The government from Japan along with a consortium of automakers and hydrogen suppliers has made plans for a coordinated action in introducing new fuel cell cars. A couple of days ago, Nissan and Toyota along with ten hydrogen suppliers (including Tokyo Gas and Idemitsu) issued a joint statement at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry where they took the responsibility of introducing mass production FCV – fuel cell vehicles into “four major urban areas”, starting with 2015.
These automakers have said that these FCVs will be more affordable which will most likely increase car sales starting with 2015 onward. The penetration of fuel cell vehicles should underpin the creation of one hundred hydrogen fuel stations in the country in the next five years.
The economics ministry of Japan affirmed that the country’s government will “support the mass introduction of FCVs in 2015 and more penetration beyond it and will take the necessary actions.”
A similar situation occurred two years ago in Germany where a number of private firms along with the country’s government announced plans for creating a complex hydrogen network by 2015. The transport minister signed collaboration with eight very important industrial companies, including Shell, Total, Daimler and Linde. The network should start with stations installed in the major urban regions, prior to extending along the motorway corridors.
According to some sources, the chemical industry in Germany is capable of producing enough hydrogen to power about 150,000 cars per year.
According to Reuters, the two companies are planning to kick start a joint venture which would research and develop new fuel cell technologies for future electric vehicles. Both carmakers have been documenting the new technology for quite some time, so this new partnership might make a lot of sense.
Toyota, thanks to its hybrid and electric endeavors into the realm of car propulsion, hasn’t really gone with the hydrogen fuel cell trend, calling such vehicles expensive and unnecessary.
Still, this hasn’t stopped the company’s research and development branch from working on such a technology. The fruits are already being seen, a fact which prompted Toyota to say that it will release a hydrogen fuel cell sedan by 2015.
How did the company go from calling such tech expensive to promising a production-ready model? Thanks to the big price drops recorded by fuel cells. This, according to a company representative, will allow the Japanese company to break even quickly at a price of $50,000 per car.
Unlike other companies, Toyota wants to really profit from this market segment, and even though it could price the sedan lower, in order to contend with other future models like the Chevrolet Volt or Nissan Leaf, it will keep it around the $50k point, in order to get back its investment.
BMW has revealed that it is now testing out a new type of powertrain that uses a hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricity, store in supercapacitors and then use it to power an electric motor.
The new technology is already being tested on a BMW 1 Series prototype. On that test vehicle, it is combined with a regular internal combustion engine, that powers the front wheels. While some of you may jump to the conclusion that this tech is going to appear on the future front-wheel drive BMW and Mini models, an executive within the company confirmed that the setup was forced by technical issues.
It seems that the supercapacitors and the rear-mounted electric motor occupied too much space, and didn’t allow the 1 Series to retain its regular rear-wheel drive setup. As such, the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) aka the fuel cell, generates its power, which is then stored in the capacitors, and transferred to the electric motor, that power the back wheels. The internal combustion engine is just used to power the front wheels and keep the prototype moving in between hydrogen refueling stops.
According to some voices, the technology hasn’t been approved just yet, so we won’t get to see it for quite some time. For more details on how hydrogen fuel cell vehicles work, check out our special on them.
“We will continue to offer mobility solutions with low associated co2 emissions,” said Ito. “We believe that fuel cell cars are the ultimate solution. We have recently produced a solar powered hydrogen refining unit without a compressor that’s 25 per cent more efficient than previous units. Ideal for home use, so you won’t need to buy hydrogen elsewhere.”
But while FCVs will be the main goal, until the technology behind them becomes more profitable and better developed, other methods of producing low CO2 emitting vehicles will need to be used. As such, hybrids like the Insight or the recently-unveiled CR-Z hatchback will still be promoted by the Japanese company.
I’m sure most of you know that our current way of living relies heavily on fossil fuels, from the food we eat to the work we do or the things we use everyday. But I’m also quite certain that most of you know that fossil fuel reserves will one day come to an end. Don’t go thinking we’ll leave our grandchildren stuck solving that problem though, as scientists estimate the end of fossil fuel reserves (oil at least) to arrive as soon as 2025.
That’s why the automotive industry, one of the most reliant branches of the business on fossil fuels, is working hard to find new alternative means of powering vehicles and slowly but surely getting rid of our addiction to petrol, diesel or any such kind of fuel.
Hybrids and plug-in hybrids are becoming major trends these days (just look at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show which is filled with such concepts or production cars). But another means of propulsion is also looking very good in the eyes of the public: hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
But as it gains more and more influence, few people actually know the whole story about such cars, trucks, buses or anything in between. That’s why we decided to explain just how hydrogen fuel cell vehicles work, what are their advantages and disadvantages and, most importantly, why we won’t see them on the roads for quite some time.
The Mercedes-Benz F800 Style, as you can see above, most likely previews the future CLS Class, which not only will include the four-door coupe, but also a smaller edition. While classic concept elements, like the sliding rear doors or the futuristic interior are present, MB revealed that most of the styling will make it onto a production version.
