We’re not talking album sales here, though we wouldn’t mind getting a million hits. We’re referring to the rare shiny metal that’s more expensive than gold.
If 80’s band Spandau Ballet sang about gold, platinum producers are counting on fuel cell manufacturers to fall head over heels over the metal. It’s not as if they had any choice, the metal that is used mostly in jewelry and catalytic converters is the most efficient catalyst for fuel cells, given its affinity for hydrogen. South Korean car maker Hyundai launched their fuel cell Tucson in June and Toyota Motor Corporation outed their FCV Mirai ahead of its official launch at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of the metal to go around to make fuel cell vehicles mainstream. Car manufacturers will have to figure out how to use less of the material. It takes 2.5 to 3 grams (0.088 to 0.106 ounces) for a kilowatt of capacity. To drive a 310 kW electric motor like that that drives the Tesla Model S, one would need a whopping 775 to 930 gms. (27.3 to 32.8 oz.) of platinum for the accompanying fuel cell.
This may be the reason why Toyota is taking a page from Tesla’s book by positioning its FCV as a high end performance vehicle. It’s being said that the Toyota FCV Mirai might be positioned as the next Supra. The price of the raw material, coupled with its rarity, will probably keep FCVs as niche cars.
In the meantime, all bets are still off as to the future of the car, whether it be a full electric vehicle or a fuel cell, or then again maybe not. Can you feel the electric atmosphere yet?