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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.



Plug-in hybrids (PHEV) will remain the most ideal EV option. Our real problem is that we drive too much, too far, for too many purposes at too high cost & impact. FCEVs and BEVs are the automobile industry's ploy to convince us that excessive driving is sustainable, not to mention insanely profitable.

PHEVs have a single, suitcase-size battery pack for an EV driving range of 10-30 miles. This limitation is an advantage. It creates an economic incentive to drive less, walk/bike and use mass transit more. It's a more ideal match with a consequently smaller rooftop PV solar array, and a more compatable match to a local utility grids for 3-to-5x more households. The ICE of a PHEV can utilize combustable hydrogen or any available fuel or biofuel.

Nevermind. Hydrogen fuel cell chearleaders are much too smart to contemplate limitations and realities.

Roger Pham

This is truly a cause for celebration. This is a significant milestone in automotive history, that finally, a vehicle that is free from petroleum, yet is 2-3x more efficient, has decent range, and can be recharged in 3 minutes. The fuel, H2, can be made quickly and easily from renewable energy, anywhere. The disadvantage of solar and wind of being intermittent and non-dispatchable electricity source is moot when H2 is made and stored whenever there is solar and wind energy. Solar and wind electricity dedicated toward H2 production will be cheaper per kWh basis, than if these RE are to be supplied to the grid.
Those who have lived thru many previous oil shocks should appreciate a vehicle like this.

Equally practical to a FCV would be a PHEV, with a slight disadvantage of having to be plugged in nightly or twice daily, while a FCV does not need plugging in at all. However, until more H2 filling stations will be available, a PHEV is the best thing.

BEV's requiring longer charging time than FCV's, will remain a niche market vehicle, for obvious reasons. BEV's or PHEV's charged via grid electrity would not have saved much on energy cost compared to FCV's using H2 also made from RE sources that is dedicated to the electrolyzers.

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.

I doubt that.  Diesel engines can exceed 45% thermal efficiency, and I find 65% claimed for the efficiency of SMR.  Multiply by 75% PEMFC efficiency and the net is 49%, a very small difference.

For this very small difference, you have to make a number of concessions:

  1. A permanent price advantage of reformed hydrocarbons (even gasified coal) over clean sources like electrolysis using RE/nuclear.
  2. Substantial carbon emissions, far higher than the 20% of current that is required to stabilize atmospheric CO2.
  3. A whole new fueling infrastructure.

Battery vehicles consume only electrons, and whatever generator provides the cheapest electrons has the advantage.  Electric generation has no inherent carbon emissions, and if the current hysteria over nuclear energy can ever be beaten, the grid can go effectively zero-carbon (as it nearly has in France and Ontario).  That's the way forward.

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

That's a very limited resource and will be exhausted almost immediately.  I looked at how much NG a large landfill produced, and how many airliners could be supplied with LNG as a substitute for jet fuel.  The answer was very disappointing.

Since we need to de-carbonize the grid anyway, and BEVs add no carbon to what's associated with their electricity, we might as well go BEV.  Talking about the current grid mix is disingenuous.


The BEVs of today are very unfavorable to most consumers, and sadly even if they were priced lower than ICEV wouldn't sell as fast as many would like to think.(sure there would be a lot of Teslas)

A car is (usually) the 2nd largest purchase one makes, and probably one of the biggest money pits you can have besides kids or a really unfortunate living establishment... so people really do try and make a decision based on the life they want to live and for most that doesn't include BEVs yet.

I believe range/fill times is the white elephant in the room that most BEV enthusiasts don't care to look at with any sincerity.

Range... Most manufacturers advise charging till 80% of capacity to help the cells have a longer life, winter and the cold in general has a horrible affect on the batteries performance, especially if you need to run the heat.
On top of the initial 80% suggested max charge, it is also an acceptable loss to only have 80% of your original capacity after 5 years of use. So in 5 years time it is possible that your 100mile EPA rated BEV would only get you 64 miles (if you use it how the manufacturer intends you to on a daily basis)... and lets say its winter too, even more loses.

When people make a purchase decision especially when they take a 5 year loan on it, these things weigh heavily.

I think BEVs will be viable when 250 mile BEVs are available at a small premium over ICE. I think they will become popular at 500miles range, because of the ability to charge fast due to the massive number of cells that battery will have, not to mention the added longevity from not cycling the cells as often or as quickly.

Cost of fuel is a non-issue when you cant make it to the destination in a reasonable amount of time. People have grown accustom to the freedom gasoline brings them.

like the one study mentioned, the up front cost is very prohibitive even with tax incentives. It narrows the market too much, and makes it a niche item, even if it is cheaper and better to own over the long run for that select audience.

I think 3-10 min fuel times of FCV's, not to mention the incredible number of hours the Cells can run before being scrap is what will win most of America over, not the nit picky stuff we discuss here on GCC. People will pay sums of money for a little convenience, don't ever neglect that fact.


'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.' (Me)

'I doubt that.' (EP)

Your doubt does not seem to be soundly based since I have provided figures from identical vehicles running on hydrogen and petrol.

Real life in real vehicles from the pump beats theoretical calculations of efficiency, which may omit all sorts of losses.

Toyota are the kings of economy for ICE vehicles, and they are into fuel cells big time, so it hardly seems likely that they have messed up their sums and could have done better sticking to ICE.

In fact they are very specific that they can continue to improve ICE, but that they simply do not have the headroom that fuel cells provide.

So figures at the pump don't agree with you, and the world's biggest expert on ICE economy does not agree with you.

Give it up.


Toyota know rather a lot about hybrids and plug in hybrids, and they think fuel cell cars worthwhile.
If you don't fancy a full FCEV, what is the matter with a FCEV PHEV?
Of course you would lose those delicious fumes from the ICE on long runs, but the whole car would be far simpler with less components, not a kludge of two totally disparate technologies.


Davemart is really really very very thrilled! I am eageerly awaiting the wise words he'll undoubtedly have for me.

Kudos to Toyota for sticking to this. Let's see how it plays out.

To be honest, if I am to believe the bullish statements by Toyota and our very special house cheer leader Davemart ;), progress has been much faster than I would thought possible a few years ago.

Whether or not I am going to like a fuel cell vehicle remains to be seen, until now I like my Zoe very much and her ability to be refueled at home from my own homegrown electrons.

The one thing that I think remains to be seen is the fuel. When it is made from steam reforming methane, we are still dependent on a finite fossil fuel. And more pressure to extract all that shale gas doesn't seem like a good idea either. And leaking methane produces more climate change than the CO2 released when burning it. Even if it is 2x as efficient as burning the methane directly in an ICE, that doesn't make the basic problem go away.

So the only long term option is to produce hydrogen from renewable electricity. (Or direct solar-to-hydrogen technology, but I'm not too familiar with the latter to know if that is a practical option anytime soon).

When using electrolysis, roundtrip efficiency can remain a problem. Using the electricity directly is always more efficient. I'm not sure if there is enough 'stranded' wind and solar to make energy costs competitive.

So mildly growing a bit of optimism.

But I warmly welcome any competition to oil burning ICE's. The ICE must die! Any enemy of the ICE is my friend :)


ICEs are nearly fully tapped out in regard to BSFC, so any improvement there would come at great cost due to diminishing returns. Advanced ceramics, exotic low friction materials, carbon fiber ect...

Batteries are out of the truly low hanging fruit stage, no major breakthrough is bound to happen in regards for changing the shape transportation in the next 5 years. Moving focus away from Li chemistries to other competing technologies like molten salt batteries may prove more beneficial than continuing down a path with a theoretical end that doesn't do much for small vehicles (Li-Air). (I am under the impression that the amount of current it can provide is less than ideal, so more cells are needed, ultimately leading to a 2 battery BEV or a very large number of cells, encroaching on ICEVs range or surpassing it. Which may be exactly what is needed for BEVs to become common place)

Having tested and replaced cells in a Honda hybrid, as opposed to replacing the battery pack as a whole (as the dealer wanted to do at the time) individual cells do go bad, compromising the whole battery pack. (this was a serviceable Ni-Cd setup using basically stacks of D-Cell batteries as a Cell). As range increases, size and complexity increases, even if the MTBF is high the more cells you have the greater the risk. We were able to fix the pack for about $600 in special chargers/testing equipment and about $150 in used cells iirc.

To me using a battery as the sole storage of energy in transportation gets a little precarious when I think of long term use >5 years, things do go wrong, cells do deviate overtime from their original matched status, and charge capacity can be adversely affected by that.

