Around 16 years ago Toyota unveiled its hybrid electric-gasoline car. Since then it has sold almost six million of them. Now the company is taking a different direction and will start selling cars powered with a hydrogen fuel cell as soon as 2015. The battery car, they say, could only exist as “a niche toy for [rich] eco-snobs”, but is not suitable for the masses.
The fuel cell car will have a range of over 500 km or perhaps as much as 650 km in range driving, and will be refillable in seconds if you can find a filling station. Germany currently has 15.
The price is given as between five and 10 million yen, or about €37,000 to €74,000. Not cheap, but perhaps cheaper than expected as an initial offering.
On the downside, the car is only 30% efficient compared to 70% for battery electric. Hence masses of renewable energy will be required if the cars are to be environmentally friendly. There is a question as to whether sufficient renewable energy will be available for a mass rollout, but the car is more efficient than a conventional petrol model.
Toyota have devoted 500 engineers to the project, so they are certainly serious. Daimler has been working on the concept for some time and expects to have vehicles on the road in 2017, as does a Ford-Nissan alliance. General Motors, Honda and Hyundai are working together on a fuel cell project, Volkswagen has formed an alliance with Canadian fuel cell producer Ballard so as not to be caught out if the technology takes off.
Treehugger took the prototype for a drive. They suggest it will be introduced in California first because of the greater density of refuelling stations. They also suggest that the car could be used to keep your lights for a week as a supplement to a home energy system.
Here’s the structural layout from the Der Spiegel photo gallery:
Here’s how a fuel cell is said to work for the technically minded:
So what do you think? Is fuel cell the way to go?