Toyota's Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle Ready for Market
In 1992, Toyota launched an initiative to design and market the world’s first fuel cell automobiles. Coincidentally, this was the same year that the Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, highlighting among other things the negative effects of excessive CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere. Toyota has been working to answer the call to develop lower or no-emission automobiles utilizing advanced fuel cell technology ever since.
In its pursuit, the company has rolled out numerous prototype fuel cell vehicles. In 1996, Toyota demonstrated its first in-house developed Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle (FCHV) at an exhibition parade in Japan.
In 1997, Toyota released its landmark gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, the Prius. The company quickly realized the potential of leveraging the energy efficient technologies in the Prius hybrid system to achieve increased efficiencies in fuel cell vehicles. Later in that same year, the company unveiled the world’s first methanol fueled FCHV.
It was four years later, in 2001, that Toyota introduced hydrogen as a fuel for its FCHVs. The FCHV-3 prototype offered advanced power output, and later that year, the FCHV-4 was developed and undergoing testing on public roads in Japan. Through its membership with the California Fuel Cell Partnership, Toyota introduced the FCHV-4 to American roadways for testing.
It was also in 2001 that Toyota incorporated its fuel cell technology into public transportation, developing the FCHV-BUS1 in partnership with Hino Motors.
As if rolling out two vehicle prototypes and a bus design in a single year wasn’t bold enough, Toyota collaborated with General Motors and Exxon to announce the development of Clean Hydrocarbon Fuel (CHF). The fuel was used to run the FCHV-5—released the same year.
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By 2005, Toyota had perfected its FCHV systems to the point of being on-par in terms of performance and power density with gasoline-powered vehicles. The only problem the company faced was that each of its prototypes cost roughly $1 million.
Toyota’s FCHV’s most recent metamorphosis has taken the form of the company’s highly successful Highlander SUV. While the Highlander is a practical family vehicle, no millionaire would drop $1 million on a car that looks like you’re picking the kids up from school. A sexy Lamborghini perhaps, but a standard SUV, not likely.
It has taken over five years for Toyota to figure out how to bring the cost of the FCHV Highlander down to a marketable price range. And while the money saved on fuel will likely reduce the lifetime cost of the vehicle—considering that the Highlander FCHV can travel 500 miles on a full tank of hydrogen—the company is still faced with a price tag well above other Highlander models.
Toyota is preparing to introduce the Highlander Advanced Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle (FCHV-adv) to the market by 2015 with an estimated price tag of $50,000. The company claims it has reduced the cost of producing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 90 percent in the past five years and expects another 50 percent drop in price come 2015.
The baseline gasoline-powered model of the 2011 Toyota Highlander sells for around $28,000, just over half the cost of the upcoming FCHV-adv. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid, however, costs only about $6,000 less than the FCHV-adv will. Presumably, the drastic price difference is made up for in fuel efficiency considering analysts predict the cost of hydrogen could be as low as $2 per gallon equivalent. Compared to the ever-increasing price of gasoline, hydrogen fuel cells are looking pretty attractive. However, there is one major problem to contend with.
A lack of hydrogen infrastructure is what has kept most vehicle manufacturers from fully committing to developing hydrogen vehicles. BMW, for example, announced late in 2010 the end to the road-testing program for its hydrogen vehicles due to lack of infrastructure. But Toyota is unwavering in its quest, and is one of about eight automakers to have signed a “letter of understanding” to market fuel cell vehicles within the next five years. The company is road-testing more than 100 of its Highlander FCHVs in the U.S. between 2010 and 2013 to prepare for the 2015 launch.
To address the concern over fueling infrastructure, Toyota partnered with Shell, Air Products, South Coast Air Quality Management District and the U.S. Department of Energy to build the first pipe-fed hydrogen fueling station in the U.S.
