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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.


A.C. R.

Unfortunately carbon fiber doesn't do well in a fire. The resin and coating will fail which is what keeps the H2 in (carbon fiber itself is porous).

Another issue with carbon fiber is that there can be internal defects without obvious external signs. So after a mild car accident you may think all's well, but the carbon fiber tank may have developed internal defects. Hydrogen doesn't smell and is invisible, its flame itself is even hard to see (burns mostly in wavelengths invisible to the human eye). So a leak will not be detected. Imagine coming in your garage, not knowing its full of hydrogen, then you flick the lights or smoke a cigarette... BOOM! hydrogen being explosive in almost any mixture with air.

I would not want 800 MJ of 700 atmospheres pressurized hydrogen in my garage.

Roger Pham

Still squeamished about H2? You're not alone. There are excellent PHEV's by Ford, GM, Volvo, BMW, etc. for you to enjoy CO2-free energy.

But FYI, the CF H2 tank won't fail with a "mild car accident". Do you how how thick the CF layer is? It would take a crash that would total the car in order for the CF tank to have structural change. Then, the CF tank will be tested before recycled into a new car!

H2 detector in the form of micro-FC (similar to one in a police breathalyzer) will be mounted to detect the presence of even trace amount of H2 in the surrounding of the car. Local building code will further required that the garage roof has a vent in order for any leaked H2 to fly out. The extremely high bouyancy of H2 will mean that the H2 will fly skyward before any significant accumulation.

But, again, the H2 economy is not for everyone, expecially not for the squeamished. There are other excellent technologies that can be used. In fact, the H2 generated by zero-CO2 energy sources can be incorporated into the waste biomass during hydrolysis to produce synthetic methane that has 3x the energy content of the original biomass, or be used to make liquid hydrocarbon fuels that has twice the energy content of the original biomass. Then, ICEV's and HEV will continue to do business as usual. The oil and gas industry would like that, because they can continue to make money from existing infrastructure.

However, the H2 economy is preferred because so far, it still is the least expensive and most efficient way to convert and to store energy from RE and Nuclear energy to make transportation fuel and for stationary uses as well.

If someone can make a "Nuclear Battery" that can convert fission energy directly to electricity controllably, without the problem of heat or meltdown or radiation, then, that that will be THE way to go. Never need to refuel your car again after leaving the factory!


Roger Pham,

I would like point out miatakes on your hydrogen vs. electricity cost calculation. There is big difference betveen fixed and variable costs. The electricity distribution costs 95% fixed and independent how much you will be using electricity when charging your EV during night. Partly the same story is the same with electricity loses in the grid. They are 50% fixed since power transformers are loosing lot energy when idling. If power grid would be used only for EV charging your calculations on grid cost would be right but this is not the reality. Power grid is existing and will be for at least 100 years to come and costs are fixed like depretiation and maintanance. Quite differnt story would be with hydrogen network.

Therefore there is no differnce of electricity price you should use for hydrogen generation or EV charging during offpeack hours. And EV' in general charging at offpeak hours and hydrogen would be generated at the same time. BUT YOU NEED THREE TIMES MORE ELECTRICITY TO COVER SAME DISTANCE USING STUPID TOYOTA FUEL CELLS THAN USING TESLA BATTERY.



Can you provide any sources for these everlasting, non-leaking hydrogen tanks?

My searching skills must be weak this year because all the references I find point the other way.

I would be surprised if someone had solved one of the key impediments to the hydrogen economy and not published anything anywhere about it (not even a patent application).


clett: "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?"

Toyota has limited it's sales to those areas where they will have H infrastructure built. If you're from outside Southern California, you won't be able to buy one, anyway. If you are from SoCal, You'll be able to use them between San Diego and San Francisco. Some folks wouldn't mind that range, and if they want to go on a long trip, they use their other car.

Since Toyota is all in on FCVs and not that optimistic about BEVs, I would expect other car manufacturers to follow suit. Toyota has a lot of clout.

I, as a Californian who buys my vehicles, typically drive them farther than the 100k miles of the Volt
warranty, and I wouldn't want to shell out $6k or more for a replacement battery. Mechanical costs for those cars (reliable maker) has been minimal.


Last paragraph clarification: "Mechanical costs for *my* cars has been minimal..."

...and repairs for FCVs will no doubt be less than replacing a battery as well.


I realize the Volt is not a full-on BEV, but even replacement for their battery is currently very expensive. What would it be for a BEV? Even worse.

A.C. R.

Repairs for 700 bar or cryogenic systems is not cheap. Even little tiny items like sensors and solenoid valves can cost an arm and a leg at these extreme service conditions. Carbon fiber tanks aren't cheap either.

