Toyota has just announced that it will show its concept car at the Consumer Electronics show in 2 weeks. This will be the car’s first US showing. Not only that, it is also bringing its test mule that has logged many miles of durability testing. Companies don’t build test mules unless they are serious. Clearly Toyota is serious about introducing a fuel cell car. Does this mean it is going to skip over the “pure” electric vehicle?
Before you hurt your fingers typing a heated reply that Toyota “sells” an electric RAV 4, we know. It is a last generation platform and body with a Tesla supplied drivetrain. We think that’s great. Tesla and Toyota are this writer’s two favorite car companies. However, Toyota won’t say how many they have supplied and we’ve never seen one on the road. Ever. Toyota also does not need to make any apologies for not having an EV. The Prius alone has saved more gas than all the world’s EVs combined and that gap isn’t getting smaller, it is getting wider.
That Toyota is launching the concept sedan at the Consumer Electronics show is also quite interesting. Have cars become consumer electronics? It is easy to say yes to that query when they run on electrons. We have speculated here for many months and in many stories that Toyota might have a partnership with Tesla in mind. If so, we would cheer. If Toyota is really planning to go down the path of using the universe’s smallest element as vehicle fuel (or energy storage media) we can only groan.
Unfortunately for this writer, he has been to places that make fuel cells. Sadly, he was given an exhaustive overview of where the magic hydrogen comes from and it turns out it comes from – hydrocarbons. A by-product of this process is carbon dioxide, which has been implicated in bad environmental acts by many people. Yes, please write about how PV solar can convert water to elemental oxygen and hydrogen and power 100 million vehicles. Indulge yourselves. Go on about the cool new things being worked on in labs that will allow the smallest element to be stored in some way other than super-compressed gas with its added efficiency losses throughout the fuel transfer cycle.
Why car makers or governments would put the fuel cell into the actual car instead of next to the hydrogen source itself and then run the fuel cell’s electrical trickle into the grid or the cars’ batteries is something I will never really get. Every fuel cell car is also an electric car. If (when) Toyota does launch the FCV it will join the Honda FCEV which is due in 2015 and maybe a Hyundai. Honda has been testing fuel cell cars (called FCX Clarity) in customer hands as beta units now for a long time. The technology is mature. Price and a hydrogen fueling infrastructure are the only sticking points.