Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle production body, price revealed

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Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle production body revealed

This is what the production body of the Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle will look like. Toyota said the interior and more details about the vehicle will be revealed later. For now, what we need to know is this: It provides most of the benefit of a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) without the inconvenience of long recharging times — assuming, that is, you have access to a hydrogen refueling facility. It is expected to go on sale in Japan by April 2015, according to Toyota. (Photo courtesy Toyota)

The Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle we told you about some time ago was formally revealed in its production form yesterday in Japan, and its price for that country was announced.

According to a press release from Toyota — which was scant on further details, by the way — the Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle will launch in Japan before April 2015, and preparations are underway for launches in the U.S. and European markets in the summer of 2015.

While the formal press release from Toyota’s American PR wing was short-and-sweet and made no mention of pricing, the Japanese media site featured the full video of the formal reveal of the Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle. We have included that video below, in case you’re interested — just beware, as it is more than an hour in length.

The Japanese Toyota press release (go ahead and click the link, it’s in English) said the Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle will be priced at approximately 7 million yen, which comes out to about $69,000 in U.S. currency. Some automotive sites have noted that this puts the car smack-dab in the middle of Tesla’s price bracket for the Model S. If you go to Tesla’s website, you can build a Tesla Model S at $63,000 if you’re paying cash. If you want a P85 performance model, that cash price quickly jumps to $87,000.

Having said that, it is important to note that Toyota said the U.S. and European prices have not been determined at this point.

As we reported earlier, the Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle will feature a cruising range similar to that of a gasoline-engine vehicle and can be refueled in a matter of minutes, yet produces emissions of only water vapor.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the future of transportation. It foregoes all the inconveniences of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) while gaining all the environmental and — at least in the beginning — all the advantages of lower daily driving expenses the BEVs bring with them. There’s also the possibility that traditional fueling stations could make an easy conversion over to hydrogen because it fits mostly within the confines of a gas station/convenience store’s existing business model. Because of long recharging time, conventional BEV chargers could not replace fuel pumps at your corner gas station, obviously.

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  • Bob Wallace

    In the short term the hydrogen used will come from natural gas. This will be no benefit to the climate.

    In the longer term, as NG supplies tighten and prices rise, we’ll use electricity to extract hydrogen from water. The problem here is that it will take more than twice as much electricity per mile to drive a fuel cell car as an EV. The cost per mile will be more than 2x higher (extra electricity plus infrastructure).

    • Lyndon Johnson

      “…it will take more than twice as much electricity per mile to drive a fuel cell car as an EV. The cost per mile will be more than 2x higher (extra electricity plus infrastructure).”

      I’d like to see some data on the first part of that point. Not doubting your assertion so much as I’m genuinely curious what the electricity load would be for both solutions.

      On your second point, I think you may be overlooking two things:

      1. Technology breakthroughs that could make hydrogen generation cheaper. Twenty years ago, lithium ion batteries were the stuff of Popular Science but not scientifically feasible yet. Battery tech has come a long, long way since the GM EV-1, and I think Hydrogen generation and storage could do the same, given enough bright minds working on those things. I do not think science or the consumer market will simply wait for natural gas supply to tighten to the point that prices rise before seeking a way to make hydrogen production by on-site electrolysis a real thing. There’s an important element of “green” thinking going on in the minds of some consumers — but more importantly, many corporations who build cars and fueling stations — who are the people driving hydrogen car research now despite the fact fuel remains relatively cheap in America versus real incomes.

      2. The distinct possibility that Hydrogen fueling stations can become the gas stations of the future, thereby actually lowering the cost for the end consumer because they don’t have to install a fueling station on their own property or seek out often inconvenient public chargers, as is the case with battery EVs now. If my local convenience store can expect me to pay a visit to them once a week to refuel with hydrogen, thereby increasing the chances I’ll buy a cola or candy bar from their store, they’ll build the infrastructure for me. With hydrogen’s refueling times being similar to that of gasoline’s, I think there will be some forward-thinking convenience store owners who will realize this is a market they thought untouchable — EV drivers don’t go to gas stations; in fact, they take pride in saying they never visit gas stations. Hydrogen fueling has the potential to create a paradigm shift where EV owners don’t have to feel guilty for going to a fuel station like they used to when they drove gasoline-engine cars, and where fuel station owners finally get to actively market to the emerging market of EVs, thereby branding themselves as forward-thinking, ecologically responsible businesses. If a convenience store owner installs the infrastructure, surely that lowers my cost-per-mile equation significantly over having to install my own refueling station at home as I would with a battery EV.