“Toyota plans to bring a fuel-cell vehicle to market in 2015 or sooner, and as you see, we will not be alone in the marketplace,” said Chris Hostetter, vice president of strategic resources for Toyota Motor Sales. “Building an extensive hydrogen-refueling infrastructure is the critical next step in bringing these products to market. But infrastructure development is no easy task. It will require coordination and cooperation between vehicle manufacturers, government agencies, hydrogen producers and end users. This station, for example, is the result of years of planning and a truly collaborative effort.”
It looks like hydrogen is going to be a competitive new option to power the transportation sector very soon. With compressed natural gas, biofuels, and electric cars all making headway as well in this crucial transition, the diversified fueling infrastructure likely to ensue will hopefully ease the troubles felt by our current single-fuel oil-driven economy.
ScottishPower submits plans for UK's largest electrolyser
ScottishPower has submitted a planning application to deliver the UK’s largest electrolyser which will be the key component of a green hydrogen facility located close to its Whitelee windfarm.
Alongside the 20MW electrolyser, the application also includes proposals for a combined solar and battery energy storage scheme - up to 40MW and 50MW respectively - to power the electrolyser. They will be installed about 5km west of Lochgoin Reservoir and next to the existing Whitelee Extension substation.
The submission marks an important step for Green Hydrogen for Scotland, a partnership between ScottishPower, BOC and ITM Power, to create green hydrogen production facilities with clusters of refuelling stations across Scotland.
The proposed green hydrogen project will be engineered and operated by BOC, using wind and solar power produced by ScottishPower Renewables, and the electrolyser will be delivered by ITM Power. The project aims to supply hydrogen to the commercial market before 2023.
Green Hydrogen for Glasgow aims to provide carbon-free transport and clean air for communities across Glasgow as well as helping support industrial hydrogen demand in the region. The city, set to host the United Nations 26th Climate Change Conference, COP26, later this year, aims to become the first net zero city in the UK by 2030.
Barry Carruthers, ScottishPower’s Hydrogen Director, said: “With all eyes set to be on Glasgow later this year as the city hosts the UN’s 26th climate change conference, COP26, it’s fantastic to be making this next important step towards delivering green hydrogen for Glasgow.
“Whitelee keeps breaking barriers, first the UK’s largest onshore windfarm, and soon to be home to the UK’s largest electrolyser. The site has played a vital role in helping the UK to decarbonise and we look forward to delivering another vital form of zero carbon energy generation at the site to help Glasgow and Scotland achieve their net zero goals.”
He added green hydrogen has a vital role to play in Scotland and the wider UK’s journey to Net Zero emissions, providing a sustainable energy source that can provide clean, renewable energy for industries, heavy transport and companies for future decades.
Green hydrogen is a zero carbon energy source which can be used by industries and companies that cannot fully electrify their operations to help them lower their emissions, for example, heavy duty transport like buses and bin lorries.
The technology gets its name from the green power source, normally wind or solar, used to power an electrolyser to split water into its core elements; hydrogen and oxygen gas. The hydrogen can then be stored and transported for use as needed.
The green hydrogen facility at Whitelee, the UK’s largest onshore windfarm, will house a 20MW electrolyser and would be able to produce up to 8 tonnes of green hydrogen per day, roughly equivalent to fuelling over 550 buses to travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh and back again each day.
Graham Cooley, CEO ITM Power, said it marks an exciting milestone based on market development for green hydrogen for the city of Glasgow, that will see the UK’s largest electrolyser deployment to date being realised in Scotland.
Mark Griffin, Hydrogen Market Development Manager for Clean Fuels at BOC said: “The scale of this project demonstrates the growing demand for clean hydrogen and as a member of the Green Hydrogen for Scotland partnership, we’re delighted to bring our hydrogen mobility and refuelling project expertise to help deliver a ground-breaking facility in Glasgow.”
The hydrogen production facility could support Glasgow City Council as well as surrounding local authorities and industries in their ambitions to create a zero emissions vehicle fleet, using only electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles by the end of 2029.
ScottishPower expects a decision on the planning application in autumn.
The UK recently announced a £3 million investment to develop the Tees Valley hydrogen transport hub (click here).