Fuel Cells offer a replacement for a ICE power plant with similar power capabilities. The stacks themselves based on knowledge at hand are not prohibitively expensive, nor are the other large expense the fuel tanks as individual components at acceptable production levels. $50K for a drivetrain today that will refuel completely in 5-10 mins, travel ~300miles, be more efficient, help reduce concentrations of traffic related smog, little to no maintenance, and be more reliable hour wise than the ICE its intended to replace.
That's comparable to Tesla model S' drive train, in a launch model, and I know it wont be as sporty/powerful (it could be in short bursts if they used a high current battery), this is a utilitarian sort of view, a car for what a car does. I know its not even a close comparison but its something to think about.

Fuel Cells are still in the low hanging fruit stage, we will see great cost improvements, and maybe in my life time it will help to do away with gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Keep in mind these are preproduction, all major companies are moving forward with the technology. Companies have only one thing in mind, to make money for their shareholders clearly they see some promise in this technology as industry insiders.


Since you are able to charge your car at home on, as you say, 'home grown electrons' I really must congratulate you on being one of the very first to install a home battery system to store those homely electrons so that they can charge your car overnight!

Everyone else, for instance Peder Norby, who claim they are 'running on solar' are in fact talking bullcrap, as what they are actually doing it sending their power to the grid during the day and charging their battery car like everyone else from the grid at night, which may or may not be equally beneficial to the grid but sure ain't what they are claiming.

There is good reason for that, as that neatly finesses actually talking about what the real issue is with solar, storing it.

With hydrogen such storage is possible, and not only day and night, but in the immense quantities needed for covering the winter.

BTW, the figures usually used for round trip electrolysis efficiency assume that the process heat is simply thrown away.
In practise the likes of Audi are using excess wind, which would otherwise be wasted, to provide the electricity, and capturing the process heat for district heating, and in addition when the fuel cells use the hydrogen in the car that can keep the car warm, so the overall efficiency is pretty decent.

Me, I am a fan of nuclear, not renewables, so battery cars fit that much better than hydrogen.
I don't however let that preference stop me trying to assess technologies on a stand alone basis, as I have not yet been given the job of designing the energy system!

However, congratulations also, and this time sincere! ;-) on your Zoe!
Glad you are loving your cracking car!
If you have a link to your adventures with it so far, it should be a great read!



I've only just decided today, which perhaps would surprise some people, that I am in fact an advocate of fuel cell cars, or more accurately using fuel cells in cars.

Previously I have apparently leapt to their defence because poor arithmetic and dodgy assumptions irritate me, and patently false information was being peddled as Gospel, for instance the supposedly far greater energy efficiency of battery cars.

In fact both use around 1MJ/mile, and to arrive at their conclusion they had to assume that the energy for the car comes from solar ( are they all nightworkers? ), and that the hydrogen is obtained by electrolysis without recovery of process heat.

In fact if you plug in your battery car and charge it from the US grid at its average efficiency, and use hydrogen from reformed natural gas, fossil fuel just the same as what powers most of the grid, then the energy use is in the same ballpark.

I digress however.
What convinced me that at least in cold climates and at least in the form of a range extender, fuel cells would help batteries to be far more practical was that I had not realised fully how badly cold weather impacts range in BEVS.
Not only would the process heat in a modest fuel cell keep the car toastie without draining the battery, but it could keep the battery at optimum temperature and obviously mitigate or overcome range issues, depending on the size of the RE and usage patterns.

Here is FedEx massively increasing the capabilities of their electric delivery vehicles through the use of an FC RE:

Why a fuel cell RE instead of an ICE?

1. If the name of the game is to get rid of petrol, and its health hazards, fuel cells can do the job, an ICE extender is a compromise.

2. it is the more elegant solution, not kludging together two totally different technologies, and in addition loses a lot of parts such as a high temperature exhaust and catalytic converter.

So for me at least in cold climates, and at least as an RE, with anything like present technology fuel cells are the way to go.

of course, as and when magic battery technology appears, which can cope without blinking with the cold, and has much higher specific energy and lower cost, we would be in a different game!

Your doubt does not seem to be soundly based since I have provided figures from identical vehicles running on hydrogen and petrol.

