The Truth About Cars » FCV The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » FCV Hydrogen Digest: July 1, 2014 Tue, 01 Jul 2014 12:00:20 +0000 DSC_0018

In today’s hydrogen digest: Toyota asks the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a two-year exemption on its FCV; the automaker banks on subsidies to help the FCV leave the showrooms at home and abroad; and ammonia may be the secret to hydrogen’s success as a fuel.

Bloomberg reports Toyota is asking the NHTSA for a two-year exemption from FMVSS No. 305, which requires automakers to isolate high-voltage parts in electric cars in the event of a crash. The FCV doesn’t meet this rule in full because said isolation would render the vehicle inoperable, opting instead to use insulation on high-voltage cables and related components to protect first responders and occupants from potential electrical shocks in the event of a low-speed accident. Toyota claims the protections will be at least equal to those in compliance with the agency’s rule.

Meanwhile, Automotive News says the automaker is banking on subsidies at home and in markets such as the United States and Europe to help the FCV leave the showroom toward the path of success. The ¥7 million ($69,000 USD) will need a sizable credit to match its Lexus-esque pricing when it goes on sale in Japan next April; the highest subsidy is ¥850,000 (approximately $8,400). As for the U.S., where fueling infrastructure is woefully inadequate, Toyota may instead opt to lease the FCV, details of the plan still in discussion.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports ammonia may be the way toward the hydrogen future. The Science and Technologies Facilities Council in Swindon, England have discovered a process which cracks ammonia into nitrogen and hydrogen using sodium amide as the catalyst. The lower-cost process could be conducted on-board an FCV via an ammonia decomposition reactor no bigger than a 2-liter bottle of Coke, providing enough power for “a mid-range family car” while easily handling NOx-free tailpipe emissions. The STFC is now in the process of building a low-energy demonstration system to prove ammonia’s viability as a source of hydrogen fuel.

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Toyota Aiming For Modest Annual Sales Of Fuel Cell Cars Thu, 12 Dec 2013 12:15:57 +0000 Toyota FCV Concept

Toyota believes fuel cells are the future, becoming a competitive technology up against other zero-emission compliance tech by 2030 at the latest. In fact, the automaker plans to hedge their bets in the near future by setting an annual sales goal of 5,000 to 10,000 fuel-cell powered machines beginning in 2015.

Part of this push is due to falling costs in fuel cell technology; when the above-pictured FCV enters showrooms in early 2015, just over half the $99,000 price tag will come from its smaller fuel cell, down from just over $1 million in 2007 when the tech debuted in the first of many concepts. Component sharing also helps to maintain a lower cost of entry, though Toyota says the FCV won’t be underpinned by the Prius due to differing structures between the two.

The automaker hopes sales of the FCV and other future fuel cell vehicles will rise to tens of thousands of units by the start of the 2020s, no doubt helped by a push to reduce costs through R&D to one-fifth of what a fuel cell costs to make at this point in time.

The FCV won’t be alone in this march toward progress; Honda plans to deliver a successor the FCX Clarity in the same year as the former’s debut, while Hyundai will lease 1,000 Tucsons fitted with fuel cells worldwide in 2014.

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Japanese And Korean Carmakers Jointly Promote Fuel Cell Vehicles Wed, 10 Oct 2012 13:34:12 +0000

Pretty much most of the world’s large automakers plan a commercial launch of fuel cell vehicles in 2015, Hyundai even earlier. One of the hot spots could be Scandinavia. At the end of a month-long hydrogen-powered tour through Europe, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Hyundai signed an agreement to jointly promote fuel cell vehicles in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) provides mostly for moral and promotional support and is hoped to be “a catalyst to begin a dialogue between public and private stakeholders in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark on securing relevant financing and support mechanisms for accelerating market introduction of FCEVs.” What is interesting is that the three Japanese majors are doing something together, and that they are bringing the Korean juggernaut Hyundai on board.

Japanese makers have big hopes for fuel cell technology. Mitsuhiro Ueno, head of Honda R&D Europe called the fuel cell vehicle “the ultimate green mobility.” FCVs don’t have the drawbacks of pure EVs, namely limited range and long charge time. What is holding them back are price and infrastructure.