But while its looks are quite impressive, its powertrain options are even more so, including not only a plug-in hybrid but also a fuel cell setup. The first is similar to the V6 light hybrid setup we can check out on the Mercedes Benz S400, and will provide a power output of 400 HP and an electric-only range of 18 miles. The other setup, based on a fuel cell/electric drivetrain, uses a 136 HP electric motor to power the car, but is unlikely to become a viable option anytime soon.
Besides the radical design and the powertrain options, the F800 Style also has two high end safety technologies. The Distronic Plus Traffic Jam Assistant is an upgraded cruise control system, capable of steering the car at speeds under 25 mph. The other is the Pre-Safe 360-degree technology, which also adds the existing Pre-Safe tech to the rear end of the car. It will now be able to detect when a rear end collision might happen and will apply the brakes, so that you won’t get pushed into the car ahead of you in a chain reaction.
Overall, the new Mercedes-Benz F800 Style is looking extremely good. MB fans will be able to check it out in its concept flesh at the Geneva Motor Show, but also in the photo gallery below.
While vehicles running on hydrogen fuel cells are still a long way from becoming a mainstream product, many companies are hoping that 2015 will be the turning point, as large manufacturers will be launching models of their current and upcoming models which will use the fuel cell.
Sadly though, it seems that new economic analysts still peg fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) as too expensive and will stay that way after 2015, when many companies will launch such models. They also claim that while we may see them in fleets or buses, the average consumer will have to wait a long time to own such a model.
Kenichiro Ota, a professor at the Yokohama National University, revealed 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.”
While one possibility to get FCVs in the mainstream market will be to lease them, it seems that the monthly fees will also be quite high, way above any average consumer might be able to endure. These facts only go to prove Honda’s assessment of hydrogen cars becoming popular in 20 years from now.
In a new statement which should solidify the new position that Japanese carmaker Honda has, its CEO, Takanobu Ito, revealed that it will be at least 20 years until hydrogen-powered cars will become popular on the market. Until then, hybrids will gain a bigger market share, he continued.
“It will be 20 years at the earliest before fuel cell cars penetrate the mass market,” said Ito, which also revealed that the company is working on many types of technologies which will improve the efficiency of Honda cars and even target the performance end of the market.
“This is something that we are considering, and the CR-Z is only one shape of Honda’s hybrid sports cars in the current age,” said Honda design boss Nobuki Ebisawa. He was then completed by Ito which said that the 2-engine technology, one electric, one regular, is key to building a bigger performance sportscar. “We recognize that one motor is not sufficient for bigger cars. The class above the Civic would need two motors, so we are developing such a system. We want to minimize weight and maximize efficiency.”
Sadly though, as much as Honda fans would love it, the future sportscar probably won’t be a revived NSX, as rumors indicate that a revamped S2000 coupe will be the basis for such a future model. Until then though, you will be able to check out the CR-Z coupe at Detroit Motor Show at the beginning of 2010.
Among all of the carmakers in the world, Honda is one of the most dedicated ones to the hydrogen fuel cell and what it can do for the future of vehicles all around the world. Its FCX Clarity is a shining example that the most abundant element on earth can power a regular car, and do it efficiently.
But it seems that due to a lack of infrastructure to develop and sell hydrogen-powered cars, the Japanese company is considering the launch of several conventional electric cars, running on batteries, in order to not loose its position on the market to other companies who are focusing on regular electric vehicles.
This statement was made by the CEO of the company, Takanobu Ito, which revealed that he is considering markets like the US, Europe and even Asia for the launch of several all-electric vehicles.
I for one back up hydrogen, and hopefully this will only be a small obstacle and when the infrastructure catches up to the research already being done in the field by manufacturers like Honda or Volkswagen, vehicles like the Clarity will prevail and we won’t have to sit and recharge the batteries every evening for our car.
In an effort to further promote hydrogen-powered cars and, at the same time, to test them out under city traffic conditions, Volkswagen has just announced that it will be deploying six models running on hydrogen fuel cells on the streets of Berlin.
The vehicles, two VW Tiguan HyMotion, two VW Caddy Maxi HyMotion and two Audi Q5 HFC will be tested starting from the end of this month and reveal to people the benefits of hydrogen as a new fuel and to gain new insights into the new technology.
Prof. Juergen Leohold, head of research at Volkswagen revealed: “The fuel cell is an important component of the fuel and powertrain strategy, Volkswagen. We are pleased to put our fuel cell vehicles available to the CEP project. The first Volkswagen models with a sufficiently durable and affordable fuel-cell drive could there be, in our view, at 2020th parallel, but also the development of a complete hydrogen infrastructure. ”
For those of you who don’t know, Volkswagen is part of the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) which is an international association of companies, much in the vein of the recently formed Hydrogen Alliance, that joins companies like BMW, Berlin Transportation Company (BVG), DaimlerChrysler, Ford, GM / Opel, Hydro AG, Linde and Shell Hydrogen, StatoillHydro, TOTAL or Vattenfall Europe.
