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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.


Either way fuel cells greatly improve on any ICE offerings

But not enough, and not compared to batteries except if the H2 comes from RE or nuclear.  Which is not competitive.

Taking the median 60.5 kWh/kg figure and a not-atypical electric rate of 10¢/kWh, 1 kg of H2 by electrolysis would cost $6.05 for the electricity alone.  Adding in amortization and O&M for the hydrogen production and dispensing, you're near or even above gasoline per-mile cost even before taxes.  This cements the position of NG suppliers, and may even make gasified coal competitive.

As I said, it's a trap.

You assume the most efficient way possible to produce the electricity, using the top efficiency of combined cycle gas turbines.

That is generally what's going to be used (along with nuclear) in off-peak hours, especially if charging is managed by the system operator and coal is phased out by policy.  (A substantial amount of my electricity comes from gas-fired industrial cogeneration, which is arguably even more efficient than CCGT.)  In the nuclear future you and I want to see, the role of gas will be much smaller; with a vehicle fleet driven by PEMFCs, it will be much bigger.

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.

There are actually many with efficiencies in the 30's, and IIUC the best SCGT is still the LMS100 at 46% peak, but those are mostly used for peaking and RE-following.  An EV-centric system would use the chargers to manage grid demand, and feed everything from the most efficient generators available.  That plays to CCGT, nuclear, and to a lesser extent, wind/PV.

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 does have a 2014 Highlander hybrid.  Why wasn't that the companion vehicle, for comparison?

I'm not against FCEVs per se, I'm against GHG emissions and policies and technologies which function as traps to keep emissions up.  The FF interests have been very, very clever at hiding traps in policy initiatives.

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.

France replaced oil-fired electric power with nuclear in 16 years.  At least in the USA, power consumption at the wheels is a fraction of stationary electric consumption.  We should be able to do that conversion in a similar amount of time, if the engineers are let loose.


If I were in charge here in the UK I would be e-mailing Amazon about my delivery of 10 ESBWRs and 10 AP1000's, and asking if I could pay for express.

I'm not though, so I try to look as impartially as I can at technologies.

Fuel cells are a pretty lousy fit for a grid heavy in nuclear, but we are not going to get that any time soon anyway, and an awful lot of the stuff which was posted on the web knocking fuel cell cars was just innumerate twaddle.

More directly, if I am doing comparisons I try to make them as direct as possible, and all sorts of levels of hybridisation are possible, including PHEV, some of which could also be used in FCEVs.

So I stick to the present efficiency figures, from the present grid, using present fuel cell cars which are closely matched to petrol.

I do have figures available to show that CNG is no more energetically efficient than petrol, although of course that is obvious.

All sorts of other assumptions can be made, but that is not just on one side as the efficiency of fuel cells, reforming or electrolysis, and compression is not static, and CHP is possible.

As for hydrogen costs, you don't give your sources. here is what I use:

So how much you pay depends basically on how much renewables you want in it.
At the 33% rate mandated by California and using my figure of twice the efficiency of hydrogen in fuel cells compared to NG/petrol then fossil fuel use would be down 66% relative to the same number of ICE miles - and way less in terms of CO2 compared to petrol.

A lot more than using BEVs in fact at the average burn and CO2 load of the US grid, although maybe not for California which uses less CO2 rich sources.

So massive reductions are possible with the use of fuel cells - and in my view BEVs are here to stay too, so it will be FCEVs plus BEVs, not or BEVs.

I'd prefer a stronger BEV portion, to match a stronger nuclear and charging them off peak at night, but it ain't gonna happen, and fuel cells are way better than burning petrol in an ICE so if battery technology does not improve fast enough in both energy density and cost to make that a more universal solution I am happy to see fuel cells supplementing them.

As I argue above, at least in a cold climate at minimum a BEV plus a fuel cell RE is way, way better than a BEV on its own, and an ICE RE is inelegant, costly, complex and polluting.


The Honda Civic GX averages about 30 MPG (equivalent)


This car might get 60 MPG (equivalent)

It is a bit subjective to say "not enough".

A.C. R.

Davemart: your figures are incomplete, but you won't listen in your nirvana state.

68 MPG, using hydrogen that magically sprouts out of the ground.

In real life, we start with a minus 30% for the reformer (good figure for medium scale reformer such as at the refuelling station), minus 12% for compression of the hydrogen, gives 42 MPG. You can drive natural gas hybrid vehicles with better than 42 MPG at 1/10th the incremental cost of today's hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Such hybrids are not popular, and you must ask yourself some critical questions as to why that is.

A decent writeup from the IEA is here:


As you can see the costs and effciency losses (resulting in more costs) add up. Costs for distribution, infrastructure, methane reforming, individually not bad but add it up and you get to high lifecycle costs.

