The Truth About Cars » Ogiso http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:39:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 » Ogiso http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The End Run Of The Fuel Cell Race http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/the-end-run-of-the-fuel-cell-race/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/the-end-run-of-the-fuel-cell-race/#comments Thu, 09 Aug 2012 13:38:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456059 The excitement about battery electric vehicles seems to die down amidst disappointing uptake. Range, weight and cost are in the way. At the same time, dormant interest in fuel cell vehicles is being rekindled. A month ago, we had a new look at the technology from the perspective of the Toyota/BMW linkup. Today, The Nikkei [sub] takes […]

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The excitement about battery electric vehicles seems to die down amidst disappointing uptake. Range, weight and cost are in the way. At the same time, dormant interest in fuel cell vehicles is being rekindled. A month ago, we had a new look at the technology from the perspective of the Toyota/BMW linkup. Today, The Nikkei [sub] takes a broader view and says that carmakers are in the final lap of the fuel cell race. Let’s have a look at the contestants and where they stand.



Says The Nikkei [sub]:

“While many car companies are already in a fierce battle for a slice of the market for environmentally friendly vehicles such as hybrids and electric cars, they are also in the final stages of developing fuel-cell cars, which are widely expected to be the ultimate eco-cars because they emit no greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, or other pollutants.

Leading the charge in fuel-cell development are Toyota Motor Corp. , Honda Motor Co., General Motors Co. of the U.S. and Germany’s Daimler AG. The stakes are high, given the vast sums already spent.”

Roland Berger Strategy Consultants told the Tokyo wire that “the four automakers have already spent a combined 100 billion yen on the technology.” That would be a little over a billion $, and I believe that number is low.


Fuel cell research had been conducted since the last millennium. The 2008 financial crisis slowed it down. Carmakers had to cut R&D even on regular cars. Recently, development revved up again.

Prototypes and test vehicles have been driving around for years without exploding. 2015 is the date several carmakers name for the first commercial launch of fuel cell vehicles. Satoshi Ogiso, Toyota’s man in charge of new technology, thinks that the only challenge is affordability.  During an interview with TTAC last year, he likened the challenge to what had faced him during the launch of the first hybrids in 1995.

Just like hybrid powertrains in the 90s, current fuel cell powertrains are big, bulky, heavy and expensive. Ogiso and his colleagues at other carmakers are working on the problem.

The solution to many ills in the auto industry is scale: Make and sell enough cars with the new technology, and you can spread the price of development over many units. Also, with mass production, the price of components can come down drastically.

Even the largest automakers don’t want to wait until they achieved the necessary scale effects themselves. They forge alliances with other automakers.

  • Toyota, usually a company that does it alone and in-house, famously entered an alliance with BMW.
  • Nissan and Renault agreed with Daimler to expand the scope of their cooperation to fuel-cell cars.
  • Honda appears to be partner-less.
  • GM negotiated a fuel cell partnership with BMW. The Bavarians broke off the discussion and are winding down a new energy alliance with GM partner PSA after hooking up with Toyota.

Says The Nikkei:

“One GM executive who has worked on the automaker’s fuel-cell effort for a long time lamented being handed another setback by Toyota.”

Observers familiar with the matter expect more tie-ups. The Roland Berger consultancy predicts that Toyota will enlarge its circle of fuel cell partners.

It will be a few years until fuel cell cars can compete in the marketplace. In the meantime, there is a fierce and sometimes uncivil competition for government grants.

When the U.S. government did bet heavily on EVs in 2009 and decided to shift funding away from fuel cell vehicle research, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said that fuel cell vehicles “will not be practical over the next 10 to 20 years.” In the meantime, he had a change of heart.

“The development of America’s tremendous shale gas resources is also helping to reduce the costs of producing hydrogen and operating hydrogen fuel cells,” Bill Gibbons, a spokesman for the department, told the New York Times in May.

If an investment into fuel cell vehicles would be successful at last, past investments into EVs would not go to waste. A fuel cell is just another battery. Except that it can be charged in minutes than hours, and except that it lasts 400 miles instead of 100.

