30 Aug 2013

Toyota to announce major hydrogen fuel cell breakthrough

Toyota is set to announce a hydrogen fuel cell breakthrough at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
2015 Toyota hydrogen fuel cell car

Toyota gave us the Prius.  Mocked, grudgingly accepted, and then widely imitated.  It was the eco-warriors choice of green wheels.  The trouble is hybrids don't have fantastic economy compared to super-frugal diesels, and burning hydrocarbons just ekes out the world's oil resources.

I've long believed that hydrogen is the way forward for a true long-term fuel solution for cars.  So do most car manufacturers.  Aston Martin just raced a hydrogen-fuelled Rapide at the Nurburgring, Ford, Mercedes and Nissan/Renault have signed a deal to work together on hydrogen fuel cells and BMW and Toyota did the same.

Toyota will announce at the Frankfurt Motor Show that it is to launch its first commercially available fuel cell car in 2015.  Toyota's first Fuel Cell Vehicle concept was launched at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show.

That FCR produced no emissions and had a range of 420 miles.  Since then Toyota has halved the number of tanks required to store the same amount of hydrogen from 4 to 2, and changed the materials used.  These developments allow for reduced costs and increased flexibility in the vehicle design.
2015 Toyota hydrogen fuel cell car

The twin tanks and fuel cell stack are located below the car's floor.  It uses a hybrid system, based on that in the Prius and will have an electric motor and 21kW battery.

Toyota envisages that with current tech the 2015 car will cost in the order of £70,000.  However its aim is to reduce this substantially and to reduce the storage requirement even further.

Toyota's ultimate aim is for hydrogen hybrid cars to be fully commercially available, and selling in the tens of thousands, by the 2020s.

Let's hope so.  This could be the leap forward in fuel for personal transportation the world needs.  Unless, that is, battery technology makes similar leaps in terms of range and charge time.  But, given the rate of progress in battery tech, that seems unlikely unless major breakthroughs occur.

Toyota's demonstration of its hydrogen fuel cell technology will take place on 10 September at the Frankfurt Motor Show

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