Toyota Thinks That Lacking Infrastructure Will Limit Hydrogen Model Success

Although it has invested heavily in the development of FCV, the first electric series model which instead of batteries comes with cells that turn hydrogen into electricity, Toyota is skeptical about the its success.

Sales of the new FCV, the first electric series model that runs on hydrogen fuel cells, will come to the market in 2015, one year after the official launch held at the Paris Motor Show, October 1. According to Director of Research and Development Office Toyota, Gerald Killmann, sales of the new model will not increase like those of the Prius, another pioneer of the auto field, simply because the infrastructure does not yet allow it.

“The hybrid story was driven by Toyota and could be driven internally because there was no infrastructure requirement. For fuel cells, we can drive the vehicle [development] like we did with the hybrid, but we cannot drive by ourselves the infrastructure solution” said Gerald Killmann, Toyota’s director for powertrain research and development in Europe, for Automotive News.

The main current problem for this type of car is the lack of pumps for refueling hydrogen cars. Even if adaptation could be achieved by the current gas stations, so much simpler a solution than in the case of electric cars, traditional station chains or authorities are not yet ready to invest in this solution, because today customers and hydrogen cars don’t exist.

The market on which the new Toyota FCV will debut will be Japan, where the model will have a starting price of 69,000 dollars, but this price is different than the car that will enter the USA and Europe.

The Toyota FCV offers a range of 482 km with one tank of hydrogen, the propulsion system of the car turning this hydrogen by electrolysis into electrical energy and water. The model manages acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h in 10 seconds.

With other automakers, Toyota is working to lobby for installation of a hydrogen fueling system.
Killmann believes that continued improvements to the system, as well as the new manufacturing process are required to bring costs down and truly “make a fuel cell vehicle mass-production ready.”

Smaller manufacturing tolerances, for example, might cut down the use of precious metals in fuel cells fabrication. The fuel cell stack in the FCV-R is approximately half the size and weight of the previous generation stack per kilowatt of output (developed in 2008).

The biggest obstacle to overcome is the scarcity of hydrogen filling stations. There are just more than 280 worldwide, and many of them are not publicly available, according to Ulrich Buenger, H2Moves coordinator, which is a fuel cell demonstration project of 20 million euro financed by the EU.
Upping the number of these stations will be very expensive because once costs around one million euro to install.

However, Buenger predicts that the cost of installing a hydrogen station will drop to around 300,000 euro, which is the price of natural gas pumps. So far, Germany has 14 hydrogen stations open to the public and public-private collaboration. The aim is to launch 36 more stations in 2015, sufficient to connect most cities.

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