Are Hydrogen Cars Finally on the Way to the Masses?



During the last year, automakers have begun exploring the possibility of getting hydrogen-powered cars on the road to compete with vehicles that run on batteries, like Tesla’s Model S and Nissan’s Leaf hatchback. But within the last couple of days, there have been several developments that might actually make hydrogen-powered cars a reality.

First up, there’s some new info on Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Toyota first unveiled the FCV-R fuel cell vehicle concept in Tokyo in 2011, but things have been on the quiet side since. It has since been made public that Toyota will debut the car at the Tokyo Motor Show in November. It’s also being reported from Bloomberg that the fuel cell sedan can go about 300 miles per fueling and will make its way to the States in 2014 as a 2015 model. The rumored price tag? Somewhere in the range of $50,000.

During the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival on June 28, 2013, Toyota announced that they have “set hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a key research and development priority for the company.”

In related news, it was also announced that two rival, GM and Honda, would be teaming up to develop their own hydrogen-powered car.

Honda has previously produced the hydrogen Clarity, while GM has expertise in battery chemistry, as well as, holding the most patents involving the technology. GM and Honda will produce a common power plant powered by hydrogen together and hope to have a vehicle out by 2020.

Joining Toyota and the Honda Clarity will hydrogen-powered vehicles by Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai by 2015. But, will hydrogen be the clean-air alternative drivers have been waiting for?

The most appealing part of hydrogen is that it’s the most abundant element in the universe, so there weren’t be any fear of running out of fuel. However, the precious metals needed, fuel cell stacks and high-pressure hydrogen tanks needed to produce hydrogen vehicles make them extremely expensive.Prototypes can cost $1 million to make. Because hydrogen cars are so pricey to make, it’s doubtful that Toyota could sell a hydrogen car at around $50,000.

Also, it takes a lot of power to run a hydrogen car and they will still emit carbon. It will also take additional power to compress the gas for storage at fuel stations.

Regardless of the challenges, automakers seem to be making a push for hydrogen vehicles. While there are some opposed to hydrogen-powered cars, like Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk who called them “fool cells,” there were also plenty of naysayers when Toyota released the Prius in 1997.

Toyota has since sold over 4 million Prius models, making it the most successful alternative powertrain, vehicle line. And the man behind the Prius, Takeshi Uchiyamada, is the one who’s pushing for hydrogen-powered vehicles. He proved the industry wrong once before, perhaps he’ll shock the world again.

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