Hydrogen cars are like natural gas cars, but worse in every way (more expensive, less robust, less efficient).

A.C. R.


The car Davemart is talking about is actually a battery hybrid and he compares it to a crappy nonhybrid vehicle. Another apples to oranges comparison.

A more reasonable comparison is to a Prius (roughly similar weight, also a hybrid car).


Averaging 47 MPG in real fleet averages. This is better than the 42 MPG for the FCV.

A.C. R.

This research from Lux Research is not very encouraging:



The energy mix and cost vary considerably from one region to another. No comparison is valid for all regions.

In many regions, more low cost clean Hydro energy could be harnessed to cleanly produce enough H2 for the FCEVs fleet.

In many other regions, intermittent clean wind and solar energies could also be used to cleanly produce H2 for local FCEVs.

BEVs and FCEVs may be used concurrently for decades. FCEVs for extended range and heavy vehicles and BEVs for short and mid range trips for smaller vehicles?


This car has 5 kilos of hydrogen storage and goes 300 miles, that is 60 miles per kilo (about the same energy as a gallon of gasoline, roughly 123,000 BTUs)

Not only does it get 60 MPG, it does so WITHOUT internal combustion pollution, which has been shown to be mutagenic.

"..produced by combustion sources or formed in the atmosphere that are hundreds of times more mutagenic than their parent PAHs"


Calculating energy to produce hydrogen requires a review of the energy required to produce gasoline and diesel, nothing is transformed for free. CNG requires energy to be compressed, hydrogen requires energy to be compressed.


EP as much as we would like to, being green is cost prohibitive, and in a world that consumes energy for nearly everything, cost does matter.
Also as consumers we pay for things out of convenience, even if Fuel Cells today are on equal ground with ICEs on a cost per mile basis its a great start.
Fuel cells allow entry into the green market for almost any size vehicle, I would like to see how you envision a tractor trailer BEV that could have a 70% uptime at highway speeds.

Any step away from fossil fuels towards more sustainable and renewable forms of transportation is a good one. H2's ability to be made from electrolysis can be advantageous in capturing a renewable source like solar or wind to its full potential, albeit at a diminished rate but it is a step in the right direction.

Now, I am not a very good greenie, so I don't consider CO2 to be a large enough threat as many make it out to be, I would rather focus on NOx or HCs or any other organic particulates that come from exhaust. Stuff that causes real imminent damage to life.

That being said, I do favor any means to substitute fossil fuels for a renewable or waste to fuel solutions as long as it shows a good stewardship of the environment.

I think we are going to have large H2 farms like current wind and solar farms for power. I believe there will be a day when all of transportations energy needs will be offset by renewable sustainable sources,

As for hydrogen costs, you don't give your sources.

There's an NREL paper which gives the range of 54-67 kWh/kg.  Search engines will find it for you.  I didn't use any cost figures, I took a not-atypical (and lower than I pay) electric rate and multiplied by kWh/kg to get electric cost.  To get energy cost for electrolytic hydrogen down to the $2/kg range, you need electricity to cost in the region of USD0.03/kWh.  When new offshore wind projects are receiving FITs closer to USD0.20/kWh in G. Britain and the Euro zone, it stretches credulity to believe this will happen.  If the electrolyzers actually pay the producers the FIT, the H2 would cost in the region of USD 12/kg for the electricity alone.

So massive reductions are possible with the use of fuel cells

You're vague about what's being massively reduced.  It looks like a push from 25 MPG to about 50 MPG-equivalent has been demonstrated.  But that's nowhere near good enough; we need an 80% decrease in carbon, so 125 MPG-equivalent is the bare minimum we can ask for.  If evidence shows we need to pull CO2 down to 350 ppm, ANY positive CO2 contribution is too much.  SMR of natural gas has no place in that world.  It dies, and the PEMFCEV with it.

fuel cells are way better than burning petrol in an ICE

Not if building out the FC infrastructure forces us to feed it with methane and dump CO2 for the next 50 years.  That's the trap I'm worried about.  We would be better off substituting compatible liquids (e.g. MeOH) in the current dispensing infrastructure for ICE range extenders, and going PHEV.  If no major new infrastructure has been built, it creates no interest involved in keeping it in use to pay for it.

A.C. R.

Again, that 60 MPG is MPG for hydrogen. The hydrogen comes from somewhere, so its silly to talk about hydrogen MPG. You want to know the source MPG and then compare that to that source being used in a car directly. Zero fossil fuel pollution, nonsense. The hydrogen comes from natural gas reforming.

60 MPG minus 30% for the reformer minus 12% for compressive losses (even bigger if cryogenic). Gives 37 MPG of natural gas equivalent. In a battery hybrid car. That's poor. A natural gas battery hybrid has a lower cost and better mileage (>40 MPG).

