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Affordable Hydrogen Could Send Sales of Fuel-Cell Vehicles Soaring

U.S. “tantalizingly close to a fuel-cell transition,” says U-C Davis study.

by on Aug.15, 2014

U-C Davis Prof. Joan Ogden shown going for a drive in a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle.

“Hydrogen is the fuel of the future,” goes the adage among automotive and environmental researchers, “and it always will be.”

Back around the turn of the Millennium, its time seemed to come, only to fall out of favor once again, as battery-power gained traction – and R&D dollars. But suddenly, hydrogen is once again gaining momentum, Hyundai recently launching sales of its first fuel-cell vehicle, and with Toyota and Honda planning FCVs of their own next year.

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The makers are all focusing on just the Southern California market, largely because it’s the only place where buyers currently can fill up. But a new study by the University of California, Davis says we may be approaching the tipping point where hydrogen will become the fuel of today. (more…)

Despite Skeptics, Fuel-Cell Vehicles Hit the Market

“Fool cells” or “fuel of the future”?

by on Jul.15, 2014

Toyota Executive Vice President Mitsuhisa Kato reveals the company's new FCV fuel cell vehicle in Japan.

Hyundai’s first fuel-cell vehicle, a zero-emissions version of its Tucson sport-ute, has just gone on sale in Southern California, and hydrogen-powered Honda and Toyota models will follow in the months ahead.  Mercedes-Benz is fleet testing its own F-Cell model, and other makers, such as General Motors, may soon enter the fuel-cell market, as well.

To proponents, hydrogen is the ultimate form of clean energy, and one that overcomes many of the drawbacks of battery power such as limited range and long charging cycles. Yet reaction to the technology remains sharply divided.

Fuel for Thought!

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of TeslaMotors, the California-based battery-carmaker, has repeatedly asserted that hydrogen vehicles will never pay off commercially, deriding them as “fool cells.”

But after years on the back burner as money and resources were shifted to battery technology, hydrogen has been regaining momentum in the U.S. and abroad.

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Toyota Selling FCV for $70,000 in Japan

Maker’s fuel cell vehicle will hit U.S. next summer.

by on Jun.25, 2014

Mitsuhisa Kato, Toyota Motor Corp. executive vice president, revealed the pricing of the company's new FCV fuel cell vehicle in Japan.

In the battle for zero-emission vehicle supremacy, everyone now knows what the latest entrant – Toyota’s FCV – will cost: about $70,000.

The Japanese automaker announced pricing on its new fuel cell vehicle, which will be available in Japan starting next spring. About the size of a Camry, the car is expected to come to the U.S. and Europe sometime that summer.

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It will join Hyundai’s Tucson fuel cell and a slew of others on the way, on the fuel cell side of the ZEV-side of the aisle, while the Tesla Model S and other EVs sit on the battery electric side. (more…)

Toyota Launching Hydrogen Car by Year-End

But new fuel-cell vehicles could carry steep price tag.

by on Jun.09, 2014

Toyota unveiled its FCV hydrogen concept vehicle at the Tokyo Motor Show last autumn.

Toyota will launch production of its first commercially available hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle before the end of the year, according to a report from Japan. That would appear to be months ahead of its original plans.

Toyota, which hasn’t changed its stance of “2015 or sooner” for the release of the car, first revealed plans to get into the hydrogen car market last autumn, at the biennial Tokyo Motor Show. It has produced a number of prototypes in years past, but the Japanese giant has been suggesting that it might go the fuel-cell route as an alternative to depending on battery-electric vehicles to meet tough new Zero-Emission Vehicle, or ZEV standards.

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The first Toyota battery cars would come in at around 8 million yen, according to the Japan Times, which would work out to a hefty $78,000, though the English-language publication noted that by the beginning of the next decade, Toyota would like to trim that to somewhere between 3 million to 5 million yen, or between $30,000 and $50,000 at current exchange rates.

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Toyota Pulling Plug on RAV4-EV

Maker shifting focus from battery-electric to hydrogen power.

by on May.16, 2014

Toyota only planned to sell 2,500 RAV4-EVs.

Toyota is pulling the plug on the RAV4-EV, the battery-electric version of the soft-roader it introduced two years ago with the help of electric vehicle start-up Tesla Motors.

This year’s phase-out of the RAV4-EV comes as the Japanese giant gets ready to launch its new hydrogen-powered FCV, which made its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show last autumn. While it has been the most successful manufacturer of conventional hybrids, Toyota has repeatedly expressed its concerns about pure battery-electric vehicles relying on advanced lithium-ion batteries.

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The move also comes as Tesla gets ready to launch its own, first battery-electric SUV, the Model X due to market something in 2015.

“Our contract called for Tesla to supply approximately 2500 battery-electric powertrains for the RAV4 EV.  We anticipate that volume will be achieved this year,” noted John Hanson, Toyota’s national manager of advanced technology communications.

