We are picking up more and more signs of an impending revival of assumed dead fuel cell technology.
Here is another one: The Nikkei [sub] says that the Japanese government is supporting an initiative to draw a hydrogen from a surprising source: Oil refining. And they need to be ready by 2015. Read More >
Major players in the industry think that EVs are a stopgap measure at best. Volkswagen declared that nobody wants EVs, except governments. In Japan, Toyota and Honda are talking louder and louder about hydrogen. There must be something better than plugins: A revolutionary technology that powers the car from a renewable energy source in an environmentally responsible fashion.
Here in LA Mercedes took the wraps off the Mercedes B Class F-Cell hydrogen fuel cell vehicle for the US market. Never mind that nobody sells hydrogen, but should you get your hands on some of the liquid gold, your B Class will go almost 200 miles on a tankful. Sales information is of course limited but Mercedes did say they would only be available in Southern California and that hydrogen fuel is included in the lease. So if you are lucky enough to find one available, let TTAC know how much your lease payment is.
If you want to offer hybrid cars, but don’t have the money / time / run rate / wherewithal to do it yourself, who’re gonna call? Toyota. But who would have imagined that haughty Daimler picked up the phone, dialed 0081, and said: “Let’s talk?” Daimler considers joining the growing list of automakers that source their hybrid systems from Toyota City. Toyota is in talks to provide technology and core components for hybrid vehicles to Daimler, after having been approached by the Germans, says The Nikkei [sub]. Read More >
YNN reports that the Rochester, NY airport was closed for 50 minutes yesterday, when a hydrogen refueling station run by GM supplier Praxair was rocked by two giant explosions. Details of the explosion are still extremely sketchy, with YNN explaining only that
Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks said it occurred during a tank exchange operation. Brooks said a driver from Praxair was doing the exchange when it appears that some type of arch occurred.
It’s not yet clear if GM’s Sequel hydrogen test fleet had been using the fueling station, but this is the most recent occurrence of the kind of disaster that has helped prevent the development of a large-scale hydrogen infrastructure. Two people were reportedly injured in the blast, but one can only imagine the result of such an explosion in a more urban environment, or in close proximity to a gasoline pumping station. The long awaited hydrogen future may have just slipped a little further out of reach…
With Honda and Toyota suddenly taking hydrogen fuel cells seriously, Hyundai-Kia is jumping on the bandwagon. Byung Ki Ahn, general manager of Hyundai-Kia’s Fuel Cell Group tells Autocar
There are already agreements between car makers such as ourselves and legislators in Europe, North America and Japan to build up to the mass production of fuel cell cars by 2015. Hydrogen production capacity and refuelling infrastructure will be improved. Pilot-scale production of 1000 fuel cell cars a year will begin for us in two years. Our first cars won’t be fully commercialised [they will probably be leased , not bought outright] but they will allow us to make the final stages of development progress before we begin commercial production of around 10,000 hydrogen cars a year in 2015
Toyota definitely keeps us on our toes. Last week, the tete-a-tete between Toyota and Tesla had the world speculating about an electric push by the world’s largest auto maker. That was last week. This week, it’s hydrogen. Read More >
Lithium-ion batteries aren’t the only automotive cleantech that appears to be getting cheaper. Toyota’s head of advanced autos, Yoshihiko Masuda, tells Bloomberg that the Japanese automaker has cut the cost of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) by 90 percent in the last five years or so. Mid-decade, Toyota’s per-car estimates for FCVs ran near a million dollars per car. With costs now closer to the $100k mark, Toyota says it plans to cut that number in half by 2015. If they can make that happen, Masuda says, a $50k hydrogen FCV will be on like Donkey Kong.
