By on November 9, 2011

Think hybrid and electric cars are expensive? Wait until automakers start selling hydrogen fuel cell cars. Toyota tells Automotive News [sub] that it’s targeting global sales of a “few thousand” fuel cell vehicles by 2015. But because the technology will be rolled out due to emissions standards rather than widespread market demand, expect the price for the hydrogen Toyotas to be breathtakingly high. Says Toyota Europe’s Vice President for Product Planning & Marketing Alain Uyttenhoven

We could expect a fuel cell vehicle to retail at about 100,000 euros in Europe.

Phew! All of a sudden those EVs aren’t looking so overpriced, are they? Which might be why Uyttenhoven adds

We see pure battery-powered vehicles to be just a solution for small trips in the city, while a plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid is the best solution both for weekday urban commuting and weekend trips. Our research shows that more than 80 percent of urban daily trips are less than the 20km.

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9 Comments on “Toyota Targets 2015 Fuel Cell Sales… At A Six-Figure Price Point...”

  • avatar

    Does Toyota have a fuel cell vehicle that they can already provide to people, for the right price? How has Honda done with the FCX-Clarity?

  • avatar

    How has Honda done with the FCX-Clarity?

    If you look at Honda’s sales figures for the US:

    Jan – Oct 2011 – 2
    2010 – 17
    2009 – 5
    2008 – 5

    The plan announced in 2008 was to produce about 200 of them. Obviously, they haven’t quite hit that target.

    Honda offers the Clarity only with a lease. I would expect Toyota to do the same, and to base the lease price on the 100,000 euro figure.

    Fuel cells don’t have sufficient longevity to justify ownership, anyway. With the current state of the technology, the fuel cells would have to be replaced by the end of a lease. In any case, you’d expect the automakers to want the car back at the end so that they can study it, tear it down and learn from the results.

    Nobody can make a profit with these things. Even with a lease based upon a six-figure price point, the car will not make anyone any money. This is experimental technology, and can’t be mass produced reliably and at a reasonable price.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe that anyone would buy or lease one of these. GM had fuel cell vehicles around a few years ago, and they were $100k Equinoxes. They weren’t for sale, but fleet testing items.

    I think Toyota could do the same thing, but selling these is going to be a real problem.

  • avatar

    Fuel cells are just too damn expensive, and Hydrogen wastes too much energy. I ran some rough numbers a few months back talking about this in another forum, and here’s what I came up with…

    Hydrogen is no more a source of energy than batteries- it’s an energy storage medium, and not a very efficient one for a car.

    Making H2 or charging a battery both start with electricity. A good electrolysis process is between 50-80% efficient. We’ll be kind and call it 75% efficient. Liquifying 1kg of H2 takes the energy equivelent of about 1/3 kg of H2, so now we have 50% of the energy we started with. H2 isn’t suitable for use in pipelines, so it’ll have to be moved around in ENORMOUS trucks, since the tanks need to be so huge. These will be hydrogen powered trucks, so lets say we have about 40% of the initial energy once it reaches the fuel station. Hydrogen is kept liquid by boiling it off. It’s also the smallest molecule, so it tends to leak. A big industrial, stationary tank might lose 1-3% per day…a smaller car tank might be more like 5%. So, figure that by the time we’re ready to use the hydrogen, we have about 33% of the energy we started with.

    Now we run it through a fuel cell. They’re about 50% efficient (not to mention EXPENSIVE- exotic materials), so by the time we’re ready to feed electricty to the motor we have 17.5% of energy we started with.

    Now lets look at electric. Power grid losses are about 7%, so our charger has 93% to work with. Figure a 12% loss in the charger, so we’re looking at 82% remaining. The battery is 85% efficienct at charging and discharging. .82*.85*.85= 59%

    17.5% efficient vs. 59% efficient. The future indeed. Even if my estimates are off slightly, these two systems are nowhere remotely close to each other in efficiency. My transportation and handling charges involve a lot of guess work, but hydrogen is already behind batteries after merely producing and liquifying it. Figure batteries are about 300% as efficient as H2.

    This even ignores the huge electric advantage of using off-peak energy and getting that electricity generated, essentially, for free.

    The ONLY advantages of H2 are it’s much quicker to refuel, and for now the tanks have better energy density, although that advantage is shrinking fast.

    • 0 avatar

      it’ll have to be moved around in ENORMOUS trucks, since the tanks need to be so huge.

      That isn’t necessarily the case. The workaround to that is the fuel station using natural gas to produce hydrogen onsite. The hydrogen station opened recently in Torrance, California does this, for example:

      Also, Honda is developing a home-based unit that would convert household gas into hydrogen. Same operating principle as the Torrance facility, but on a smaller scale.

      In both cases, the gas is piped to the refueling location. You are correct that hydrogen is difficult to transport, but the alternatives don’t require it to be transported.

      • 0 avatar

        The workaround to that is the fuel station using natural gas to produce hydrogen onsite

        The problem with that is CNG is also hard(er) to transport than gasoline, and we’re dealing with energy loss in the conversion. You may as well use gas if you’re going to go to the trouble of expending energy to change it into hydrogen.

        I have some trouble wrapping my mind around fuel cells. They’ve got all the same trouble that batteries have, and then some of their own to boot.

      • 0 avatar

        The problem with that is CNG is also hard(er) to transport than gasoline,

        There is already a natural gas infrastructure in place and many stations currently have access to natural gas via pipelines. No need to transport it by truck.

      • 0 avatar

        Hydrogen from natural gas would be pointless. It’d be far more effective to just run the cars directly off of natural gas. This might be slightly less energy efficient, but would be way, way, WAY easier to implement on a large scale. Think of how many cars coule be built (or even converted to) natural gas for the price of a fuel cell. Natural gas tanks would be smaller than H2 tanks, too, as liquid natural gas has about 3x the energy per volume of liquid H2. It doesn’t need to be kept as cold, and is less prone to leakage as well.

        Natural gas powered cars is actually a really good option since we just opened up large reserves due to fracking. They’ll also allow higher compression ratios. Engines can also be made multi-fuel, so they can run off of a small gas cylinder around town, and a gas tank when you want some serious long-range. It’d be like a range-extended EV except cheaper, lighter, and simpler. If the EV’s batteries are charged from a gas power plant it probably wouldn’t even be that much less efficient.

        The only negatives of CNG cars would be it requires a bigger tank (about 4x bigger than a similar diesel tank), the injection system is a bit more complicated (but the emissions system less complicated), and storing a compressed gas is less safe than an unpressurized liquid.

        I was just thinking…it’d probably be really easy to convert cars to run off of a natural gas/gasoline mixture. You’d just need a VERY basic fuel metering system add on…probably mass airflow based. Have it inject about 1/2 to 3/4 as much natural gas as would be required for that amount of air. The OEM fuel injection system will inject the appropriate amount of additional gasoline to make up the difference. Store it in a low pressure tank, or an adsorbed natural gas tank, that’s good for 60 miles or so. Now people can cut their commuting gasoline use by up to 75% with a cheap and simple conversion and refuel at home!

  • avatar

    The real work-around is to keep driving ICE cars. It’s increasingly evident that the uber-government types bristle at the fact that their human subjects can move about freely without consent. Long live the road trip!

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