That 68 MPG number looks odd to me, but let's work with it.  Multiplying by 0.75 SMR efficiency, we get 51 MPG (equivalent) at the gas pipeline.  Some should be subtracted for compression, but ignore that for now.  This is not far from the ballpark for highly optimized hybrid drivetrains and just 50% greater than the 2011 hybrid Escape's EPA city rating.  We can also be certain that the FC Highlander had aerodynamic tweaks including a flush underbody, and probably had special tires.  The "heavy traffic" cited in the report would play to FCEV strengths, by keeping aerodynamic drag and diffusion/resistance losses down.  Consumption would certainly be higher at freeway speed limits.

SMR isn't the only way to make hydrogen.  A cursory search finds a range of 54-67 kWh required to produce 1 kg H2 by electrolysis.  Ignoring compression again, this yields 790-980 Wh/mile consumption of electricity to power the FCEV Highlander.  This is more than double a Tesla's energy consumption, and triple to quadruple that of a Leaf.

If we charge a Tesla Model S (consuming 380 Wh/mi) using a 60%-efficient CCGT plant, driving 100 miles consumes 228 MJ of gas (LHV).  Driving 100 miles in the Highlander at 68.3 mi/kgH2 consumes 1.46 kg, which at 141.9 mJ/kg contains 208 MJ of energy.  Making it using SMR at 75% efficiency takes 277 MJ of gas.  That is substantially more even going by the chemical route.

So figures at the pump don't agree with you, and the world's biggest expert on ICE economy does not agree with you.

Give it up.

Even accepting the Toyota figures leaves EVs looking a lot better than FCEVs except for the one detail of RE storage, and RE isn't competitive in the hydrogen market at anything like current FITs.  If you're making H2 by SMR, you can generate electricity instead and still get more mileage out of it.  It may be cheaper, but it's much harder to decarbonize (the cheapest thing to do with SMRs is dump the CO2) and leaves you hostage to NG suppliers.

If the goal is to get even the minimum 80% reduction in carbon emissions needed to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels, the FCEV looks like a trap.


Hi Davemart,

Some people have invented a perpetuum mobile, some the opposite.

They claim that when the flow of energy is from the grid to my house, a powerplant has to generate that energy and consumes more fuels. If I reverse the flow of energy, so they say, it has no effect whatsoever and disappears into nothing and that energy is lost without a trace.

It seems you have fallen victim those people's stories.

When my solar panels produce energy during the day, they reduce ff combustion in a powerplant and at night when I charge my car, it increases ff combustion. Both cancel each other out.

I use the grid as my battery and defend that as being the most logical thing to do at this point in time.

The penetration of renewables is still too low to implement large scale storage. Most of the time, the energy company is more than happy to take my PV electricity during the day when demand is high and give me back cheap energy at night for my car.

When the time comes when renewables have a much greater share, storage technologies will have been improved. I suspect you already have noticed they are improving already. It will all come when the time is ready and that is not now.

Moreover, if you payed any attention you would have known that 'renewables' is a whole range of technologies. Some variable, some base load, some on demand. First you combine all the sources over a large area and then you use storage to compensate for any remaining mismatch between supply and demand. Matching supply and demand at each source individually is a waste of money. I hope you are smart enough to understand the concept of 'pooling variable sources'

Later when batteries become cheaper I might install one, or my energy company does so on my behalf and from my money.

And to address your criticism more to the point:

My solar panels cover around 50% of my demand. The rest comes from mostly wind, hydro and biomass. I estimate that I would be able to consume 80% of my solar energy directly if:

1. There would be enough charging infrastructure to plug in my car at work. There are not a lot of chargers around where I work. Then I could transport the electrons over the grid from my panels to my Zoe.
2. My Zoe would have 'load following capability' (would only require a tiny bit of software)
3. I would be allowed to use net metering for this energy too (would require a change in the law).

None of these are inherent shortcomings of either PV or EV.

As far as my Zoe goes, she's a fine car, not very fast or luxurious but good enough and very easy and fun to drive. EV's are so much nicer, I will never go back to an ICE again. Ever.

Her killer feature is the Chameleon charger. I have a three phase charger at home where she charges @ 36% per hour. So when I come home from work at 17:00 with a near-empty battery, she's good to go again at ~19:00. No other affordable EV can do this, since they are all single phase. Since my daughter has her driver's license, this has been a much more valuable feature than I ever could have imagined.


