less on the genius of the car, than on the ownership experience. Cost is one thing, but convenience is another.—Bob Carter
Focusing on California, where the vehicle will be launched initially, Toyota has partnered with the University of California Irvine’s Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) to help map out potential locations for new hydrogen fueling stations. (Earlier post.)
The APEP spatial model considers a variety of data including R.L. Polk ownership of hybrid and electric vehicles, traffic patterns, population density, and so on. The model is based on the assumption that owners want to reach a refueling station within 6 minutes.
|Stay tuned, because this infrastructure thing is going to happen. |
What the model produced was an initial cluster map that requires only 68 station sites in the San Francisco Bay area and Silicon Valley, as well as Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. If implemented, the mapped system could handle a fuel cell population conservatively estimated by APEP at about 10,000 vehicles.
California has already approved more than $200 million in funding to build about 20 new stations by 2015, a total of 40 by 2016, and as many as 100 by 2024. To help guide the construction of new stations, the APEP model is being used by:
- the California Energy Commission;
- the Governor’s Zero Emission Vehicle Initiative;
- the California Air Resources Board;
- the US Department of Energy; and
- the California Fuel Cell Partnership.
Not long ago, our plan was to ease into the US market, starting in California, with a fairly low volume. But things have quickly changed because this vehicle’s level of performance, refinement and cost reductions have evolved at a rapid rate.
We in the US have already asked our headquarters for substantially more volume than our original request. We believe that demand will outweigh our current supply plan.
This will be a very special vehicle and we believe we can bring it in at a very reasonable price for a lot of people.—Bob Carter
Specific sales volumes will be announced closer to launch. More information will be announced in the weeks and months ahead, including US sales volume targets, the name of the vehicle and comprehensive specifications and performance data.