This partnership focuses on a three-phased project, which will push the technical development of the systems behind hydrogen-powered vehicles. The first phase will be this testing around busy cities, the second one, which will last until the end of 2010 will allow for updates in the systems, infrastructure and testing that involved the vehicles and the last one, will prepare the market for the wide scale launch of hydrogen fuel cell cars.
In case you’re going to Berlin anytime soon, be on the lookout for these vehicles which just might pave the way for transportation as we know it.
While Europeans didn’t really embrace hybrids like North Americans or the Japanese, there is certainly a lot of effort made in order to create the infrastructure for ecological models to be released in the old continent. As such, Honda has just revealed that it is indeed planning to launch its FCX Clarity model which is powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
While no concrete release date was offered, as the infrastructure isn’t still up to par with the one in California or Japan, Honda executives did praise the Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway or Finland, for their efforts to create hydrogen fueling stations.
As you know, the Japanese model uses an electric engine which develops 136 HP and has a range of 460 km, with a top speed of 160 km/h. Among the new ecological cars, it has won many accolades, including from Top Gear’s James May, which tested it two season ago in California. Hopefully the old continent will start building more and more hydrogen fueling stations, pushed by the recently formed hydrogen alliance, and we will see the Clarity on our streets.
If there’s one thing which really detracts people from buying hybrids and hydrogen-powered vehicles, that would be the performance. Many people really want to feel a rush when they hit the gas, no matter what their fuel efficiency might dictate. But how about this project from a team of engineers from the Ohio State University, which has just set the world record for the fastest hydrogen-powered vehicle with a speed of over 300 mph / 484 km/h.
The project first started as a join effort between the engineers at Ohio State University and the ones from Ford. After creating the Fusion 999 model, which set the record of 207 mph, the Ford guys decided to leave the team and apply the knowledge for their parent company. The students however decided to stick with it, and achieve the goal of doing 300 mph with a hydrogen-powered vehicle.
As such, the Buckeye Bullet 2 was born. It was then taken to the famous Bonneville salt flats in order to set the new world record. The two runs needed to properly set the record registered an average of 303.025 mph (487.671 kph), for the flying kilometer of road traveled, and 302.877 mph (487.433 kph) for the flying mile. The fastest speed recorded during the training runs was an even bigger 489 km/h, but couldn’t be set as a record.
Even though we can’t expect future hydrogen cars to overtake us on the highway at those dizzying speeds, it’s good to known that the technology is there and maybe it will be adapted for normal use. Enjoy the video with the world breaking run.
There are certainly many trends these days in the car industry, especially about its future, as many companies believe electric vehicles running on lithium-ion batteries will become popular while others are focusing on hydrogen fuel cells and promoting this technology to power the electric vehicles inside cars.
We’ve revealed a few weeks ago about a new hydrogen alliance, among which manufacturers like Daimler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Renault/Nissan and Toyota are a part of, but it now seems that even the CEO of famed UK super car maker Aston Martin sustains this train of thought.
“The technology for [electric cars] will not become truly useable until at least 2020. Real-world driving will highlight their weaknesses,” Dr Ulrich Bez revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show. “It is not something Aston Martin is working on, and it will not represent a true alternative to the combustion engine for a long time.”
He then revealed that the whole auto industry should focus on hydrogen fuel cells, calling for governments all around the world to invest in such initiatives and in infrastructure, so that we would all be able to enjoy the benefits of this new, eco-friendly technology.
While this doesn’t mean that we will see a hydrogen-powered DB9 anytime soon, it’s quite nice to hear that even the president of Aston Martin is looking forward and realizing that normal cars will be replaced at one point in time.
As you all know, the Frankfurt Motor Show is in full swing these days in the German city, giving the chance to many car makers to unveil new models, concepts and pave the way for the future. A future, if we consider a few new interesting concepts, will be electric, with models like the Audi e-Tron leading the way to both performance and mainstream acceptance of electric-powered cars and zero emissions.
But we still have a long way to go, at least according to Toyota executive vice president Takeshi Uchiyamada, which revealed that for the time being, electric cars are still too expensive and can’t be adopted by regular car fans.
“Electric vehicles of today are less costly than in 1990s, but if you compare them with the other vehicles out there they are still too expensive,” said Uchiyamada at the Frankfurt Motor Show. “Unless there is a very big breakthrough in battery costs I don’t think electric vehicles can take a large market share.”
He completed his statement by saying that while testing feasible alternatives to regular cars, research which eventually led to the large fleet of hybrid cars, led by the popular Prius, his company realized that at least for now, all-electric-powered cars can be saved for fiction.
While you can’t doubt that Toyota holds the whole eco movement in its hand thanks to its hybrids, there are plenty of other alternatives, which are being supported. Whether it will be hybrid, electrical or even hydrogen-powered, the future for car makers will be a pretty bright one, albeit a tad limited in terms of fuel economy, thanks to president Obama.
Do you agree with the statements made by the Toyota executive? Don’t be shy to leave a comment to this story.