  • Bob Wallace

    Here’s a good explanation of why it takes more electricity to run a H2 FCEV than an EV.

    It’s a bit outdated as fuel cells have apparently become more efficient making the 3:1 difference closer to 2:1.

    Your point #1. Sure, a breakthrough could make H2 a lot easier/cheaper to produce which would change the math. But there could as well be a breakthrough on the EV side which would swing things in that direction.

    We can speculate about what might happen, how great sounding but unproven ideas might change the calculations, but on a practical level we need to work with what we have that has been proven.

    #2. A H2 “service station” will cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (a new gas station costs over $1 million – what I’ve seen online). We’ll need enough to fill every FCEV on the road. I see claims that the Tesla superchargers cost $150k each. I can’t confirm either of those numbers but it make sense that the cost of a charge station would be considerably lower.

    And don’t forget, we’d need perhaps 20x as many H2 stations as rapid chargers. All FCEVs would need to tank up while only those EVs doing long distant trips would need a rapid charger.

    I’m betting that what we will see is fast food restaurants located along major travel routes will ‘host’ most rapid chargers. The real estate will cost them nothing, they already have parking spaces. The chargers will bring in potential customers who will be there for ~20 minutes. Perfect.

    They don’t even need to jack up prices. Just price the charge based on electricity used plus a small percentage to repay the charger cost over ten years/whatever.

  • Lyndon Johnson

    Good points, Bob.

    I’d like to think some of the initial infrastructure cost of hydrogen would be offset by current gas stations swapping over one pump on existing property, which would in theory minimize the capital outlay of starting an FCEV filling station. But to your other points, I see what you’re saying.

    As for BEVs, you’re absolutely right on the only ones needing rapid chargers being those that travel long distances. Also, we have been keeping an eye on battery tech developments. Toyota and others have talked within the last 18 months or so about the possibilities for sodium ion batteries being both cheaper to produce and providing longer range, but those points were raised in terms of hypotheticals, and we’ve seen no report of further development in the field of EV batteries.

    As for me, I’m just waiting for plain old Level 2 EV chargers to become the norm in isolated parts of the country, like mine. It’s not that I would never drive an EV like the Nissan LEAF, it’s just that living in a rural area with no EV chargers to speak of could make one extremely range-anxious on any given day. If all I had to do was drive to and from my office at the newspaper where I work during the day, a LEAF would cover my range just fine. But I often have to run across my rather large, hill-infested county to cover breaking news stories for said newspaper and/or have to work late — both things that would test the range limits of any EV short of a Tesla Model S right now since there’s no charging infrastructure within 25 miles of my regular commute.

    If more chain businesses like McDonalds, Kroger, Food Lion, Taco Bell, and department stores would install at least a simple two-parking-space EV charger like the ones that have been installed at every Cracker Barrel Old Country Store in the last few years, I think it would go a LONG way to encouraging more EV sales, which then would encourage further EV development from the major OEMs.

    I keep seeing the phrase “compliance cars” thrown around on other websites in reference to BEVs that are built solely as some hat-tip to the government’s desire for a more efficient fleet of automobiles, and it just illustrates to me that so many automakers see no commercial viability for EVs. As I outlined at this site a few weeks ago, Nissan seems to be the only mainstream manufacturer taking EVs seriously by not only producing them at an affordable price and selling them nationwide, but also pushing for the development of charging infrastructure. If more manufacturers treated EVs like the possible transformative technology they are and joined Nissan in that crusade, the “chicken or egg” scenario, as I’ve called it many times here, would quickly cease to exist.

  • Bob Wallace

    While morphing gas stations into H2 station would save some money there’s still the capital invested to be considered. The owners will expect a decent return on their investment. That and the infrastructure needed to generate the H2 have to be added on top of the ~2x as much electricity per mile it takes to drive a FVEC rather than an EV.

  • Bob Wallace

    I understand your rural problem. It’s a 150 mile RT drive to the grocery store for me. And I’ve got a significant mountain climb at the return end (3,000′). I’d need a L3 rapid charger at the town end to get me home in a Leaf and unless I drove carefully I might not make it. I’m waiting for a longer range 4wd. (I’ve also got 3.5 mile of unpaved road that doesn’t get plowed when it snows.)

