It would seem the days of all-electric cars and their experimentation in the real-world have just begun to settle into the daily grind of society much like the internal combustion engine has for over a century. But to change the game even more, automobile companies are once again beginning to focus on hydrogen fuel-cell technology, which in theory has been highly regarded by many to be the future of automobile propulsion.
That said, AutomotiveNews reports that Toyota is currently researching a super low-volume hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that will cost around $50,000, after speaking with Chris Hostetter, Toyota’s vice president of strategic planning for the USA division. The vehicle would debut sometime in 2015.
Hostetter noted that the current prototypes in action in the real world—of which consist of a fleet of 100 beta-testers based on the first generation Highlander, the Toyota FCHV—have cultivated enough data to help pave the way for workable business models for the potential hydrogen infrastructure and industry, along with improved sales prospects.
After the future model’s debut in 2015, Toyota hopes they will sell at least one fuel cell vehicle in the US following the California Air Resources Board mandate for upping hydrogen fueling stations in the state. The 2015 vehicle is expected to be a toned-down version of the FCV-R Concept that debuted at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. Additionally, according to Hostetter, an updated version of the FCV-R will be shown at this year’s show in Japan to officially kickoff the campaign for the production fuel cell vehicle two years later.
The current hindrances to the expansion and increase of hydrogen fuel cell technology range from the lack of hydrogen refueling and production infrastructure, to the cost of all of its development. Despite the fact that hydrogen is the most abundant element in our entire universe—including this very planet—it is extremely hard for us to extract it at a feasible price point. Additionally, it requires more energy to extract hydrogen from its primary source—water—into a source with greater potential energy, thus making it cost ineffective.
However, perspective amongst the public sphere suggests that we may be nearing that breaking point where we have the technology to extract hydrogen at a price point that could further pave the way for the future of hydrogen fuel cells. And the reason why we’re hoping that fuel cells make it is that not only does it make sense—zero carbon emissions since the byproduct of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles is water vapor—internal combustion engines won’t entirely disappear like they would if electric powertrains were the future. But either way, in the grand scheme of things, the automobile is very young. And this is just the very start of many things to come.
- By: Chris Chin