While hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and infrastructure seem to be an oddity outside Japan, the Japan Ministry of Economy is working hard to improve its chances.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCV), like electric vehicles (EV), produce no emissions on their own. Pressurized hydrogen gas, stored in an on-board tank, is fed into the hydrogen fuel cell, which separates hydrogen electrons from their nuclei, generating an electric current. The electricity is used to drive the electric motors for motion, as well as the rest of the vehicle systems. Unlike an EV, however, an FCV refuels in just minutes. Given the proper infrastructure, FCVs could prove to be good competition for EVs, and will probably co-exist for a number of years.
The Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is making some regulatory changes that should help to improve the chances of hydrogen fuel cell vehicle production and adoption. For example, the on-board hydrogen fuel tank pressure limit has been increased from 700 atm (atmospheres) to 875 atm, or from 10,287 psi to 12,859 psi (pounds per square inch). The pressure increase will improve the range of an FCV by some 20%, so something like the Toyota FCV Concept could exceed 370 miles on a single tank, even better range than the Tesla Model S 85 kWh, in addition to just a few minutes to fill up. Of course, five-minute recharge times could be on the horizon, depending on how EV battery and charging technology improves.
In talks with the United Nations and the European Union, METI is working to establish hydrogen fuel cell vehicle standardization policies. Hopefully, these talks will result in an easier transition to FCVs and a standard hydrogen refueling infrastructure. The infrastructure for EVs is still in flux, various charging protocols still in debate, because standardization came too late.
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk