The Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle Is Here!
Sales to begin in Japan.
Last Wednesday, Toyota finally unveiled the production model of its fuel cell sedan, the concept of which made its debut in the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. No fancy-schmancy name for this baby – Toyota just calls it the Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) – let’s hope they had put more effort into the technology than into the naming.
The motor draws power from both the 1000kW fuel stack, tucked under the front seats, and a supplementary battery; the battery is recharged when there is access of power from the stack. Hydrogen is stored in two cylindrical tanks – one under the rear seat, another behind the rear wheels – with a total capacity of 5kg. Early reviews say that it can accelerate from zero to 100kph at under 10 seconds, with no audible hissing, which occurs when the pressurised hydrogen flows into the stack, except when you floor it.
The Toyota 2015 FCV will go on sale beginning in April 2015 in Japan, with a hefty price tag of ¥7 million (US$70,000), and then later in the summer in Europe and the States, countries where the hydrogen refuelling infrastructure are (relatively) more established then others.
Japan may be where Toyota’s HQ is, but it is also a country which is revving up to become a proponent of fuel cell-powered vehicles. Prime Minister, good ol’ Abe, has announced a growth strategy that calls for subsidies and tax breaks for fuel cell vehicles sales, relaxed regulations for building hydrogen refuelling infrastructure and other steps toward promoting the adoption of hydrogen power in the country. The country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has plans to amend regulations to allow higher storage pressure for the hydrogen tanks, from 700 to 875 atmospheres, which entails a 20% increase in vehicle range. Presently, the Toyota FCV has a range of 700km (according to the manufacturer), which is more than sufficient to get you from Tokyo to Osaka. We whipped out our calculator and found that with fuel stored at 875 atmospheres, starting with a full tank, we could drive the Toyota FCV from the Johor Causeway, all the way north through the Malaysian Peninsular, and pass the border into Thailand, without refuelling.
Thus, we for one are eagerly anticipating the entry of fuel cell vehicles into the mass market. The other Japanese automaker, Honda, which has been leasing the FCX Clarity since 2008, is expected to release a production fuel cell model by 2015. Korean automaker, Hyundai, leased its first Tucson Fuel Cell crossover earlier this month for a monthly fee of US$499 in Los Angeles and the Orange Country (read Poo-powered Hydrogen Vehicle) and customers will enjoy, during the duration of the three-year lease, free hydrogen fuel.
Fuel cell vehicles are seen as potential usurpers of all-electric battery vehicles, which are themselves still trying to battle petrol-guzzling monsters. Although Elon Musk has openly pooh-poohed fuel-cell vehicles and recently released Tesla patents to hasten the production and widespread adoption of EV’s, we must not forget that Toyota has been researching and developing fuel cell technology for two decades now. The Japanese automaker was the one who introduced hybrid vehicles to the world, and the Toyota Prius went on to become the best-selling hybrid. We think that the sandbox is big enough for all the boys to bring their toys to play.