Toyota is on course to launch its first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in 2015 and will reveal the latest details on its next-generation hybrid technology at the Frankfurt motor show in September.
Toyota believes the Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle offers the best solution to the challenges of energy sources and emissions, with hydrogen as an ideal, ultra-clean fuel.
On Tuesday September 10th 2013, Toyota will demonstrate how it has overcome some of the historic barriers to developing a marketable fuel cell vehicle and how it is closing in on its goal of achieving a driving range and performance comparable to conventional petrol and diesel engines, but with no harmful tailpipe emissions.
Toyota applied its successful Hybrid Synergy Drive technology – the power system used by Prius and its other full hybrid production models – in its FCHV development, replacing the petrol engine with a fuel cell and the conventional fuel tank with high-pressure hydrogen tanks. The FCHV uses the same electrical components as a full hybrid powertrain, as well as a 21kW battery to store energy recovered by its regenerative braking system.
The FCV-R concept was first unveiled at the 2011 Tokyo motor show, and since then Toyota has continued to make progress towards its planned introduction of an affordable FCHV saloon model in Japan, the USA and Europe by 2015. Development of the production model has seen a focus on significant cost reduction, durability, reliability and improvements in well-to-wheel CO2 emissions.
Tests have seen the FCV-R concept achieve a maximum driving range of about 420 miles (in the Japanese JC08 cycle), producing no CO2, NOx or particulate matter emissions – the only by-product of the hydrogen fuel cell when driving is water vapour.
Engineers have managed to reduce the size of the fuel cell stack by achieving the highest fuel cell power density yet – 3.0kW per litre. A marked increase in energy efficiency has allowed for the size of the vehicle’s fuel tank to be reduced, so that the latest design features two tanks rather than the four originally envisaged. This also allows different materials to be used, which has a positive impact on overall costs.
The twin fuel tanks and the fuel cell stack are located beneath the vehicle floor, meaning there is no impact on the cabin and load space.
Toyota expects FCHVs to reach full mass-market commercialisation during the 2020s, by when it aims to be selling tens of thousands of vehicles each year. This market growth will be supported by the wider roll-out of fuel cell vehicle technology; the development of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure that will bring filling stations within easy reach of greater numbers of people; and cost reductions that go hand-in-hand with a maturing technology.
Fuel cell development
Toyota’s fuel cell stack technology has consistently enjoyed performance leadership ever since the company launched its R&D programme in 1992. Since then it has secured significant improvements in every aspect of FCHV operation.
As mentioned above, the fuel cell to be used in Toyota’s production FCHV currently achieves the world’s highest power output density at 3.0kW per litre. Compared to the fuel stack Toyota deployed in its 2008 FCHV-adv model, the new unit has twice the power density while being half the weight and half the size.
The leap in energy efficiency is also revealed in the vehicle’s range in everyday driving, which, test data (in line with the official Japanese 10-15 test cycle), has improved from about 205 miles to more than 350 miles. At the same time, the fuel cell has a greater operating range, with the use of new materials in its construction making cold start possible at temperatures as low as -30°C.
Cost issues have also been tackled with the current fuel cell system, including the stack and high-pressure hydrogen tank, one-tenth the cost of that used in the FCHV-adv. Toyota aims ultimately to reduce this by a further 50 per cent. Currently a vehicle price tag of less than £70,000 is thought attainable, but Toyota is working to reduce costs even further before bringing its first model to market.
Toyota’s presentation on its FCHV programme at the Frankfurt motor show forms part of a wider focus on the development and future prospects for its hybrid power technology.