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Toyota’s Fuel Cell Car for 2015 Gets A Whole Lot More Expensive

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Toyota Highlander Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle (FCHV)

Toyota Highlander Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle (FCHV)

For the past few years, Toyota executives have been keen to point out that the Japanese automaker is working on bringing a production hydrogen fuel cell car to market by 2015. 

But according to recent reports, Toyota has changed the estimated price of the as-yet un-named fuel cell car from $50,000 up to €100,000  -- the equivalent of around $138,000. 

Admittedly, the European pricing given in the Automotive News article includes european sales taxes of around 20% -- but even after removing an estimated €20,000 of tax, we come to an estimated sticker price of around €80,000, or just over $110,000

Less than 18 months ago, Toyota executives were promising a $50,000 hydrogen fuel cell car, so what’s gone wrong? 

In a word, changed priorities. And circumstance.

Toyota Advanced Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicles (FCHV-adv)

Toyota Advanced Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicles (FCHV-adv)

Enlarge Photo

Firstly, let’s deal with changed priorities. Over the past year, we’ve seen the automotive industry move away from hydrogen fuel-cell technology and towards plug-in hybrid, fully electric, and high-efficiency engine design.  

Part of it is driven by cost. Hydrogen fuel cell technology, while rapidly dropping in price from the $1 million prototype cars from last decade, still represents a massive financial commitment from those investing to develop the technology. 

With current administration pushing for  Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards of 56.2 mpg across an automaker’s range by 2025, many automakers are choosing to spend development budgets elsewhere.  That equates to developing technologies which are cheaper to both develop and implement, such as plug-in hybrid, full electric and small capacity, high efficiency four-cylinder engines. 

Toyota Advanced Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicles (FCHV-adv)

Toyota Advanced Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicles (FCHV-adv)

Enlarge Photo

Secondly however, the devastating Japanese earthquakes, not to mention floods in Thailand, have helped drop Toyota’s output significantly. 

Dropped output means a drop in profits. And that means less money in the bank to help subsidize new cars, like a hydrogen fuel-cell car. 

Regardless of the reasons behind the price hike however, Toyota is unlikely to find many buyers for a $115,000 hydrogen fuel cell car, especially when we’d expect range to be less than that of all-electric zero-emissions cars like the 2012 Tesla Model S luxury sedan. 

Would you spend $115,000 to be an early-adopting hydrogen fuel cell car owner? Let us know in the Comments below.

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Comments (13)
  1. All homes and businesses have electricity, so they all have the ability to charge an electric car or plug-in hybrid right now at level one with no effort. But hydrogen, I've never even seen a hydrogen station. Hydrogen is like clean gasoline, it will require staffed filling stations and an army of tanker trucks to deliver the hydrogen. My point, the infastructure for EVs only needs to be installed the electricity is already there, hydrogen is almost nonexistent and now I'm reading that a hydrogen Toyota will cost me roughly $138,000.............why bother? Go electric!
     
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  2. The installation of a hydrogen infrastructure is much easier than you think in the US. Google "methane cracking for hydrogen". Since most gas stations and homes both have natural gas supplies the addition of methane cracking equipment and a compressor will enable anyone to have hydrogen on hand. As the number of electric cars increase on the road we all will have to worry about the new cost associated with upgrading all the electric delivery and generation equipment. At this time adding chargers works well only because of the low level of vehicles using them. The other bonus for hydrogen powered cars is that you do not have to wait hours for the car to charge before you can use it, you can fill up and drive on.
     
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  3. The current downside to hydrogen is miles per fill up. With current tank sizes on small cars, the best the cars can get would be about 150 miles per fill. Until this challenge is over come, people will not except them.
     
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  4. The problem I've heard is that hydrogen burns much faster then gasoline, the range is less because its gone two to three times faster. Hydrogen isn't a bad idea it just doesn't seem like a good one.
     
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  5. Most current FCVs have ranges greater than 150 miles, so you are obviously misinformed.

    The Toyota FCHV-adv has an independently tested and verified range of over 450 miles.

    http://www.nrel.gov/hydrogen/pdfs/toyota_fchv-adv_range_verification.pdf
     
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  6. @Paul: The challenge with methane cracking is that the byproduct is CO2, which is the greenhouse gas that we are (in theory) trying to reduce. The overall wells-to-wheels carbon profile of a mile driven on carbon is hugely variable depending on the sources of the large amount of energy required to crack the feedstock. And if that energy is electricity, it is quite clearly more efficient to use that electrity simply to power the vehicle.
     
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  7. Good points, Paul. From a consumer point of view, this is a non-starter, of course, but fuel cells still have enough potential that I would certainly continue the research. The infrastructure isn't as tough a hurdel as it sounds, especially when you consider how many more power stations there will need to be in the future if we reach even 20% EVs.
    Finally, what a shocker on this web site, Toyota propsoes a $138,000 fuel cell and nobody criticizes Toyota. Nah, too busy attacking GM for the $41k Volt that exists now or the Ford Focus EV at $40k. Double standard much?
    Honda is working hard at fuel cells, too, let's see what the future holds there down the road. As in about 2025, perhaps? 2035?
     
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  8. There are more comments in this thread
  9. I wonder if the €100K number from the Automotive News story isn't some kind of error. Why would Toyota announce so many years in advance it will bring a car to the market that nobody will buy? I think the official Toyota narrative is still that it's going to be under $50K. That's not going to happen of course but it keeps the sponsors (taxpayers!) happy and the hydrogen hoax alive.
     
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  10. "In a word, changed priorities. And circumstance."

    umm... that's four words.
     
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  11. €100000 sounds suspiciously close to the $129270 ABG quoted back in August for the FCHV prototype http://green.autoblog.com/2011/08/03/toyota-says-cost-of-fchv-adv-fuel-cell-protoytpe-is-129-270

    I wonder if someone got their wires crossed?

    And range is about the one problem hydrogen vehicles don't have. The FCHV-adv is quoted as having over 400 miles range, as would other cars with similar 7000 PSI tanks. But there are a dozen other reasons why I wouldn't ever buy one.
     
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  12. Looks like others agree: http://green.autoblog.com/2011/11/09/toyotas-2015-hydrogen-vehicle-still-estimated-to-cost-50-000
     
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  13. Most things which will make Hydrogen powered cars more feasible like cheaper electricity will also make electric cars even more practical.

    Some things that hydrogen powered cars need and don't have yet are: Reasonable durability of the fuel cells themselves, a cheap source of hydrogen, a system of delivery of hydrogen, an system of maintenance for the fuel cells, a feasible means of storing the hydrogen, a feasible means of transporting the hydrogen from the place of generation to the place of delivery and most of all, a price that any of the 99% can afford.

    Other than that it seems like a good idea.
     
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