Nearly every major automaker has at least toyed with the idea of introducing a fuel cell powered vehicle sometime in the future.  Both Honda and GM have introduced fuel cell vehicles, but on a limited basis for testing purposes.  The technology is proven, as drivers of the Honda FCX Clarity GM Fuel Cell powered vehicles have praised the overall refinement of the fuel cell vehicles.  However, cost has not been openly discussed.

Many believe that fuel cells will eventually find their way into numerous commercial vehicles including uses in vehicles such as transit buses and garbage trucks, but few believe that we will see widespread use of fuel cell in passenger vehicles due to the costs associated with a hydrogen fuel cell system.

Recently, Kenichiro Ota, a professor at the Yokohama National University, stated that,"By the time FCVs are commercially available in 2015, they will be cheaper than a Rolls-Royce, but it will be difficult to price them down to the level of a Corolla."

The quote by Ota appeared in an article in UPI Asia discussing Japanese leadership in  fuel cell  research.  Though his quote may not be spot on in terms of overall costs, manufacturers have given us little to go on.   Both Honda and GM simply state that they have reduced costs over the previous generation fuel cell and assure us that at a mass produced level, fuel cell costs would come down even more.

Further re-enforcing the idea of high costs are the current lease rate of a Toyota FCV and the estimated value of a fuel cell vehicle.  According to the UPI Asia article, "Only a handful of automakers are currently leasing fuel-cell vehicles, or FCVs, called the ultimate eco-cars because of their zero emissions, by way of experiment. These include Japan’s three major automakers – Toyota, Nissan and Honda – the German auto giant Daimler, and the U.S. auto giant General Motors. Less than 100 fuel-cell vehicles are on the road in Japan, and a few hundred in the world.  One obstacle is the high price of such cars. An FCV is currently valued at around US$1.1 million. Toyota leases its FCV for US$9,400 a month, or US$110,000 a year."

Maybe Ota is right, maybe a fuel cell is and will be too expensive for use in everyday vehicles.  Perhaps their high costs will only justify their use in large commercial vehicles.  Right now its still to early to know.

Source:  UPI Asia