~33% (277/208 -1)is not a bad loss moving from a Sports Sedan to a mid-sized SUV. 155ft^3 internal space to 125ft^3

I would wager a SUV has much greater frontal area too, coupled with its lack of slipperiness it probably suffers greatly at speed which makes its rated numbers more incredible.

I am not doubting the benefits of a straight grid to battery solution over CH4->H2 solution(surprisingly less than I thought it would be), what I am trying to point out is that it is a start... this all or nothing approach is very short sighted. Maybe plug in FCV are the solution to both our problems?

Either way fuel cells greatly improve on any ICE offerings


You assume the most efficient way possible to produce the electricity, using the top efficiency of combined cycle gas turbines.
The average efficiency of even the gas part of the electricity grid will be a lot lower than that, as there are plenty of single cycle turbines with an efficiency of 42-50% out there.

The appropriate figure to take though if you plug a Tesla into the wall is not the average gas generation efficiency excluding transmission losses but the average efficiency of the US grid after transmission, which floats around 33% depending on the mix that year, which in turn depends on the cost of coal vs gas, and has bobbed around that level for 20 years.

You then have charging losses, which for the Tesla are around 15%:

I agree your figure of 380Wh/mile for the Tesla, not including charging losses.

You cast a vague aspersion on the mileage figures I quoted for the Toyota FCEV without specifying why they looked 'odd' to you, and later characterised them as Toyota's figures, which is false:

'The objective of this evaluation was to independently and
objectively verify driving ranges of >400 miles announced
by Toyota for its new advanced Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle
(FCHV‐adv)utilizing 70MPa compressed hydrogen.
To accomplish this, participants from both Savannah River
National Laboratory(SRNL)and the National Renewable Energy
Laboratory (NREL)witnessed and participated in a 2‐vehicle
evaluation with Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing
North America,Inc.(TEMA)over a typical open road route for
over 11 hours in one day with all relevant data recorded.'

So what is odd about that?
And how is this not objective?

As for 'consumption would certainly be higher at freeway speed limits'

'The speed profiles were analyzed and compared to standard
driving cycles,and were determined to be of moderate
aggressiveness. The city segments of the route had average
speeds slightly greater than the UDDS cycle and the highway segments were close to the HWFET&US06 cycles.
The average acceleration for the highway driving was very
close to the HWFET cycle,and the city portions had average
accelerations lower than the UDDS and US06 cycles.
We feel that the route accurately reflects realistic
driving behaviors in southern California on a typical
weekday, and is an appropriate benchmark to use in the
verification of a fuel cell vehicle’s range.'

That is some of the most comprehensive testing I have ever seen, with nothing odd about it at all.

You bring up the Hybrid Escape for comparison.
I used the simple and obvious comparison, the same car using petrol, which gets 20/25mpg.

Toyota know a thing or two about hybrids, as well as building what was the last I heard the world's most efficient diesel engine, and they are perfectly happy with the economy of fuel cell cars, and see them as a better long term solution, with more headroom and importantly, zero pollution at point of use.


I just thought.
If one compares the FCEV to a natural gas car, both fuels need compression, although slightly different amounts, so that is near enough a wash, and the figure reduction by you for the FCEV from 68mpge to 51 mpge is about right.

If you compare against the petrol version, you rightly decrease the mpg to allow for reforming losses.

Losses in producing petrol are not trivial though, around 12-15%:

That is going to cover the losses from compressing the hydrogen and then some, so your figure of 51 mpge must be of the right order even allowing for compression.

For a small SUV that sounds pretty good to me.

Fuel cells are not at their maximum for efficiency in any case, and higher temperature cells could greatly improve the fuel economy.

Durability etc has been the more important issue to date, but better fuel economy should come later.


I am glad that you are loving your Zoe, which is the important thing!

As for the solar panel thing, I know that you have technological qualifications.
Such folk are usually very,very picky on exact terminology.
It is therefore odd that the difference between charging a car from solar, and putting an equivalent charge into the grid at a different time of day or even a different season (!) is so elided.

That is clearly because that glosses over the big problem with renewables, power delivery when it is needed.

Hey, battery cars are fine by me, and I get stick from other nuclear advocates for pointing out the plus points of fuel cells, which are not nuclear friendly, for instance.

