Toyota, Honda, Hyundai Throw Their Support Behind Fuel Cell Vehicles - Coming to Market Soon

Feb 05, 2014

Carlos Ghosn (Nissan) and Elon Musk (Tesla) have recently questioned the ability to successfully bring fuel cell vehicles to market. But a number of other big-name automakers have thrown their full support behind the technology, with Hyundai, Honda and Toyota all announcing their intention to sell fuel cell vehicles. First to market will be Hyundai, who plans U.S. sales in 2014 (California), followed by Honda and Toyota in 2015. All will begin with smaller production numbers - Hyundai, for example, will be producing 1,000 vehicles annually by the end of this year - and production will grow as the number of fuel cell stations increases across California and other states.1

At November’s Los Angeles Auto Show, Hyundai announced that it will make its Tucson fuel cell vehicle available to retail customers through select dealerships in Los Angeles and Orange County, California. The vehicle will be offered under a 36-month lease ($2,999 down and $499/month) with unlimited free hydrogen refueling and the company’s free “At Your Service Valet Maintenance.” Hyundai is also partnering with Enterprise Rent-A-Car at several Los Angeles and Orange County locations to allow consumers to evaluate the Tucson Fuel Cell on a multi-day basis starting in Spring 2014. Hyundai has already had significant interest, with 88,000 visitors on its fuel cell vehicle website in just two months.

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell Vehicle

Toyota made a big splash when it introduced the company’s latest model fuel cell vehicle at January’s Consumer Electronics Show (Las Vegas). The Toyota FCV uses the same hybrid technology as the Prius, but instead of a gas engine it uses a fuel cell and hydrogen fuel. The company plans to bring its fuel cell vehicle to market in 2015 and states on its fuel cell vehicle web page that, “it will be available and accessible to the public. Specific U.S. sales volume will be announced closer to launch but it will be a significant number.”

Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle

Honda debuted its latest FCEV concept at Los Angeles International Auto Show this past November. The company’s fuel cell vehicle website says that, "the Honda FCEV Concept hints at Honda's future direction for fuel cell vehicles. While this car is a concept, it points toward a very real future." Honda intends to launch its fuel cell vehicle in the U.S. and Japan in 2015.

Honda FCEV concept vehicle

These automakers have been talking big about their fuel cell vehicles in recent months and have been getting lots of press.

Toyota’s Nihar Patel, Vice President, North American business strategy:

* “The rate of cost reductions on hydrogen fuel cells is staggering versus battery electric."

Hyundai’s Mike O’Brien, Vice President, corporate and product planning:

* "Today, the hydrogen fuel cell is no longer a research project; it is a meaningful choice."

* Referring to the chicken and egg problem of fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen stations: "We're ending the debate. We're building the fuel-cell vehicles. The chickens are here."

Toyota’s Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of automotive operations for Toyota’s U.S. sales arm:

* “Fuel cell electric vehicles will be in our future sooner than many people believe, and in much greater numbers than anyone expected.”

* Comparing the fuel cell vehicle launch to the earlier Prius launch: "Ten years from now, I have a hunch our fuel cell vehicle will be viewed in similar terms. We truly believe it has the same potential as the first Prius."

Ed LaRocque, Toyota’s national brand manager for fuel cell vehicles:

* “We are real excited about this technology. We think it is game-changing."

Some customers are already out there driving fuel cells vehicles via pilot programs, albeit in California where most public hydrogen fueling stations are located. (California presently has nine public hydrogen stations and has allocated $20 million annually for station development until there are at least 100 hydrogen stations in the state.) Honda began leasing its FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicles in 2008, placing about 200 vehicles on California roadways under a three-year, $600/month lease. Only customers in the Torrance, Santa Monica and Irvine areas were eligible to ensure that they would be able to take their vehicles in for service at participating dealers and have convenient access to refueling stations. Daimler has leased70 of its F-CELL vehicles in California, where they can be leased at select Mercedes-Benz dealerships in the greater Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas.

Toyota has also placed 100+ fuel cell hybrid vehicle with place more than 100 of its FCHV-adv fuel cell vehicles with universities, private companies and government agencies in California, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Customers report that the vehicles are performing exceptionally well in this winter’s frigid cold and snow:

* “We had another snow storm Tuesday night and this morning the temperature was 3 degrees. I went out to my Toyota FCHV-adv and brushed off a foot of snow before starting the car right up. No problem. I continue to get range of about 300 miles despite the cold and blasting the heater. The vehicle performed flawlessly.” - Proton Onsite’s Mark Schiller, vice president of business development (reporting from Connecticut)

* “Our employees have driven it to community and business-related events during one of Pennsylvania’s worst winters in recent memory. The FCHV-adv has had great performance.” - Nick Mittica, Air Products’ commercial manager, hydrogen energy systems (reporting from Allentown, Pennsylvania)

Daimler has also been highlighting the performance capabilities of its F-CELL. The company recently posted a video of Hollywood stars Diane Kruger and Joshua Jackson and their road trip to Death Valley, where they camped out and survived drinking the ultra-pure water by-product emitted from their Daimler F-CELL vehicle. Again, the vehicle performed flawlessly in temperatures exceeding 120 degrees.

So, with major automakers’ committed to fuel cell vehicle production and success, and policymakers dedication to development of hydrogen stations, fuel cell vehicles will be seen in growing numbers on California’s - and later America’s - roadways.

For a comparison of fuel cell and battery-electric vehicles, check out our recent comparison chart.

1 Eight states - California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont - recently signed a memorandum of understanding to develop fueling infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles (battery-electric and fuel cell).


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