As it stands hydrogen FCV fuel cell systems cost over 30,000 dollars in low volume production. The DOE estimates it would drop to 3000 or so with ultra high volume production, but that assumed 500,000 vehicles per year. That's absurd, half a million vehicles. The most succesful EVs are not even selling at 1/10th that level. So it will be a long time before FCV FC cost drop enough.

And that is for a tiny 100 kW fuel cell system. If you want a 300 kW tesla high end car sized version it's currently over 60,000 dollars in low volume production, 6000 dollars at high volume that the DOE assumes.

We should compare this with the cost of a battery pack when they are made in half a million a year factories. Cost could easily be halved on mass production alone (not even any tech improvement itself assumed).

Fuel cells have not yet demonstrated long life in the field. They have demonstrated long life in the lab, but you have to see how some people drive their cars through potholes and such. we don't yet know how many potholes the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle of Billy-Bob will take.

A.C. R.

"Since Toyota is all in on FCVs and not that optimistic about BEVs, I would expect other car manufacturers to follow suit. Toyota has a lot of clout."

That is the claim.

The fact is that Toyota is making lots of hybrid cars with batteries and ICEs. No fuel cell. And plugin hybrids now, with plugin Prius. Bigger battery. No fuel cell.

The business fact is that Toyota is making lots of money on hybrid battery cars, and is losing a lot in fuel cells development cost.

Just because a car maker makes some claims, doesn't mean you should take them as holy gospel. GM claimed they would take over the world with the EV1, it was a technical success, but it turned out more expensive than they had hoped, so they pulled the plug. All the EV1s were scrapped except for a few that made it to a museum.

The car maker may attempt some things in earnest, and that's good. Don't read any more in that then there is.

Roger Pham

Bernard posted: "Can you provide any sources for these everlasting, non-leaking hydrogen tanks?"

The most obvious answer is just looking at the millions of miles of road testing of FCV prototypes by the biggest and most profitable of auto makers, like GM, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, VW, Daimler-Benz...and billions of $USD invested in FCV programs. They don't get to be the biggest and most profitable companies without the highest level of technical and business competence. A FC H2 tank costs only $3,000 USD, so how hard or how much will it cost to test it and to fix it?

Millions of miles of road test over a decade and a half, and no single incidence of fire or explosion reported in FCV's...

while how many accounts of fire in BEV's? Hmm, let's see...Fisker-Karma prototypes broke out in fire, Volt was involved in fire, BYD taxi burst in to flame after being hit in the rear and killing 2 passengers... multiple incidences of Teslas destroyed by fire...
This is not to say that BEV's are more dangerous than ICEV, since fire breaking out in ICEV's are pretty common and go unreported...something that we have to accept!

The good news is that we can expect FCV's to be much safer from fires and explosion in comparison to ICEV's and BEV's. That, alone, is a major selling point for FCV already!

If the H2 tanks are so leaky and so quick to degrade, many decades of FCV development would have stopped way back then... without viable products announced.

A.C. R.

Roger Pham, hydrogen explosions happen all the time. here's just one example of a hydrogen fuelling station explosion. There's more than just carbon fiber tanks, there's also all sorts of valves and stems/seals that can fail, not made of carbon fiber.


The only time you see it in the mainstream media with daily coverage, is when the hydrogen explosion involves a nuclear power plant.



In other words, you've got nothing, but you assume that the technology is perfect because "development would have stopped way back then" if it wasn't.

Roger Pham

To prevent explosion from valve failure, redundancy can be built in, to have at least 2 valves built within the tank and hence are protected. H2 sensors can be embedded to detect early H2 leakage and have the main valves shut off. Shock sensor can also be made to shut off the main valves in the event of a crash.

I have seen data on fuel tank testing on different tank types and configuration, and I've just reassured you regarding the extremely low leak rate and durability. Remember that before a car model can be released commercially, it must past lengthy and extensive safety testing and crash testing from gov. regulatory agency. The Hyundai Tucson FCV will be released in just a few months, and the Toyota FCV will be released next year, so, rest assured that the CF H2 tank is safe. Data may be found at gov. websites if they have already release all these safety testin data.



A "trust me" from a speculative source is in no way reassuring. You implied earlier that you had real data, but I see now that it's all wishful thinking.

Daydreaming is fine, but you should make more of an effort to separate that type of comment from fact-based comments (if any).

A.C. R.

"To prevent explosion from valve failure, redundancy can be built in, to have at least 2 valves built within the tank and hence are protected. H2 sensors can be embedded to detect early H2 leakage and have the main valves shut off. Shock sensor can also be made to shut off the main valves in the event of a crash."

