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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.
—Bob Carter

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.



So the car the detractors claimed could never be built, and would be indefinitely delayed, is coming in ahead of schedule.

I like electric cars full stop, fuel cell or battery, but progress in battery technology has not been as fast as hoped.

Fuel cell improvements in contrast have been very rapid.

Neither I nor Toyota make any claims as to how the race will pan out, and Toyota continue to develop batteries as fast as they can, but those seeking to dismiss fuel cell cars out of hand are being increasingly shown to have been unwise.


The Tesla S, the flagship battery car, is hugely heavy and consequently not that energy efficient.

In vehicles, light is good.

Either big improvements in battery technology in cost and specific energy have to come about, and not just in the lab, or fuel cell cars are looking good.


The Tesla Model S is not an economy car. It's efficiency should be compared to the cars it competes with: The Mercedes S500 and the BMW 7 Series.

If we're looking for efficient, then we should be comparing the Leaf or the Honda Fit EV or Chevy Spark EV with competitors be it ICE or FCVs.

And lighter is always better, but when you have regen braking, the extra weight is not nearly the penalty as it is in ICE vehicles.

My issue with the FCVs has always been the H2 infrastructure is much harder nut to crack (in MY opinion) than EVs. For example there are over 70 million households with a garage or carport that can plug their car in and charge it every night. Can't do that with H2. And Tesla has shown that a nationwide SuperCharging network can be built relatively quickly and easily. And the EV is a much simpler beast.

Those are the reasons I hold out more hope for EVs vs FCVs. However, if FCVs succeed and stop us from using more foreign oil here in the US then I'm a happy boy...and in the UK too as it's my part time home/HQ :-)


I think the consumer will likely decide this one. If your fuel costs are going to be $3,000 dollars per year for the fuel cell car, but only £300 dollars per year for an EV, one can only be refilled at very specific locations and the other one almost anywhere, which would you choose?


The infrastructure requirements simply are not that significant as long as the vehicle cost is right:

' if every vehicle in California ran on Hydrogen...
• we could meet refueling logistics
• with only 15 percent
• of the nearly 10,000 gasoline stations
• currently operating in the state.

(Toyota press release)

This is around the number of natural gas filling stations which Germany has, and the cost will not be that dissimilar either.

If batteries do drop in price and increase in energy density as fast as many of us hoped, then fine.

But me and you and many others have been reading about umpteen breakthroughs right here for years now, and they don't seem a lot closer to production.

That is what Toyota say in their PR anyway, when they talk about the 'fantastic' cost reductions they are getting in fuel cells, and although they also say they 'love' batteries, they pulled mass production of the iQ EV as they couldn't get the performance they wanted at the cost they thought would work.

The real coming technology over the next few years will be PHEV.

Mitsubishi had good and bad news in the Netherlands last month.

They only sold 12 conventional Outlanders.

They did however sell 4,976 PHEV Outlanders!


Special circumstances, with incentives expiring at the end of December, but the Outlander PHEV is one hot car!

Fuel cells in due course work with plug ins far, far better than ICE of course.

It will all depend on the cost of hydrogen and electricity when taxation is equalised, and on the costs of batteries and fuel cells to determine whether a PHEV FCEV is worthwhile.
It can certainly be done from an engineering POV, and in cold climates would mean that the hit on battery performance that BEVs take would be much reduced with waste heat from the fuel cell both providing space heat and keeping the battery at optimum temperature.


Since you pulled the options out of your hat in order to determine the outcome, the question you raise is not that relevant.


My main problem with fuel cells is the source for the hydrogen. Currently, most of our hydrogen comes from reforming natural gas. The other common ways to make hydrogen are electrolysis and high temperature disassociation or high temperature electrolysis. With electrolysis, most of our new electric power comes from natural gas so if you want hydrogen, you are probably better off just reforming natural gas. Maybe high temperature electrolysis is more efficient if you push the temperature high enough but electrolysis mostly seems to just be a waste of electric power. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-temperature_electrolysis

I know that someone will tell me that we can use excess wind power or excess solar power to cleanly generate hydrogen but we do not have excess wind or solar power and if we did, we could use it to phase out some of the fossil fuel electric power. So if you are back to using natural gas, it is probably cheaper just to run a diesel engine on natural gas.


The crux of the matter is that even after reforming losses fuel cells use natural gas over twice as efficiently per mile as the same natural gas or indeed petrol burnt in a combustion engine.

In addition California, for instance, mandates that a third of all transport hydrogen comes from renewable resources, currently biogas from landfill.

Putting the numbers together we come out with a two thirds reduction in CO2 emissions by using fuel cell cars, which is one heck of a lot better than can be done by plugging in a battery car at the average carbon cost of the US grid.

There are many other sources of hydrogen.
For instance Korea plans to use the hydrogen from industrial processes currently vented into the atmosphere to run the first few hundred thousand fuel cell cars.

I am no great fan of the idea of using surplus wind and so on to produce hydrogen, but just the same there are non-obvious factors there.