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“Super Credits”: The CAFE Loophole That Might Have Been (And Could Be Again) Sat, 23 Jul 2011 16:44:07 +0000

The Michigan Congressional delegation’s letter, stating that the Detroit-based automakers are not technologically capable of serving the market while complying with a proposed 2025 CAFE standard seemed strange to me in light of the recent progress made by Ford and GM on fuel economy. Why, I wondered, would these firms boast of their fuel econmy efforts on the one hand while allowing their congressional representatives to portray them as unable to build a CAFE-compliant fleet on the other. Why, I wondered, don’t Ford and GM come out and angrily insist that they can build the most fuel efficient cars in the world? My guess: because they know that they can probably wheedle a loophole out of the feds if they keep pleading inability. Yes, everyone knows they can comply with CAFE… but even the UAW knows that when the government asks you to do something, you ask for something back. Which in turn made me wonder: what might the OEMs want? And, turning to the 2012-2016 CAFE Final Rule [go on, give it a read in PDF format here], I found a glaring loophole that all the manufacturers seemed to want, but which the feds turned down. I have no evidence that this is back on the table for 2017-2025, but I thought I’d put it out there to give a sense of what the OEMs may be pushing for by  pleading inability to comply with the proposed 2025 standard.

In the section of the final rule discussing “flexibilities,” the same section that grants EVs, FCVs and PHEVs a zero-carbon rating, and allows automakers to apply over-compliance credits to its truck fleet, another credit loophole is mentioned: the “super credit.”

In the Joint Notice of Intent, EPA stated that ‘‘EPA is currently considering proposing additional credit opportunities to encourage the commercialization of advanced GHG/fuel economy control technology such as electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. These ‘super credits’ could take the form of a multiplier that would be applied to the number of vehicles sold such that they would count as more than one vehicle in the manufacturer’s fleet average.

Following through, EPA proposed two mechanisms by which these vehicles would earn credits: (1) A zero grams/mile compliance value for EVs, FCVs, and for PHEVs when operated on grid electricity, and (2) a vehicle multiplier in the range of 1.2 to 2.0.228

The proposed vehicle multiplier incentive would also have operated like a credit as it would have allowed an EV, PHEV, or FCV to count as more than one vehicle in the manufacturer’s fleet average. For example, combining a multiplier of 2.0 with a zero grams/mile compliance value for an EV would allow that EV to be counted as two vehicles, each with a zero grams/mile compliance value, in the manufacturer’s fleet average calculations. In effect, a multiplier of 2.0 would double the overall credit associated with an EV, PHEV, or FCV.

Sounds pretty nice doesn’t it? Not only would automakers get to pretend that plug-ins create no upstream C02 for the purposes of CAFE, but they would also get to count those “carbon-free” vehicles as more than one vehicle. And since CAFE is based on fleet averages, that would make a huge impact: in theory a zero-carbon car with a 2.0 multiplier could offset some seriously non-compliant trucks. And not only did the automakers love this proposal, but they all put their own unique spin on it:

Most vehicle manufacturers were supportive of both the zero grams/mile compliance value and a higher vehicle multiplier. Automakers universally supported higher multipliers, many higher than the maximum 2.0 level proposed by EPA. Honda suggested a multiplier of 16.0 for FCVs. Mitsubishi supported the concept of larger, temporary incentives until advanced technology vehicle sales achieved a 10% market share. Finally, some commenters suggested that other technologies should also receive incentives, such as diesel vehicles, hydrogen-fueled internal combustiengines, and natural gas vehicles.

Boy, I bet Honda wishes a fuel cell vehicle could be worth 16 zero-carbon cars… but why would it be? It’s not as if fuel cell cars take carbon out of the air, is it? Meanwhile, the Detroit booster brigade will be thrilled to see it reported that “foreign brand” automakers try to manipulate CAFE just like everyone else. Speaking of which, it was a Japanese automaker rather than the traditional Detroit boogeyman who was used as the example for why “super credits” shouldn’t be included in the 2012-2016 rule.

Although some environmental organizations and State agencies supported the principle of including some type of regulatory incentive mechanism, almost all of their comments were opposed to the combination of both the zero grams/mile compliance value and multipliers in the higher end of the proposed range of 1.2 to 2.0…

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stated that the credits could ‘‘undermine the emissions benefits of the program and will have the unintended consequence of slowing the development of conventional cleaner vehicle emission reduction technologies into the fleet.’’ NRDC, along with several other commenters who made the same point, cited an example based on Nissan’s public statements that it plans on producing up to 150,000 Nissan Leaf EVs in the near future at its plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. NRDC’s analysis showed that if EVs were to account for 10% of Nissan’s car fleet in 2016, the combination of the zero grams/mile and 2.0 multiplier would allow Nissan to make only relatively small improvements to its gasoline car fleet and still be in compliance.

