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Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vs Electric Car: Buyer Beliefs May Differ

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Toyota FCV-R hydrogen fuel-cell concept car, 2012 Detroit Auto Show

Toyota FCV-R hydrogen fuel-cell concept car, 2012 Detroit Auto Show

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In writing about green, fuel-efficient, and advanced technology cars, it's important to understand who buys them--and why.

Volkswagen, for instance, found that diesel and hybrid buyers are separate groups with little crossover.

Now Toyota suggests that the supporters of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles may also be quite different from those who advocate for, and buy, plug-in electric vehicles.

At the Toyota Hybrid World Tour, held in Michigan two weeks ago, we spoke with Mary Nickerson, the company's national advanced products marketing manager.

Toyota strongly believes that hydrogen fuel cells are the right technology for zero-emission vehicles, and plans to launch its first production hydrogen-fueled vehicle in 2015.

Toyota FCV-R concept, 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show

Toyota FCV-R concept, 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show

Enlarge Photo

That will likely be based on the Toyota FCV-R Concept vehicle it's displayed at many auto shows over the last couple of years.

An updated version of the FCV-R Concept will be displayed at next week's Frankfurt Motor Show, and the production car may be unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show later this year.

Nickerson said the company's research seemed to indicate differences in what she termed "control issues" among drivers, buyers, and advocates of fuel-cell and electric vehicles.

"Fuel-cell people believe the [hydrogen fueling] infrastructure will get built," she said.

"They're confident that the marketplace will build and provide for it."

Plug-in electric car people, she suggested, are different.

"They want to horizontally manage [their energy use]," she said.

"They're independent, they're into photovoltaic solar systems, they think about things like distributed battery and energy storage."

Toyota FCV-R concept, 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show

Toyota FCV-R concept, 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show

Enlarge Photo

In the end, she suggested, it may come down to which set of entities each group believes in or mistrusts.

"The question is, who do you lack confidence in? Goverment? Or big business?"

We already know there are many motivations for buying a plug-in electric car, among them cutting-edge technology, environmental concerns, energy security, and total lifetime cost of ownership.

What would be the motivations for buying a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle?

We're especially eager to hear from fuel-cell proponents, and invite you to weigh in here with their personal motivations.

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

Toyota provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to attend the Toyota Hybrid World Tour event and bring you this first-person report.

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© 2014 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.