But you are simply not running your car on solar, whatever quibbles you make.

I am afraid that I cannot award you the George Washington hatchet this year!

I hope you and your Zoe continue to be very happy together, and don't get bullied by any SUVs........;-)

Bob Wallace

Davemart -

The first link in your Volt battery comment looks like it could or might not include the battery. All I can make from it is that they don't list the battery modules separately for sale.


You second link is giving me a 404. Both from your post and from the comment you linked.

A.C. R.

Davemart, you make it sound like hydrogen has no transmission losses.

In fact, typical pump and hydrogen diffusive (leak) losses for distributing hydrogen are 5 to 10 times higher than distributing natural gas. Onboard reforming of natural gas won't be very efficient because such reforming is most effciently done in large centralized stationairy installations.

Comparing a state of the art hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that isn't in any large sale anywhere on the world, with old crappy powerplants and run of the mill cars you can buy in the store right now, is not fair.

If you're going to run on natural gas in onboard reformers or in centralized reformers, you're not running on hydrogen, you have a natural gas vehicle. You should compare with a state of the art optimized natural gas internal combustion engine which has similar efficiency as fuel cell when reforming plus additional compressive losses (over natural gas) are included. The fuelling cost of such a natural gas ICE car is slighly lower than that of a reformed natural gas powered fuel cell.

With hydrogen, cost of distribution, compression etc are all much higher than cost of transporting electricity or natural gas.

I agree with Engineer-Poet. If you run reasonable numbers and include the front end losses, natural gas powered (one way or the other) fuel cell cars are less efficient and cost a lot more to fuel and buy than natural gas ICE cars. Natural gas ICE cars have not caught on greatly, so the fuel cell car with its greater cost and lower fuel efficiency will do worse.

It's ok if you lose your manners, but don't lose your mind.

Bob Wallace

My question is whether fuel cells will become comparable in price to ICEs.

Let's say that they do over the next ten years.

And that, for lack of a working crystal ball battery capacity increases at the commonly assumed 7% per year rate.

Ten years out we would have ~200 mile range EVs. And for the same price one could buy a PHEV with a fuel cell range extender. Or a FCEV.

Now, we've come up with no scenario in which fuel becomes as cheap as electricity.

Are people more likely to pay more for a FCEV when a PHEV with a fuel cell would be considerably cheaper to drive?

How many people who drive less than 200 miles a day are likely to buy a FCEV, drive the first 50 or so on cheap electricity then switch to more expensive fuel when they could do their entire drive on electricity?


The reason that I am looking at state of the art fuel cell cars is that they are only just starting to be produced, so 100% of them will be.

I use current efficiency figures for the grid because that is what it does right now, and it will only be upgraded very, very gradually.
As I said the overall efficiency figure has been stable for decades, and it is unlikely to take a drastic upturn anytime soon.

This is partly because the grid had enormous inertia, and, for instance, the Hoover Dam which still turns out large amounts of power isn't going to change its efficiency much.

It is also because even as more efficient turbines, for instance, become available, renewables increase their penetration.
Most of them are intermittent, which means that when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining something, usually gas, has to take up the slack.

Running equipment only part of the time is both cost and energy inefficient, and you have loads of sub-optimal output, partly because for back up you don't use the most efficient combined cycle, but the cheapest single cycle, and partly because you need things like spinning reserve, ie gas turbines idling ready to be ramped up fast, literally whenever a cloud covers the sun, so they burn some fuel all the time, even when producing no energy.

No one is talking about on-board reforming at the present time, but you can reform natural gas pumped in the existing NG pipelines at the filling station, and still stay within the kind of efficiency figures I have used as a ball park.

In Europe the local reforming can even have the waste energy used for district heating, although that is not going to happen in the US.

Nor is piping hydrogen the huge problem you suggest.
Hawaii and Germany both plan to simply put it in the NG pipelines, and minimal extra reinforcement is needed, depending on the percentages needed:

Pure hydrogen is also routinely piped about in very large quantities for industrial purposes, and has been for decades.
So the small an corrosive hydrogen molecules are an engineering issue, but nothing remotely like a showstopper, and not even very expensive to work with.

'With hydrogen, cost of distribution, compression etc are all much higher than cost of transporting electricity or natural gas.'