Which drive train will own the future? ICE, hydrogen, hybrid? BMW bets it will be all of the above. Autocar reports that BMW has mated a regular ICE with a fuel cell, electricity-storing supercapacitors and an electrically driven rear-axle. The reasoning behind this new type of hybrid is that BMW’s engineers believe that this power train will make the cars capable of switching to an emissions free propulsion system and switch back to ICE when needed. Now I know what you’re thinking at this point. “Cammy, aside from being the worst new writer of the year, why would anyone want to buy a car like this?” Well, the answer lies in Europe. Read More >
It’s been said many a time that the problem with hydrogen as an energy storage system for cars is that it is always the future and never the present of transportation. Indeed, hydrogen has nearly fallen of the alt-fuel radar in recent years, as present-techs like hybrid and even electric drive have matured. But the dream is not dead. The great hydrogen hope now lives with General Motors, in the form of a new, lighter-weight fuel cell which GM says will be production-ready by 2015. The new cell is 225 lbs lighter and uses one-third less platinum than the systems being tested in GM’s 30-month “Project Driveway” Equinox fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs). That leaves more platinum for trimming Escalades, and has GM thinking that real-life series production of FCVs could be possible. GM’s Charles Freese tells Automotive News [sub]:
Our learning from Project Driveway has been tremendous. The 30 months we committed to the demonstration are winding down. But we will keep upgrades of these vehicles running and will continue learning from them while we focus efforts on the production-intent program for 2015. We will continue to use the Project Driveway fleet strategically to advance fuel cell technology, hydrogen infrastructure and GM’s vehicle electrification goals
Just when you thought hydrogen was dead, Honda comes up with a system that allows you to make homemade hydrogen, using nothing but free sunshine. In the grand tradition of hydrogen cars, the sunny technology is just not quite there yet. Read More >
The House has authorized a new package of industry aid in the form of research and development funds for advanced technology vehicles. H.R. 3246 still needs to be funded, but authorization is for up to $2.9b over the next five years. The AP reports that the bill would fund research on “technologies such as batteries for hybrid vehicles, electric cars, hydrogen fuel cells and infrastructure for the electric grid.” Notice something strange there? President Obama had previously moved to cut funding of hydrogen research, a move that DOE spokesfolks at the time explained by gently reminding that “the probability of deploying hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in the next 10 to 20 years is low.”
California’s zero-emissions vehicle law could cost Toyota, darling of the environmental crowd, up to a billion dollars reports Bloomberg. That’s more than any other automaker is looking at. Why? Because by 2012, California will require that 3 percent of unit sales over a three-year period be zero-emissions models. Since Toyota has over 24 percent of the California car market (nearly double Honda, which is number two at 12.9 percent), it’s facing far stiffer requirements. And unlike Honda it doesn’t have a hydrogen fallback (although Honda’s FCX Clarity is not yet on sale). According to Bloomberg, Toyota will have to sell 16,000 plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and EVs come 2012. “If you’re only discussing the cost of batteries and other components, a $1 billion cost for Toyota may be a stretch,” says Brett Smith of the Center For Automotive Research. “Add in all the things needed to support these vehicles — service, dealer training, marketing, warranties, new manufacturing equipment to get them into production, and [$1b] sounds reasonable” Toyota is declining comment on the exact cost of CARB compliance, but has already questioned whether PHEV demand will live up to enthusiast expectations.
Same as it ever was. Green Car Congress covers a DOE report (pdf) to the U.S. Congress on its $1.2b Hydrogen fuel cell development caucus, and the conclusion is clear: keep waiting. The DOE had harbored a shockingly naive hope that OEMs would be able to field 100k fuel cell vehicles by 2010, but the new report seems pretty clear on the chances of that happening. According to the report, “a 2008 independent study estimated that the high-volume manufacturing cost of automotive fuel cell systems (using current technology and assuming 500,000 units per year) would be $73/kW, which equates to almost $6000 for an 80-kW system. This current technology would be more than twice as expensive as internal combustion engine systems. And, based on the highest demonstrated durability to date, fuel cell systems would have a lifespan of approximately 1900 hours, which equates to about 57,000 miles and is still substantially lower than today’s estimated vehicular lifespan of 150,000 miles.”Sound familiar?