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Toyota And BMW Plan To Take The Lead In Commercializing Fuel Cell Cars. Let’s Revisit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/toyota-and-bmw-plan-to-take-the-lead-in-commercializing-fuel-cell-cars-lets-revisit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/toyota-and-bmw-plan-to-take-the-lead-in-commercializing-fuel-cell-cars-lets-revisit/#comments Sat, 30 Jun 2012 10:05:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=450769 The intensified alliance between Toyota and BMW shines a new light on a technology that has been discussed for decades, but that never quite made it: Hydrogen fuel cells. BMW will get access to Toyota’s fuel cell technologies. This most likely spells the end of the fuel cell cooperation between BMW and GM. Let’s take […]

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The intensified alliance between Toyota and BMW shines a new light on a technology that has been discussed for decades, but that never quite made it: Hydrogen fuel cells. BMW will get access to Toyota’s fuel cell technologies. This most likely spells the end of the fuel cell cooperation between BMW and GM. Let’s take another look.

Toyota is far ahead with the technology. The company had Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicles (FCHV) on the roads for ten years. In 2009, it “launched” its FCHV-adv, basically a Highlander with the hybrid synergy drive from the Toyota Prius connected to a 90kW fuel cell stack. A few months ago, editor-at-large Ed Niedermeyer and I had it on a short test ride through the scenic warehouse landscape of Torrance, CA. Except for an eerily quiet drive, the ride was uneventful.

On a full tank of – this time real – gas, we could have taken it all the way to San Francisco and beyond – no range anxiety here. Fuel cell vehicles have all the advantages of a battery-operated vehicle, i.e. no emissions (the fuel stack produces water), and nearly none of its drawbacks.

If you want to drive tailpipe emission free, your choices are battery, or fuel cell. A fuel cell is basically a battery. Fuel cells and batteries use a chemical reaction to make electricity. When the chemicals in a battery are depleted, you must recharge or throw away the battery. The chemicals of a fuel cell are hydrogen and oxygen. You provide the hydrogen. The fuel cell stack uses free-of-charge oxygen from the air and produces electricity plus H2O – water. Proponents of the technology say that well-to-wheel, fuel cells involve much lower emissions than batteries. Refilling the hydrogen tank should not take longer than filling up with unleaded. Next stop after 400+ miles.

The only way to extend the range of a BEV (if you don’t want to add an ICE) is by adding more batteries. This quickly becomes an exercise in futility. Each added battery cell means more weight, heavier brakes, a larger traction motor, a stronger body to carry the mass, and in turn even more batteries. And most of all, it becomes insanely expensive.

Not so with fuel cells. Fuel cells can make electricity at weights that are between eight to 14 times less than current batteries. Extending the range of a fuel cell vehicle has negligible impact on its weight.

Like electricity, hydrogen is not a way to make energy, it is a way to transport energy. Hydrogen can be made in the same number of ways as electricity.

And why aren’t we all driving around in fuel cell vehicles by now? There were a number of technical challenges, but as Toyota Chief Engineer Satoshi Ogiso had told us last year, the challenges have all been mastered. The only real problem Ogiso is facing with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is money:

“For us, the only remaining real issue that stands in the way of fuel cell electric vehicles is mass production cost.”

Current fuel cell technology is big, bulky, heavy and expensive. With enough scale, package size and price can come down considerably. Toyota plans to launch a commercial FCV in 2015. It still will be expensive, the Nikkei figures 5 million yen, or $62,000. By 2020, Ogiso plans to have an affordable FCV.

Luxury vehicles are much better for early-tech alternative propulsion, because the cars are big enough to hide the heft and expensive enough to mask the price. With their alliance, Toyota and BMW plan totake the lead in commercializing fuel cell cars,” as The Nikkei [sub] writes. Says The Nikkei:

“Other automakers are forging ties over green technologies. Daimler AG is rushing to develop a fuel cell car with capital partner Nissan Motor Co. Meanwhile, Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. are developing fuel cell cars on their own. General Motors Co. has been considering a fuel cell tie-up with BMW, but it may have to change course now that the German firm has opted to partner with Toyota.”

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