In the future it will be worse as hydrogen is attempted to be generated "cleanly" by electrolysis, thermolysis, etc. all of which are less efficient than steam methane reforming.

A.C. R.

HarveyD: there is no excess clean hydro available. All of it is gobbled up for electricity, or unuseable due to ecological constraints. Despite Asian and South American countries building dams feverishly, they can't get enough electricity from this source to power their continents. There is no excess. There is a shortage. As a result they must use lots of fossil fuels.

Roger Pham

Ok, E-P, let's say that nuclear energy, using a SMR placed right by the electrolyzer, is used to produce the electricity for H2 production, at $0.05/kWh. A modern commercial electrolyzer using steady DC current can achieve 78% efficiency. At 39 kWh/kg HHV for H2, and at 78% efficiency, it takes 50 kWh to make 1kg of H2. Multiply 50 kWh by $0.05/kWh = $2.5/kg raw electricity cost. Adding other expenses including profit, and this H2 can be sold at $3.5-$4.0/kg retail. Remember that a FCV can achieve 2-3x the MPGe of an equivalent ICEV, so the cost of H2 is already a lot lower that folks are used to pay for gasoline per mile!

Now, if this same nuclear SMR is used to generate electricity to the grid so that you can charge your PEV at home, you will have to add the $0.025 cost of distribution of this electricity, to raise the raw cost for grid electricity to $0.075. Of course, adding taxes and profits, etc.. will raise the price to $0.1-0.13/kWh that we are paying for monthly. Now, please re-do the math to see who will be paying more for energy, PEV owners or FCV owners? I'd say, about the same!

Notice that I haven't added the 7-8% efficiency loss going thru the grid for PEV, to the calculation, but this is on par with energy required for compression of H2 to storage pressure at retail. Of course, if the FCV is equipped with means to recuperate this pressure energy, then FCV would be even more efficient.

So, you can see that the cost of energy of PEV and FCV to the end-users will be comparable, no matter whether nuclear energy or renewable energy will be used.

A FCV is just another EV. If more people will prefer future advance battery, Toyota will simply yank out the FC stack and the H2 tank and put in place the future advance battery. Voila, one EV model can accomplish different means of energy storage. No big risk for Toyota to develop and promote FCV. Some people will like it, some people will prefer future BEV...One model can satisfy both camps.

A.C. R.

Roger - compressive losses for hydrogen are about 12%, versus US grid losses of 7%. That is comparing state of the art 700 atm compressors, with and old crappy grid.

Energy losses/cost is just one cost. Compressors, electrolysers, pipelines, all cost money. See the IEA ref I gave earlier. And consider the Lux report, which states that only 21% of the lifecycle cost for hydrogen FCVs is in energy. The rest is capital and operations, not just of the car, but also of compressor stations, refuelling stations, electrolysers, pipelines, etc.

A.C. R.

Also I really must stress that we compare raw costs only. Retail gasoline has taxes and the like in it.

The dead giveaway for HFCVs is that natural gas ICEs haven't catched on big time. Natural gas ICEs are cheaper, easier, more convenient (smaller lower pressure tanks, more fuelling stations/even at home for some people) than hydrogen.



Natural gas ICEs have caught-on, but only in fleets. The obvious reasons are the lack of infrastructure and the need to run high mileages in order to see any savings.
Both of these issues are easy enough to address for a fleet that runs all day and comes back to a central location every night.

The article doesn't address the permeability problem with hydrogen fuel tanks. Has this been solved, or will your tank lose all pressure after a few days?

Roger Pham

Now you're changing the topic slightly, and you're addressing amortization cost of equipments and facility, not raw energy cost. Grid electricity has considerable infrastructure cost that was amortized over decades. Ditto for petroleum refinery and distribution. All these are amortized over decades, and so will H2 production and distribution infrastructure. When amortized over 3 decades, the infrastructre cost per kg will be small.

The DOE and Auto MFG's have studied the economics of H2 carefully and have determined that it is viable. NG for cars and trucks can only be temporary solution, so no one is taking it as seriously. H2 is forever, once fossil fuels will run out in many decades ahead. That's why we must take H2 seriously!


30 MPG for gasoline does not take into account the energy required to make gasoline from crude oil. If you want a fair comparison, start there.


Where will the hydrogen come from?
How will it be distributed?
How much will it cost to fill up?
How long will the fuel cell last?
How many cars can fill up in a day at a hydrogen filling station?
Will the station have a roof? (The ones I have seen so far do not have roofs.) If not, how does this work in snowy areas?
How big is the battery pack? Is it a plugin?

The three sources of hydrogen that I know of are:

1) It is a byproduct of chlorine production.
2) Steam reforming of natural gas.
3) Electrolysis using electricity to split water.

Each of these has it's challenges. We can only get so much from making chlorine, because we only need so much chlorine. It is a "byproduct" but it is probably already spoken for for various and sundry purposes.