    Have you considered the Volt? It might have enough range to let you do the home/work commute on electricity and give you an efficient fuel range when you need to drive past the battery range. Maybe even plug in at work and double the range.

  • Bob Wallace

    On compliance cars –

    My take is that there’s no reason for most manufacturers to get heavily involved in EVs until battery prices come down enough to create a large EV market. By building a few compliance EVs they are gaining experience and can ramp up production as demand grows.

    Ford set up their three Focus assembly lines in a way that allows them to convert from hybrid or fuel to EV in a few days (or in the other direction) as demand requires.

    Nissan and Tesla are doing the heavy lifting. Other companies, I suspect, are watching and waiting.

    Since profits drive most corporate behavior we shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, I suspect Ghosen (Nissan CEO) is getting some flack from his board and shareholders for putting so much into EVs.

    Nissan just announced the cost of a replacement battery pack. It’s priced at $270/kWh. If you back out 10% profit for Nissan, 10% for the dealer, some pack assembly costs (parts and labor) and shipping the cost of the batteries must now be under $200/kWh. That is getting things to the point where prices can be competitive with gasmobiles. Without subsidies.

    Here’s what I sort of expect by the time the 2016 models are released. Nissan may market a ’70 mile range’ Leaf priced in the low $20k area and a ‘150 mile range Leaf for under $30k. Tesla will have a ‘200 mile range’, nicer EV for under $40k. And a couple other companies will pick up their pace and offer similar EVs.

    At that point the EV market will take off.

    A 150 mile range EV is reasonable for occasional all day drives. Drive 150, charge 20 minutes, drive 135, charge, drive 135. You’ve done 420 miles with two (meal/pee/check messages/walk the dog/nap) stops. One more (pie and coffee) stop and you’ve driven well over 500 miles. People who take drives like that 2,4, 6 times a year are probably going to find that acceptable. Especially when they are saving a lot of money not buy gas and a lot of time not going to gas stations the other days of the year.

    People will buy a 150 or 200 mile range EV, drive it for a while, and then many will realize that their second car could reasonably be a 70 mile range EV.

    Higher sales numbers will drive battery prices down to around $100/kWh and then it’s over for the gasmobile. (Of course, my crystal ball sometimes gets funky on me….)

  • Lyndon Johnson

    “Have you considered a Volt?”

    I have. Too pricey at this point for our family. That being said, I’ve been in talks with Toyota hoping to test their Prius Plug-In soon (basically the Toyota Volt, if you will), so watch this space. Should be interesting trying to get a full EV battery charge on a standard outlet overnight. Many nights of the week, I’m not even home 12 hours.

    And Re: The future of EVs: I hope your crystal ball is right! A second-gen LEAF with a 150-mile range would see those little cars popping up everywhere. Even as infrastructure-starved as my area is for EV chargers, I still know of at least two that frequent my town. Those are probably owned by people who seldom venture far beyond the LEAF’s range, in the first place, and who probably have a backup vehicle on-hand for those rare trips out of town. But at 150 miles of range, that would make all kinds of sense to me.

    I commute about 10 miles to work, so my round-trip is only 20 miles, but I often come home at lunch to try to work on this site, which doubles my mileage per day to 40 miles. Add to that any stories I have to cover for the newspaper, and I have been known to put 100 miles on in a day without even trying. But those are the rare exception. The vast majority of my days are 30-40 mile days. The only thing is I couldn’t drive a current-gen LEAF to work just in case I had one of those rare days. News doesn’t wait for your car to get another five miles of battery charge.

  • Bob Wallace

    Not trying to sell you on a Leaf, just using Leaf data because that’s what I’ve got. And, no, the Leaf would not work for you. But let’s look at recharging time…

    According to Wiki – “Models with an on-board 6.6 kW charger can be fully recharged from empty in 4 hours from a 220/240-volt 40 amp supply”. EPA rated at 73 mile range.

    So the Leaf recharges at a rate of ~18 miles per hour plugged in. Eight hours plugged in would mean 146 miles.

    The Prius PHEV would cut down on your gas usage, but with only 6 miles of all electric range you’d be using some fuel every day. Another option would be to look for a used Volt or Ford Fusion PHEV coming off a lease.