Toyota rolls fuel cell vehicle to series production

June 25, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
While the discussions about batteries and their shortcomings are dominating the discussion about electromobility, Toyota silently finalised its first hydrogen fuel cell driven vehicle. The carmaker plans to make a series version of its concept vehicle available to Japanese customers in April 2015 and some months later in Europe and the U.S.

With the roll-out of the world's first fuel cell driven volume passenger car, Toyota highlights is leading technology position when in comes to electromobility. There are not many competitors, anyway. Of the large OEMs, only Daimler seriously bets on fuel cells. The company plans to launch series about 2016/17. And a couple of years ago, GM subsidiary Opel experimented with that technology and claimed to be near the prototype status, but then the project apparently got sunk. Also BMW made trials with the hydrogen technology and built a hydrogen-driven demonstrator. The beauty of the BMW approach was that it could use a gasoline engine almost unmodified, but problems with the high-pressure hydrogen tank showed that this was a dead end street. Currently, the company collaborates with Toyota on a relatively low level.

Toyota repeatedly emphasised that it intends to foster the diversity of energy sources and develop efficient, low-emission vehicles. In this context hydrogen plays an important role since it can be produced utilising multiple renewable energy sources such as wind power or solar energy. In addition, it can easily be stored and transported. In compressed status it has a higher energy density than batteries.

The drive system of Toyota's series vehicle consists of high-pressure hydrogen tanks and fuel cell stacks which produce electric energy through the chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. This technology has first been used in Toyota's FCHV, a fuel cell-equipped SUV offered for lease in limited quantities in Japan and the US in 2002. In the meantime, the company further developed the fuel cell drive. The sedan now introduced is comparable with conventional cars in terms of driving range and performance. In contrast to them however it neither emits CO2 nor other pollutants; the only substance emitted is water vapour. In contrast to battery electric vehicles, the fuel cell car can be refuelled within three minutes - just as fast as refilling the gasoline tank