This, in essence is a more extreme version of the basic problem with CAFE loopholes: they underestimate the carbon output of so-called “advanced technology vehicles” and apply the overcompliance credit to trucks, SUVs and other cars. But with the “super credit’ multiplier, this is simply taken to extreme levels. As a result, the 2012-2016 rules state

the incentive program will not include any vehicle multipliers, i.e., an EV’s zero grams/mile compliance value will count as one vehicle in a manufacturer’s fleet average, not as more than one vehicle as proposed. EPA has concluded that the combination of the zero grams/mile and multiplier credits would be excessive. Compared to the maximum multiplier of 2.0 that EPA had proposed, dropping this multiplier reduces the aggregate impact of the overall credit program by a factor of two (less so for lower multipliers, of course).

It’s impossible to know what’s going on behind closed doors in DC, but it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see this loophole return as a way for Obama and California to keep the 56.2 MPG number while conceding to the Michigan delegation’s argument that the standard can’t be reached without killing off a large part of the market.Another possibility could be the UAW’s proposal for more retooling loans which would shuffle a few billion off to the automakers to lower the cost of retooling for new, CAFE-compliant products. Either way, Detroit wouldn’t be playing opossum on CAFE if it didn’t expect something for its trouble… and this is just a taste of how crazy the loopholes can get. Maybe we’ll look at flex-fuel credits next…



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Range Anxiety Strikes Mercedes Fuel-Cell Convoy, TTAC Alum Wed, 02 Feb 2011 21:50:09 +0000

Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles (FCVs) are enjoying something of a comeback lately, as everyone from Hyundai and Honda to GM and Daimler are talking about forthcoming production versions of test-fleet FCVs. And with EVs poised to both dominate the short-term green-car game and inevitably disappoint consumers, it’s no surprise that the perennial “fuel of the future” is enjoying a fresh look from automakers. But if high cost and range anxiety are the flies in the EV ointment, the FCV-boosters are finding their hydrogen cars tend to suffer from the same problems. Daimler says

By 2015, we think a fuel cell car will not cost more than a four-cylinder diesel hybrid that meets the Euro 6 emissions standard.

but that by no means guarantees its Mercedes FCV will be truly “affordable” by any reasonable standard, as diesel-electrics are considered one of the most expensive applications of internal combustion power. And then there’s the whole range issue. Yes, FCVs refuel faster than EVs, but even the most ambitious of Hydrogen-boosters, Daimler, are only pushing vehicles with a 250-mile range. Which is why we puzzled a bit over The Globe And Mail‘s assesment that

Three Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL models will make [a 125-day] global trek, which will seek to highlight the real-world benefits of fuel cells versus EVs – mainly their much further range

Flipping over to AutoMotorundSport, we find that the irony which completely escaped the G&M is threatening to overwhelm Daimler’s entire demonstration. And, as is only natural when things like this occur, there’s a bizarre TTAC connection…

So, I’m reading the AMundS write-up on the leg of the F-Cell world tour from Stuttgart to Reims, France, and both German writers start stuck in the F-Cell’s none-to-commodious back seat. Up front, two Americans seem to be trying to set a new speed record, as “Michael” of “Auto Blog” (presumabely Michael Harley of Autoblog) “stared, transfixed, at the speedo and passed the record numbers to his navigator, Jonny.” This “Jonny,” as it turns out, is none other than TTAC Alum and “Auto Trend” scribe Jonny Lieberman, who (literally) had a front-seat ticket for Daimler’s fuel-cell fiasco.

Apparently, even after reaching the F-Cell’s electronically-limited 178 KPH VMax, “The man from ‘Auto Blog’” did not want to give up “a single meter of “Unlimited German Autobahn” (NB: capitalization is a sign of German humor). According to the backseat Germans, the ride flew by thanks to both the velocity and the “extensive ravings” about previous trips to Germany with wives and Porsches.