If you have more than 10% or so of the nominal grid capacity from wind, then in a gale as happens in Spain you actually get more than 100% of the total grid from wind in a gale.
At the moment it is just chucked away, so there is an arguable case that converting it to hydrogen is a much better option.

Much the same goes for solar on a summer day.

By the time it really becomes a serious worry though it is perfectly possible that we will be able to directly use sunlight to produce hydrogen.

We could certainly produce all the hydrogen we could need using nuclear power, but many are dead set against that.

So any problem there is is a long term one, and in the interim fuel cell cars would greatly reduce emissions and energy use compared to what we are presently doing, and more so than battery cars charged by the grid.


Perhaps EV affordability will shake down this way: Fuel Cell vehicles for the rich because of higher fuel costs; Battery EV's for the common person with only a 100 mile range, but less expensive to run. I could live with that.



Estimates for the cost of hydrogen in volume production range from a high of around the same as gasoline, to a low estimate of a quarter as much.

That range is partly because renewable methods of production are currently more expensive than reforming NG.

Assuming a mix, and taking mean cost estimates then around half the cost per mile of gasoline is about the central estimate by the time fuel cell cars are in widespread use.

Should hydrogen prove expensive, then as I detail above is is straightforward engineering to make a PHEV FCEV, much more so than to build a Volt, as you are not combining two totally different systems, and don't need a high temperature exhaust and catalyst etc.

That way, if hydrogen is expensive, you could do your day to day running around on electricity, whilst having hydrogen which is easy to fill up for long runs.

More here on hydrogen costs:


'Estimates for the cost of hydrogen in volume production range from a high of around the same as gasoline PER MILE, to a low estimate of a quarter as much PER MILE.



From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell

The energy efficiency of a fuel cell is generally between 40–60%, or up to 85% efficient in cogeneration if waste heat is captured for use.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_reforming

The efficiency of the process is approximately 65% to 75%.

If you take the high end of the efficiencies given as 75% for the reforming and 60% for the fuel cell, then you have 45% overall efficiency which is down in the range of a diesel. If you take the average of 70% and 50%, then you are down to 35% overall and just about any diesel will beat this.

So again, you are better off just running the natural gas in a diesel.

Yes, it is possible to generate hydrogen directly from solar but if you look the efficiencies and the area required, it is probably easier to go with other biofuels.


Anything that can reduce toxic gas without eliminating our ability to be mobile and produce products here in the USA I am for.
I am neither a BIG environmentalist, oil is evil, hooray we have oil. Everybody knows that we use energy everyday and we can see the smog in the skies that pretty much tells the waste product is not good for us.

That said, EV's to date are currently insanely expensive. They do not pay for themselves nor are they useful in an urban environment where people travel 30+ miles a day. Hybrids make even less sense except to sucker people into thinking they are doing something good. The car is more complex the mileage gains are laughable and the cost to replace those batteries insane and what about the toxic batteries in these cars?

I don't know if anyone recalls algae can produce hydrogen and studies have been done before to see if it can produce enough to minimize our dependance on oil. It seems possible. But isn't the biggest limiting factor to the adoption of Hydrogen the cost of the cell? It had to use Platinum if I recall. Has that been fixed? Are they saying the cell cost has come down to something reasonable? If so then factories would be fools not to recycle their hydrogen.


Hi sd.

I don't have direct comparison figures against diesel. I do however against petrol, which has similar or slightly better mileage than natural gas.

Your reforming figure is similar to what I was using.
Ranges are from around 65%-80% (Norsk Hydro)

Both NG and hydrogen need compressing, so that is pretty much a wash.
I take it as around a one third loss to convert hydrogen from NG.

My comparison figures are from the Toyota FCHV, as we have very good mileage figures and an exactly equivalent petrol model:

Under a very realistic driving cycle, the car got 68.3 miles/kg, which as you probably know is almost exactly equivalent by chance to a US gallon.

The Highlander on the Toyota US website is rated at 20/25mpg on the rather more lenient EPA.

So the FCEV version is around 3 times as energy efficient, or twice as efficient as the petrol model allowing for reforming losses.

The diesel version is not going to close that gap, nor anything like it.

In addition my understanding is that diesel is more energy intensive than petrol to make, although in view of the wide allowance for error in then figures I have given I can't really be bothered to go into the complexity of checking.

If you wish to compare the energy use of petrol versus natural gas Honda make the same model using both fuels.

The Petrol model is somewhat more economic, I believe, but for the purposes of this analysis I have assumed that they are the same.


I don't agree with many of your remarks about batteries, but to answer the question on fuel cells, the DOE projects that at a volume of 500,000 fuel cell cars a year they would cost under $50kwh.
A car uses around 100kwh, so $5,000 for the fuel cell stack.
The hydrogen storage tank is also expensive.


Precious metal use in a fuel cell car for the new Toyota FCEV costs around $1000, and uses about the same amount as the catalytic converter in a diesel far.


There is no current practical technology to generate hydrogen directly from sunlight.
Several approaches though may work out, although of course they are some way down the track if they happen at all.

Here is one:

Can they close the voltage gap?
I haven't got a clue, but it is clearly not impossible, or those bright boys would know that.