Yes, all of this can be done, but two points must be made:
1. it doesn't eliminate the failures (just makes them very unlikely).
2. it increases the cost. Doubling the valves, redundancy in sensors, systems to prevent explosions. All of that is not a cost to an advanced lithium chemistry like Lithium-iron-phosphate. They are very stable. They don't need any expensive high pressure valves and tanks and their redundant safety systems. Quality control is especially expensive, hydrogen needs more quality control (costs) to get to a very safe level.

Just a few highly publicized hydrogen explosions can really hurt the uptake of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Fuel cells are intricate things, their exhaust is 1 atmosphere, but the fuel tanks are 700 atmospheres. Somewhere in the middle things can go wrong.


There are hundreds of fossil fuels vehicle explosions every year in USA but 240+ million such vehicles are still being used.

Making 500,000+ FCEVs and even that many every year is not a real challenge for the industry. A single firm like Toyota could do it.

Installing a few thousand transportable H2 stations in USA and other countries is not real challenge either. In many places, lower cost off peak demands surplus e-energy could be used to refill the H2 station tanks.

Toyota, Honda and Hyundai will probably install 100+ such H2 stations in California and may even offer free refills for the first 50,000 Km or so.

Roger Pham

If you see that Toyota and Hyundai are giving the green lights for FCV production, then you can rest assured that there will not be any issue with the H2 tank. No car company would release a car with a leaky fuel tank, nor a tank that will degrade in 5 years. Fuel tanks are to last for the life time of the car. But I do appreciate your wisdom in being skeptical of any new technology. Let someone else be the guinea pig first!

Have you ever opened the hood of an ICEV before, and done repair work on it? Do you appreciate how complex a modern engine is? At least 4-8 injectors, valves and variable timing mechanism, O2 sensors, catalytic converters, spark plugs and electronic controls (4-8 plugs with individual coils for each plug) etc...All the engines in my cars are so good that there are no oil loss between oil change intervals of 6,000 to 10,000 miles, even for cars that are approaching 100,000 miles on the odo. That's the level of precision of modern engine in today's technology, a piece of marvel with hundreds of precision moving parts, all put together with the level of precision of a Swiss watch!

By contrast, a FCV will be simpler with far fewer moving parts. But I do appreciate your wisdom in being skeptical of any new technology. Let someone else be the guinea pig first!



I asked a question based on currently published knowledge of this technology (which isn't new by any stretch of the imagination). You answered, but your answer was 100% based on wishful thinking and assumptions. When asked for sources, you went straight to personal attacks.

Does this strategy work for you in face-to-face interactions? Why would you try it here?

Frankly, these childish shenanigans cast a negative shadow on all of your contributions.
In other words, my reaction went from "that's interesting, I would like to learn more" to "he made it up and will insult anyone who asks."

Roger Pham

CF H2 tank is a well-proven device for over a decade. No one has any issue except for you. So, the burden of proof is on you to show evidence to the contrary.

Where is the reference that backs up your claim that the CF tank is leaky and the content will be lost after a few days, and where did you find studies that show that the CF tank degrades after 5 years?



1st hit on Google:

"Future work:
"• Lower permeability and higher impact toughness
"• Larger tensile elongation at break
"• Better thermal-shock resistance
"• Longer fatigue life in tension
"• Better environmental durability"

In other words, these are the issues with H2 tanks that researchers are working on, and as-of 2008 they were not yet satisfied with the results.
I asked if there had been any developments since then. Your answer was not helpful, to say the least.

Clearly you are not the right person to ask, since you were previously unaware that there were any issues (which are mentioned in any and all scientific papers on the topic). Please don't "contribute" any more until you've caught up.

Roger Pham


As I've suggested to you earlier, the DOT and NTHSA have done extensive testing on H2 tank prior to approval for the coming FCV's. Just look into their websites for data on these tests.

The following link is a most recent report of cumulative NTHSA testing on H2 tank, dated Sept. 2013. Look on page 20 for data regarding leakage rate of a 90-liter tank (90,000 cc) which shows the type 3 tank (metal liner with CF shell) has a leak rate of only 2.4 cc/hr after 500 cycles. Considering the fact there are 8,700 hrs in one year, if the leak volume is H2 at STP, while the tank holds H2 at 700 bar, you can see that it will take decades before the tank will be emptied. If the leaked H2 volume is figured at 700 bar or whatever initial pressure inside the tank, then it will take years before the tank will empty itself out. Remember that the leak rate will slow down as the tank pressure will decline.

Type 4 tank (plastic liner with CF shell) shows higher leak rate, but is still acceptable, though automotive grade usage will prefer type 3 tank.

See the following link, page 20:


Please feel free to search for more reports on H2 tank testing by US government.

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