The pace was only interrupted when a cell phone rang, and “Mission Control” asked the four journos to report when they’d consumed a quarter and half of their hydrogen tank. “Houston, we have a problem,” came the reply from inside the F-Cell, “our tank is already half-empty.”  The journalists are told not to exceed 100 KPH for the rest of the trip, and (counter-inuitively) “Michael” moved over to let least-likely hypermiler in recent memory, Mr Jonny Lieberman, behind the wheel.

The narrative continues:

The crossing of the Rhine has echoes of Apollo 13. “I have turned off all systems” says Mike… The pace now rests at 80 KPH. It doesn’t help. With almost 200 grams of hydrogen after 227 kilometers, the engine is turned off. “How much is that converted?” asks Mike. “Less than a Quarter-Pounder” reckons Jonny.

Inevitable reference here. Professional restraint here.

American stereotype-mongery aside, the real lesson here is that the first two F-Cell vehicles on the world tour didn’t even make it to the first refueling station, a temporary operation that was set up by the several internal-combustion-powered trucks that follow the world tour. Instead, both had to ride in the back of ICE-powered trucks to get to the fueling station, which itself was set up by trucks. Needless to say, part of Daimler’s goal with the Tour is to highlight the need for hydrogen refueling stations… but with enough infrastructure investment, EVs could do everything the F-Cell can. Absent a convincing advantage in range, the head-start in electrical infrastructure (as well as other efficiency considerations) seems to make EVs more practical as a wide-scale zero-emissions solution than FCVs… and the F-Cell World Tour doesn’t seem likely to change that perception. Especially if they keep letting lead-footed American writers do the driving.

Surf over to AMundS for more photos and German-language coverage of the F-Cell world tour

Mercedes-Benz-F-Cell-World-Drive-Mercedes-B-Klasse-F-Cell-Start-f900x600-F4F4F2-C-2b3d4013-447808 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Mercedes-Benz-F-Cell-World-Drive-Mercedes-B-Klasse-F-Cell-Markus-Stier-f900x600-F4F4F2-C-6c1d2147-447814 Mercedes-Benz-F-Cell-World-Drive-Mercedes-B-Klasse-F-Cell-Start-f900x600-F4F4F2-C-1c23cbf6-447809 Mercedes-Benz-F-Cell-World-Drive-Mercedes-B-Klasse-F-Cell-Wasserstoff-Tankstelle-f900x600-F4F4F2-C-5584ce45-447799 Fool cell me once... ]]> 36
Toyota: $50k Hydrogen Sedan By 2015 Thu, 06 May 2010 17:33:53 +0000

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.

Of course, there’s a tiny question left unanswered even by Toyota’s impressive cost-cutting: will people actually spend $50k on what will likely be a relatively compact green halo vehicle (albeit one with an ICE-equivalent range)? Of course, by 2015, the Volt will have helped answer that question, but it will also be providing competition. And even Masuda doesn’t seem to think that a $50k FCV will exactly set the world on fire. He describes the potential market for such a vehicle as

small, but with some support

And before we scoff too hard at this damning with faint praise, let’s consider that the same could probably have been said of Toyota’s Mk.1 Prius prior to launch… and look how that turned out. Other signs that Toyota is trying to pull off another iteration of the Prius phenomenon lies in the fact that, like the Prius, Toyota doesn’t expect to make any money on the vehicle initially. According to Masuda,

Our target is, we don’t lose money with introduction of the vehicle. Production cost should be covered within the price of the vehicle.

So, no profit, but no big subsidies either… too bad Toyota won’t talk volume targets. And though range will be equivalent to a gas-powered car, the lack of hydrogen refueling stations isn’t promising. On the other hand, a retail-available FCV might be a good step towards improving demand for hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Still, GM has said that it wouldn’t consider marketing a retail FCV until there are at least 40 fueling stations in Southern California, or about four times the current number.

And there’s another problem. Though Toyota has brought down costs thanks to reduced platinum content and cheaper production of fuel cell films, there’s still a real question of what you can expect for your $50k. As in, how long can you expect your $50k FCV to last? According to Masuda:

Our target is at least 100,000 miles, 10 years

That’s not a lot of driving for 50 large. And without proven sources of low-carbon hydrogen in many markets, the environmental benefits aren’t likely to be much of an improvement over, say, the Prius. On the other hand, without gambles like these, we wouldn’t have a Prius for comparison. So is Toyota ahead of the curve the way it was with the Prius, or is the hybrid leader losing the plot? As a longtime EV skeptic, Toyota probably likes its chances… but it probably knows this won’t be easy either.

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