Is the U.S. Ready for Fuel Cell Vehicles?

Toyota is set to introduce its first fuel cell vehicles in the U.S. in 2015, which are expected to cost between $50,000 and $100,000. But will the U.S. be ready for it, i.e. will there be hydrogen fueling stations? Yes, say public officials.

2 minute read

May 31, 2013, 5:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

The auto company that made "Prius" synonymous with hybrid cars is betting on the next automotive technology, fuel cells, as are many other auto makers. But Toyota's FCV may be the first to hit the market in 2015.

Andrew Peterson is unable to write a review of the car because at this point, it's shrouded in mystery.

We’ve driven the Toyota FCHV-adv Highlander prototype, which Toyota says is a generation behind what’s going to be on sale by 2015.

Peterson and others have focused on the huge gap between the for-sale price and the cost per unit to produce, which Motor Trend's Andrew Peterson estimated at "$1 million each". Initially, the car will be sold in California as the state's Air Resources Board (ARB) is planning to ensure that many service stations will have "Clean Fuels Outlets", in their jargon of "clean cars". Currently, legislation is in the works to provide the funding - a major requirement and challenge as there is disagreement as to who should pay the cost for the hydrogen fueling network.

FCVs are Zero Emission Vehicles, as are battery electric vehicles (EV), and the ARB has a mandate for auto companies to sell these cars in order to sell conventional vehicles, which accounted for the reason that auto companies were willing to lose money on their EV sales, as was posted here.

In addition, on May 13 the Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) division of the U.S. Department of Energy "launched H2USA—a new public-private partnership focused on advancing hydrogen infrastructure to support more transportation energy options for U.S. consumers".

EERE's Vehicle Technologies Office note in their "Fact of the Week" that nine other states can adopt Ca.'s ZEV mandate.

And if you thought the U.S. energy boom will ensure that America's vehicle's remain addicted to oil, think again. According to the EERE news release, 

Recent development of the United States' tremendous shale gas resources has not only helped directly cut electricity and transportation costs for consumers and businesses, but is also helping to reduce the costs of producing hydrogen and operating hydrogen fuel cells.

As with all new technology, it wil be the consumer who decides. However, whether it be electric vehicle or fuel cell vehicle, there will be more zero emission vehicles on the roads in the near future, at least in California.

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