Really? Let's see your sourced figures, in detail.
I have given chapter and verse for the energy efficiency of the Toyota Highlander FCEV.

Roger Pham

>>>>"Are people more likely to pay more for a FCEV when a PHEV with a fuel cell would be considerably cheaper to drive?"

People are still paying 4x more to buy Teslas, Mercedes, Lexus, etc. when the likes of Corollas, Versas, Sentras, are much cheaper to drive.
BTW, the Prius has been found by Consumer Report to have the least cost to own and operate, beating out much less expensive cars like the Honda Fit.
The automobile market is so big that can accommodate the preferences of diversity of people. Many people don't want to have to plug their car in every day.

But, I can guarantee you that H2 from dedicated RE sources will be just as cheap as electricity from RE per mile driven. No need to worry.


Firstly, regarding the figures for the Volt battery replacement and the cost per kilowatt extrapolated from it.
I am not going to get involved in researching this one, mainly because I do not live in the US and it is too easy to miss parts of the cost if you are not intimately familiar with the country, taxes etc.

You were properly cautious when you came upon that exciting find, and as far as I can determine that figure does not pan out.
If you can find firm evidence to support the low price, I will be delighted.

On the use of fuel cells, you said:
'And that, for lack of a working crystal ball battery capacity increases at the commonly assumed 7% per year rate.

Ten years out we would have ~200 mile range EVs. And for the same price one could buy a PHEV with a fuel cell range extender. Or a FCEV.'

The slower than hoped for progress in batteries is precisely why Toyota dropped the iQ EV as a mass production vehicle, and redoubled their efforts on fuel cells.

Not that Toyota have given up on batteries. They continue a large research program.
The difference is that for batteries to really hit a home run, they need much more radical changes than fuel cells do.
Moving fuel cells on is not mostly a matter of production engineering, with the technology 'good enough'

In contrast large increases in specific energy are really needed to move batteries on much.

Since including all the components of the drive train and the very heavy CF tank we are still talking about ~1,500wh/kg for fuel cells, it is clear how much advantage they have over even the best batteries, unless a breakthrough happens, which you can never count on.

As for the 200 miles a day bit, you are in big trouble if you need to drive anything like that in anything less than a Tesla.

In reality though, it only takes an occasional 200 mile trip to make sub-Tesla battery cars a bit inconvenient, which may be OK for fans, but won't suit the general public.

That is why there are so many SUVs about when most of their load and towing capacity is rarely used.

People like the option, even if they rarely use it.
Maybe they shouldn't, in the eyes of BEV enthusiasts, but they do.

In addition to that, if you live anywhere where it gets chilly in winter the range of BEVs falls drastically.

Even a 5kw Fuel cell RE would greatly mitigate that, and not have all the hassles and pollution involved in making it an ICE hybrid.

So I think fuel cells will be an increasingly useful option to have for those of us, like me, who don't care for ICE and petrol.


If you want to compare real world numbers, look at the MPG for the Honda Civic GX natural gas car versus this Toyota FCV of comparable size and weight.

I think per therm the FVC takes you farther with no NOX and other combustion products. There is an article here about the newly found carcinogenic dangers of combustion products.


That sounds and interesting comparison.
You don't give the particular links you were looking at?

The main reason I use the Toyota figures is because there is exactly the same model available as a petrol version, and the mileage figures are definitive - I was involved in long arguments some time past about how accurate the mileage figures were for the Hyundai I used to use for comparison.

The Honda is an older generation of FC, and from memory does not get nearly as good mileage as later cars and fuel stacks - Honda's new one will have twice the energy density, at least, and just about everything including parasitic losses improved.

The best figures are likely to be from the Hyundai's, when the new one comes our, as they don't use a compressor which costs energy.

The Honda Civic CNG is however handy for reference, as there is an exactly equivalent petrol car, so that is anyone wants to argue the point that CNG is no more efficient than petrol, figures to show that that is not the case are readily to hand.

It is amazing the number of people who try to claim that fuel cell cars will be no more efficient than CNG.
It ain't so.


Thinking about it the debate about how accurate the efficiency figures were for the Hyundai FCEV were was with Arne, aka Anne!

Sportingly, when she saw the Toyota figures, she acknowledged that fuel cells are obviously pretty efficient!
Not many people have the guts to take face up to new information contrary to the position they have been arguing - kudos!

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