There are a host of other approaches.

The reason I mention them at all is that some are fond of dismissing hydrogen as hugely more energy inefficient than batteries.

It turns out that they are not talking about present methods, where producing hydrogen mainly from natural gas compares very favourably with plugging in on the US grid, but some theoretical future, where electrolysis is the 'only' way to produce fossil fuel free hydrogen, whilst the present >1% of the US grid from solar is upped modestly to 100%, and difficulties in storing it to charge electric cars overnight are dismissed with a wave of the hand.

They also manage to ignore that where electrolysis is being used, as in Germany, the waste heat is being recovered putting a very different light on the energy economics.

So really I was just pointing out that there is no reason to suppose that electrolysis will be the only very low fossil fuel means of producing hydrogen in future, and as I note even if it were with waste heat recovery the energy economics are not too bad.

I believe they are hitting something like 85-90% total efficiency for electricity plus heat there, using the heat for district heating,


I believe they are hitting something like 85-90% total efficiency for HYDROGEN plus heat there, using the heat for district heating,


It might eradicate tesla with their expensive bev. Now the true question that nobody is discussing intelligently is what will be the cost of one kilo of h2 at the pump and the mpg figure of the fuelcell car?


Maybe it is not intelligent enough for you, but there is an awful lot of discussion above about the cost of hydrogen and how many miles per gallon equivalent you get!

Think around 68.3 mpge for a Small Toyota SUV

Bob Wallace

There are two issues: vehicle cost and cost per mile to operate.

The vehicle cost issue comes down to battery/motor vs. fuel cell/(some) battery/tanks/motor cost. The rest of the car is the same.

It's looking like EVs might be rapidly approaching the cost of same-model ICEVs. Battery prices may already be below $200/kWh. Perhaps already close to $100/kWh.


It's unclear that the price of a FCEV can fall as fast.

The cost per mile for an EV will likely be half of that (or less) of a FCEV. There's a significant loss of energy generating hydrogen using electricity. And there would be hydrogen infrastructure to pay for.

If EVs reach "affordable" a few years before FCEVs then they will have captured the market, the necessary charging infrastructure will be largely in place.

FCEVs would have to sell for considerably less than an EV for FCEVs to push EVs aside and capture significant market share. A buyer would have to save a lot of money up front to make up for the higher operating costs.


Unfortunately the figures you got for the battery were for the platform only, it appears.
The 3-4 battery modules are on top of that:

See Jake Y's reply to my passing on the info you gave:

'I believe the $2,994.64 MSRP price is for all the components of the pack except for the battery modules. This link breaks it down better and if you add up the rest of the parts, I get about $2000 already (#4 battery tray does not have a price and the battery modules are also not listed as available to purchase):

I remember on the Volt forum people mentioned a Leaf owner called a dealer and asked and the dealer set that in addition to the $3k you also need to pay $1.4k per battery module and the pack has 3-4 modules.

the cost of batteries seems to be around $4-500kwh still, in line with other sources and supporting Toyota's statement that whilst fuel cell costs are dropping like a stone, battery prices aren't.

Dave R

It will be interesting to see what Toyota ultimately comes out with next year and at what price. The concept vehicle is very awkward to look at from every angle, at least.

Since all hydrogen vehicles are essentially electric vehicles with a hydrogen range-extender, it sure seems that given the current limitations of batteries and hydrogen fueling stations, a plug-in-hydrogen vehicle would make a lot of sense.

30-40 mile EV range, 300 mi hydrogen range - your daily commute is done charging from the grid at night - longer trips are done on hygrogen where a station will be located along the way.

And if it gets cold, you can use the waste heat from the fuel cell to help warm the cabin and the electricity to run a heat pump getting 100-200% efficiency out of the hydrogen.

I still think a fuel cell that can run on natural gas or propane instead of hydrogen makes a lot of sense, though...


Dave R:
They really need to get the weight and bulk of both fuel cell systems and batteries down still further to make PHEV versions more practical.
Here is the underside of the Toyota FCV and it is pretty short of space to put a large battery pack:

I have always tried to stay fairly neutral between batteries and fuel cells, but further to your point about cold weather, the minimum I would now like to see in places where it gets cold is a 5kw fuel cell RE, as it would massively increase the capabilities of the BEV, both in warming the cabin from waste heat and keeping the battery at the optimum temperature so that it can hold more charge.

If you were in traffic then it would keep right on charging the battery pack, so massively extending range.

A bigger pack would mean that range became unlimited,

On board reformers for natural gas or propane are a while down the road yet, they are only just sussing hydrogen fuel cells which are a lot easier!


For fifty years of US R&D grants to GM, etc, fuel cell vehicles have been five years away and we are in the tenth or twelfth year of "The Bush Hydrogen(oil) Initiative" and 'freedomFUEL' http://www.altenergymag.com/news/2003/01/30/president-bush-proposes-12-billion-for-h2-research-in-state-of-the-union-message/99

It's nice to see GM, .. pocketed those taxpayer $billions and foreign fuel cell cars are only a year (or two..) from market (and without a fueling infrastructure).

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