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California Drops $46.6 Million on New Hydrogen Fueling Stations

Automakers expanding fuel cell vehicle fleet in U.S.

by on May.07, 2014

Hyundai will bring its Tucson-based hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle to market later this year.

While California is generally seen as the land of “green” experiments, the state is putting its money where its mouth is with the installation of dozens of new hydrogen fueling stations across the state.

The California Energy Commission is investing $46.6 million to accelerate the development of hydrogen fueling stations. The cash infusion will add 28 new stations to the existing nine stations. There are another 17 sites in various stages of development, which would bring the total stations expected online in the next couple of years to 54. That commission’s goal is 100 stations.

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The debate over the viability of hydrogen-powered vehicles typically has been a chicken-or-the-egg style debate. Automakers have not pushed the development of the vehicles because there is no infrastructure in place to refuel the vehicles. Of course, the hydrogen fuel providers have countered they don’t want to invest in pricey new stations when there aren’t vehicles using them. (more…)

Toyota Trying to Replicate Prius Success with Fuel Cells

Carter believes Japanese maker is ahead of the curve.

by on Jan.15, 2014

Toyota's Bob Carter reveals the FCV hydrogen car concept vehicle at CES. Carter thinks the FCV could be the next Prius.

Despite the skepticism of some notable critics, the fuel cell represents an emerging of enormous potential as source of power for automobiles. In fact, one company believes that fuel-cell technology is going follow the same arc as hybrids: Toyota.

Robert Carter, senior vice president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, said in a speech to the Automotive News World Congress, automakers must respond to long-term needs “of our customers, our society, and our environment” and fuel cells hold enormous potential, which is the key reason why Toyota has introduced a fuel cell vehicle it plans to sell or lease to consumers in the United States next year.

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“Now, I realize there is no shortage of naysayers regarding the viability of this technology and the infrastructure to support it,” Carter said. “Personally, I don’t care what Elon (Musk of Tesla) or Carlos (Ghosn of Nissan) say about fuel cells. If they want to ‘plug in and tune out’ other technologies, that’s fine,” he said. (more…)

Carmakers Connect at CES

An overview of the event's automotive high-tech news.

by on Jan.08, 2014

BMW's Autonomous 6-Series shows its stuff at CES.

While the Detroit Auto Show has traditionally been the New Year’s kickoff for the automotive industry, the annual Consumer Electronics Show has increasingly upended that role, this year eight different manufacturers trumpeting their presence in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, hoping to connect with a new audience.

This year’s CES saw brands like Audi, Chevrolet, Toyota and Kia cover a wide spectrum of high-tech topics, from advanced lighting to in-car entertainment, as well as what has become one of the most talked-about technologies in some time: autonomous driving.

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Audi even crossed the Atlantic Ocean with some 30 European journalists to present their news ahead of the Detroit auto show, while Mercedes and BMW also brought representatives of the automotive media to Las Vegas. Those, who have never attended CES were taken aback by the size of the largest trade show in Las Vegas, one that hosts 3,200 exhibitors who distribute some 20,000 new products. They will likely never complain of crowded car shows anymore.

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Toyota Fuel-Cell Vehicle Makes its U.S. Debut

Production launch scheduled for 2015.

by on Jan.07, 2014

Toyota's Bob Carter reveals the FCV hydrogen car concept vehicle at CES.

Americans are getting their first look at the hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle that Toyota plans to put into production next year, and the maker is calling the FCV prototype a better mousetrap, a vehicle that can largely do anything a conventional, gas-powered automobile can do – minus the noxious emissions.

The Toyota FCV was first unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show last November and is now on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It will make the trek to the Detroit Auto Show next week – where it will be joined by hydrogen-powered concept vehicles from both Honda and Hyundai.

Fuel for Thought!

“We aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel;  just everything necessary to make them turn,” said Toyota Motor Sales Senior Vice President Bob Carter, during a news conference at CES, the big consumer electronics trade show. “Fuel cell electric vehicles will be in our future sooner than many people believe, and in much greater numbers than anyone expected.”

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Toyota Takes Leap of Faith with 2015 Introduction of FCV

Production costs, infrastructure limitations bring out skeptics.

by on Dec.12, 2013

The Toyota FCV is already facing competition from Hyundai's fuel cell-powered Tucson.

Many immediately think of battery electrics when the topic of zero-emission vehicles crops up, further proving that fuel cell electric vehicles are the oft-forgotten stepchild of the segment; however, Toyota is confident it can turn the tide on fuel cells.

Confident enough that one of its top executives, Soichiro Okudaira, chief officer of research and development, recently predicted that FCEVs will “just one alternative of the eco cars” someday, according to a story in Automotive News.

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Actually, he predicted it would happen in 10 to 15 years which is when the pricing will come down to levels palatable to consumers. However, in the interim, Toyota believes there is a market for fuel cell-powered cars, despite it’s “too high for the mainstream” price. (more…)