While the hydrogen fuel cell isn’t exactly new, it’s never been more efficient.
It’s still ridiculously expensive and infrastructure is still largely in the wind, but Toyota, the first and most-successful hybrid electric vehicle manufacturer, could make a go of it in 2015 with a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Toyota had plenty of skeptics eating their share of humble pie after the Toyota Prius hybrid electric vehicle gained and maintained popularity. Toyota recently reached a milestone of five million hybrid sales globally.
At the North American Auto Show, Toyota showed off the FCV-R which, according to the press release, “by 2015 we’ll have launched a zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell, four-door, midsize sedan.” Toyota proved the skeptics wrong before, so will it be the same this time? Toyota admits “refueling infrastructure remains a distinct challenge, but certainly not one that will stand in the way of such an important technology.”
The famous line states, “Build it, and they will come,” so is Toyota having a pipe dream or can they pull it off again? The jury’s out on that one, but if Toyota can build and mass-produce a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, even breaking even on a mid-size sedan “in the neighborhood of $50,000,” it might encourage the development of cheaper and cleaner hydrogen sources, cheaper fuel cell technology, and more abundant refueling infrastructure. Like Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk and the first successful electric vehicle, someone is going to have to bite the bullet and put hydrogen vehicles on the road.
Of course, the hype and the reality are two very different things. Some prognosticators had expected millions of fuel cell vehicles would be on the road in the 2010s, but we’re already four years in and there could be just hundreds in the whole of the US.