Steam reforming is not so great because it takes a fossil fuel and adds more energy to it (heat that comes *probably* from burning natural gas?); thereby negating any possible advantages of "clean" hydrogen.

Electrolysis is also problematic: it takes a LOT of electricity to split water. Like about 3-3.5X more energy than you can get back out of the hydrogen, as I understand it. And where does the electricity come from? From the grid? If so, then it is 3-3.5X dirtier than an EV. Renewable energy? Then hydrogen is just a really inefficient way to store and transfer electricity. It is very "lossy".

One of the bottle necks for hydrogen filling stations is the non-trivial process of compressing the hydrogen to ~10,000PSI. It is "pre-compressed" to ~5,000PSI before a fuel cell vehicle even shows up, and then it is compressed the rest of the way to 10,000 PSI during the fill process. This takes yet more energy - probably electricity from the grid.

Having even air stored at 10,000PSI in tanks on the car is problematic; let alone highly acidic and explosive hydrogen.

The reason there are no roofs on on hydrogen filling stations is simple - if it leaks, then you do not want to trap it inside.

Distributing hydrogen is not something we have even attempted to do, and it is certainly a HUGE challenge to build this infrastructure. You think exploding oil transport trains or burst oil pipelines are a challenge, then hydrogen will be much worse.

Battery packs will last 200K+ miles and maybe even more; depending on the chemistry. Prius batteries have lasted 300-500K miles.

Do we know how much a new fuel cell will cost? I'm guessing it is probably more than a big battery pack.

The last I heard about the cost of hydrogen was from an episode of Fully Charged when Robert Llewellyn drove a Honda FCX Clarity. It was ~€36-37 to fill it with ~4kg of hydrogen. This is roughly £30. Driving an EV the same distance cost under £3.


"...about 3-3.5X more energy than you can get back out of the hydrogen.."

If you take natural gas and run a power plant turbine, transmit the power, convert it through the charger, go round trip through the batteries you get maybe 30% of the original energy in the natural gas. Does that mean it takes 3.3 times the energy?

Roger Pham

Relax...In time, all of your questions will be answered. Just enjoy the tremendous technological progress that is unfolding in front of us.

I know for sure that H2 will eventually be inexpensive and very affordable. I just don't yet know how to convince everyone of that.

The 5-10,000-psi CF H2 tank is practically bullet proof and will last many generations. In fact, it is made from the same material as bullet-proof vest is made out of! The FC tank will remain intact even in crashes so severe that no one can possibly survive the impacts. If Paul Walker (of Fas & Furius Fame) has ridden a FCV instead of an ICEV, he and his friend would not have died from a horrible fire. The FC tank would be intact, and G-shock sensor that deployed the airbag would have shut off the main H2 valve from the tank such that no H2 would escape and there would be no fire! That's is how safe FCV's would be from fire and explosion hazard!

I know that PHEV is already a sure thing! The battery technology sufficient to make a PHEV competitive with an ICEV is already here. At least, PHEV will save us from petroleum dependency in the coming years!

But if you want an extra safety edge from fire and explosion hazard, and the convenience of not having to plug in daily while still able to enjoy renewable energy, a soon-to-come FCV would be a good bet!


Since Roger brought it up, I will ask again.
Has anyone addressed the issues with hydrogen tanks? All the published data that I can find indicates that they suffer from very short lifespans (<5 years) and excessive permeability (total loss of pressure over a few day).

I know we saw some proposed solution over the years on GCC that involved binding the hydrogen in a less volatile molecule, but Toyota doesn't mention any such solution in their press release.

Anyone know if this is still a major concern?

A.C. R.

Roger Pham: storing hydrogen fuel at 700 atmospheres isn't safer than batteries. H2 is a Houdini molecule and is explosive in almost any concentration with air. Coatings etc. have been developed with low H2 diffusivity, there's always a possibility of coating etc failing.

There is a particular issue with tunnel and parking garage safety during calamities (fires). Current tunnels are not designed for such explosive gasses. In a fire the 700 atmospheres hydrogen wants to become over 1500 atmospheres, which means release of hydrogen into the fire environment (if not by tank rupture then by relief devices).

I'd much rather have batteries below my butt then explosive hydrogen or gasoline.

It is hard to beat diesel on fire safety though.

Roger Pham

Yes, the CF H2 tank technology was thoroughly tested, and was found to have almost zero leak rate. It would take decades for the H2 to empty the tank, if at all. Furthermore, CF tank technology can endure 5500 filling cycles. At 300-mi range, this would means 1.65 million miles. The CF material is very chemically inert and the strength will hold for many decades. In fact, modern aircraft are now increasingly made out of carbon fiber that is expected to last for 5 decades at least, and even much longer.

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