Just How Revolutionary is the New Toyota Hydrogen Car?

Some are saying that Toyota’s FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicle) Concept car is the automobile that will change the world when it hits dealership floors in two more years. This buzz is due to from where it gets its power:  a hydrogen fuel cell.  Specifically, a pair of 70 MPa high-pressure hydrogen tanks.

Being powered by a hydrogen fuel cell means that the electric car will not need a heavy, potentially dangerous, and ever costly battery pack, because it will use hydrogen to generate electricity. If it works, this new technology will indeed be revolutionary since a hydrogen fuel cell system’s emissions are only water vapor. The water vapor is created when the energy within the hydrogen oxidizes it to make electricity. Hydrogen is made from natural gas, a resource that is both abundant and cheap.

Additionally, and unlike a pure EV’s like the Nissan Leaf, range anxiety should not be an issue.  Toyota is claiming it will have a range of 300 miles.  Of course, you’ll have to pay a pretty penny for this piece of automotive futurism: $50,000 to $100,000. That sounds like a lot, but it puts it right in competition with the Tesla Model S, which has been outselling all other cars among America’s wealthiest citizens.

Are Fuel Cells “Fool” Cells?

There are big skeptics, however. Perhaps the most vocal has been Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has stated:

“Fuel cells should be renamed ‘fool cells,’ they are so stupid.  You could take best case of a fuel cell, theoretically the best case, and it does not compete with lithium-ion cells today. And lithium-ion cells are far from their optimum”

Mr. Musk certainly knows his science, captaining our nation’s first successful new automaker in decades, but as this Bloomberg article points out, Toyota’s 1997 decision to produce the world’s first mass-market hybrid was written off as foolish endeavor by many. Of course, Toyota showed the critics by selling nearly 4 million Priuses.