Toyota says it's still on course for launching its first production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle by 2015, and has updated its FCV-R fuel cell concept for the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show to publicize the fact.
Since the concept debuted in 2011, the FCV-R's setup has changed, reflecting Toyota's new take on the car's viability--confirming that the FCV-R is a new development on its Hybrid Synergy Drive technology.
Toyota has concentrated on downsizing the car's fuel cell stack, allowing it to slot into the sort of space usually required for an internal combustion engine. Here, it can serve as the main source of power for a hybrid powertrain, using the "same electrical components" as Toyota's existing hybrids.
The fuel cell stack has increased in energy efficiency too, now at 3 kW per liter. This has allowed Toyota to reduce the amount of space required for high-pressure hydrogen tanks, with just two now required rather than the original four. The twin tanks and the fuel cell itself sit beneath the vehicle floor, with no impact on cabin or trunk space.
A small battery pack stores energy recovered by the car's regenerative braking system.
The main benefit of the fuel cell system compared to say, a pure electric vehicle, is increased driving range. Toyota says that in Japanese testing, the FCV-R is capable of 420 miles of range, producing no CO2, particulate matter or oxides of nitrogen--just water vapor. A realistic 300-mile range is more likely.
As part of the company's Hybrid Synergy Drive program, Toyota also says it has made significant strides in reducing the cost, increasing reliability and durability of hydrogen vehicles before a production car launch in 2015. Toyota expects hydrogen fuel cell cars to grow to mass-market levels during the 2020s--so as rival Nissan has done with the Leaf, Toyota will be hoping to get the jump on its rivals in the hydrogen market.
By the 2020s, the hydrogen refueling infrastructure should also have grown, though researchers all around the world are still working towards developing cleaner, less energy-intensive ways of generating hydrogen--still a concern for those wanting truly green vehicles.
The FCV-R--the design of which is unchanged from its 2011 release--will be shown at the Frankfurt Auto Show, starting September 10.