Toyota Motor continues to lay the foundation for the introduction of its production fuel cell hybrid vehicle in 2015; the company began work on fuel cell technology in 1992. Showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in January in Las Vegas (earlier post), the FCV Concept, which presages the introduction of the series-production vehicle, made its European debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show.
Re-emphasizing the general technology points that have emerged over the past few months at different events while adding a bit more detail, Yoshikazu Tanaka, Product General Manager of the Product Planning Group, said at the Geneva show that Toyota’s current fuel cell (FC) system features an output power density of 3.0 kW/L—twice as high as that of its previous FCV, the Toyota FCHV-adv (earlier post). The output power is more than 100kW, despite significant unit downsizing.
|Toyota’s view of hydrogen|
|“Toyota believes that environmentally friendly vehicles can only truly have a positive impact if they are widely used. From the perspective of mobility zones based on travel distance, hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles can match the everyday usability of a current gasoline car, and become mainstream environmentally friendly vehicles. An electric vehicle is suitable for short-distance commuting, because of its short cruising distance and long charging time.”|
|“We regard fuel cell vehicles as promising environmentally friendly vehicles of the future, with high total energy (Well-to-Wheel) efficiency. … On the other hand, fuel cell vehicles are extremely versatile, with a long cruising range and a short fueling time. However, the hydrogen infrastructure needs to be developed. At the moment, each environmentally friendly vehicle has its own shortcomings, and it is up to our customers to decide which vehicle is best for them.”|
|“In order to give these customers what they want within an appropriate timescale, we are committed to developing a broad range of technologies—including plug-in hybrid, electric vehicle and FCV, corresponding to the simultaneous diversification of energy sources.”|
Tanaka joined Toyota in 1987 and was first assigned to the development of automatic transmissions such as the 4-speed AT for the first-generation Yaris. From March 2006 he was engaged in Plug-in Hybrid vehicle planning and development, and, in 2007, became planning and development leader for the Prius Plug-in project. Since January 2012, he has been in charge of planning and development for fuel cell vehicles.
With its proprietary, small, light-weight FC Stack and two 70 MPa high-pressure hydrogen tanks placed beneath the specially designed body, the Toyota FCV Concept can accommodate up to four occupants.
Tanaka said that Toyota designed a new fuel cell stack that allows water to recirculate within, from cathode to anode, humidifying internally and maintaining the proper moisture balance. Eliminating the need for a humidifier allowed Toyota to simplify the structure of the fuel cell system, making it lighter, smaller and more cost-effective.
For a full-scale market launch in 2015, the cost of the fuel cell system will be 95% lower than that of the 2008 Toyota FCHV-adv, Tanaka said. (A cost target also affirmed by Matt McClory, a Manager with Toyota’s Powertrain System Control group in Torrance, California, in his presentation at the SAE 2014 Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium.) For a full-scale market launch of an FCV, the most important issue is the reduction of the fuel cell system cost and, hence, the retail price, Tanaka said. Accordingly, Toyota has worked on making FC systems more competitive; higher-powered, smaller, lighter and cheaper.
Toyota is also considering integrating a boost converter on the stack itself, McClory said at the SAE conference. Although specs are still to be released, McClory suggested for illustration that you could consider the stack itself being at a lower voltage (perhaps 200 V) with the traction motor at 600V. The battery would still be a conventional system as used in hybrids today.
The FCV Concept also uses the current hybrid system’s electric motor, power control unit and other parts and components to improve reliability and minimize cost, Tanaka said.
|Powertrain elements, including the two hydrogen storage tanks. Click to enlarge.|
Tanaka said that Toyota is in the final stages of development for the 2015 fuel cell vehicle, conducting all kinds of tests, on ordinary roads and in cold climates and extremely hot climates, for example. The company is considering using the Toyota FCV Concept packaging. The Concept exterior design does take a commercial launch into consideration, although there are design elements that are show model-specific only. As such, the production FCV will not be launched just as the FCV Concept appears in Geneva.
To prepare for full-scale FCV popularization after 2020, Tanaka said, the company is placing a high priority on the research and development of fuel cell vehicles to enable sales of several tens of thousands of vehicles per year.
Toyota Group companies will also be conducting research and development into fuel-cell buses (Hino Motors, Ltd.), stationary fuel cell cogeneration systems for residential use (Aisin Seiki Co., Ltd.), and fuel-cell forklifts and other industrial vehicles (Toyota Industries Corporation).
A new FC bus jointly developed by Toyota and Hino Motors will be launched in 2016. Toyota Group companies utilize jointly the technology and know-how which each individual company has cultivated.