• Nov 14th 2007 at 8:52PM
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At the Los Angeles Auto Show today Toyota General Manager Bob Carter reiterated the recent story about a fuel-cell powered Highlander running 347 miles on a single tank of hydrogen. Then to reinforce the durability of their system they decided to go farther on much worse roads. They took a fuel cell Highlander to Fairbanks, Alaska. Because there is no hydrogen fueling infrastructure in the area, Toyota had to get a mobile unit but these aren't allowed to operate in the US, although they can in Canada. So, the Toyota team drove 316 miles to Beaver Creek in the Yukon for their first fill up and then proceeded all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia. The Highlander covered a total of 2,300 miles over some the worst roads in North America on the Alaska Highway. Toyota has definitely demonstrated the robustness of their fuel cell system and now that they have finally revealed the size of the fuel tank we know how efficient it is. The Highlander carries 6 kg of hydrogen compressed at 10,000 psi. That compares to the 8 kg in the Chevy Sequels that went 304 miles in New York last spring.

[Source: Toyota]
Fairbanks-To-Vancouver Along The Alaska highway: Toyota Fuel-Cell Logs 2300 Miles In Seven Days, Averages Well-Above 300 Miles Per Tank
11/13/2007 Los Angeles, CA

November 14, 2007 - Los Angeles, CA - Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) U.S.A, Inc., revealed a significant achievement in its ongoing hydrogen-hybrid fuel cell development program at a press conference today at the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show. A recent 2,300 mile trek in a Toyota Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle (FCHV) from Fairbanks, Alaska to Vancouver, British Columbia along the Alaska-Canadian (ALCAN) highway confirmed substantial progress in reliability and durability, cold-weather operation and extended range capability of Toyota's hybrid fuel cell system.

"When our Torrance-based product planners and engineers heard about Toyota Motor Corporation's (TMC) plan to run a distance of 348 miles from Osaka, Japan to Tokyo on a single tank of hydrogen, they thought it was a great idea...that probably didn't go far enough in showing how far this new system had advanced," said Bob Carter, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager.

"Beyond the single-tank range capability, this new system was developed to deal with two major challenges to the refinement of fuel-cell power-trains. That is, starting and operating in cold temperatures and standing up to the vibration and harshness of rough road conditions...over a long distance...over a long time.

"Equally important, was to show how the development of Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell powertrains continue to move forward and mature at an impressive pace, far in advance of an infrastructure that will be necessary to support them."

To add a sense of risk and adventure, Toyota engineers planned to accomplish the feat with no practice runs and no pre-trip evaluations. Just get in the Highlander FCHV and drive. If they made it to Vancouver, great; if not, it would be chalked up to research and development.

Vehicle preparation consisted of adding tubular guards for the grille, rockers and rear-end, a roof rack and a few appropriate graphics to mark the occasion. Every mile of the journey was monitored in real-time by a dedicated laptop program that measured distance, time, speed, and hydrogen tank temperature and fuel-consumption. The entire trip was shot in high-definition video. And to verify and chronicle the achievement Road & Track Magazine engineering editor Dennis Simanaitis was invited to come along as referee and co-driver.

One of the key reasons why engineers chose the route from Fairbanks, Alaska to Vancouver is that Canada allows mobile re-fueling of high-pressure hydrogen vehicles along its public highways. Without a network of hydrogen fueling stations every 300 miles, mobile refueling was a necessity.

Two companies were enlisted to assist with mobile refueling. Linde, a German company based in the U.S. provided the rolling supply of hydrogen, while Canadian-based Powertech Labs supplied a self-contained re-fueling station. Mounted on two separate flat-bed trucks, the refueling team moved in advance of the Highlander FCHV, setting up shop at pre-determined intervals. A RAV4 camera vehicle stalked the FCHV from start to finish, while a pair of Toyota Tundra pickup trucks followed as support should anything major go wrong. Nothing did.

The first leg of the drive was the most suspenseful. The caravan needed to travel more than 316 miles from Fairbanks to Beaver Creek across the Canadian border in order to legally refuel. Not only did the vehicle make it, the onboard monitoring system confirmed that the vehicle could have covered nearly 400 miles.
On the second and third days the group covered the most remote sections of the Yukon Territory. With it, came the roughest patches of highway, the coldest weather, and the most numerous encounters with herds of elk, goat and caribou, often slowing the pace to a crawl.

Whether sharing the road with an unimpressed group of buffalo or sailing along a vast open stretch of Tundra at 90-miles an hour the Highlander FCHV performed without a glitch for seven days and 2,300 miles.

As with the first Prius more than 10 years ago, and each of the more than one million hybrids Toyota has sold since, Toyota's fuel cell program has been entirely an in-house initiative. All components, including the next-generation fuel stack, battery and hybrid-electric powertrain were developed by Toyota's Electric Powertrain division in Toyota City, Japan.

Doing so is expensive and time-consuming in the beginning. But it ensures a direct line to all phases of research and development. In the end, it produces a higher quality, more reliable, and more affordable product.

Toyota's comprehensive advanced vehicle development program continues to move forward with various promising technologies. Five days ago, Toyota delivered the first two Prius plug-in hybrid vehicles to the University of California Berkeley and the University of California, Irvine. The universities will conduct both technical and market research on these vehicles in real world conditions, thus playing a major role in the eventual market preparedness of this emerging technology.

Additionally, Toyota just began shipping the second-generation Highlander Hybrid mid-size SUV to dealerships, nationwide. The new Highlander Hybrid will join the Camry Hybrid and Prius to account for more than a quarter million hybrid sales for 2007 and more than 275,000 total hybrid sales for Calendar 2008.

"Fuel cells and plug-in hybrids, pure electrics and Lithium-ion batteries and much more, will all be part of a future that will require more that just building and selling cars and trucks," said Carter. "It will require a whole new way of doing business."

Over the next few months Toyota will have much more to say about the exciting new future of the auto business.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Yes! I agree where are the Plug in Vehicles!
      I want one now, why are you still spitting out antiquated technology.
      We need Freedom from Black Gold Now! Today not in 2020!!
      • 7 Years Ago
      rgseidl: Did you even read the article? The mobile refueling was provided by a pair of trucks: one from the Linde Group and the other from PowerTech Labs. Linde currently offers an all-in-one hydrogen refueling truck (stores and dispenses, doesn't process) and PowerTech's (again, stores and fills hydrogen for vehicles) was likely included as a nod of publicity for a Canadian company.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Hmm, gettting somewhere aroung 60 to 65 miles per Kg of H2 is actually pretty good compared to some other H2FC cars, but appears a bit less spectacular when you realize that one Kg of H2 is the energy equivalent of 1 gallon of gasoline.

      If they had used a fuel reformer to make H2 from gasoline, the reformer energy losses would have resulted in very poor overall fuel economy, less than hybrids, at a much higher cost. That is why all the auto companies dropped the onboard reformer idea.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well, it's a good thing that they didn't drive a Tundra. If they keep making Tundras and other environment destroyers, it will be too late for this fuel cell car. I drive a Prius and wish I could have the plug-in type. I hear that RAN is converting a Prius to plug-in in a day at this show. What's the problem with Toyota? It's a shame that they are only looking at the PR value and not really considering the reality of global warming.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Hmm....only 6kg of hydrogen?

      Sorry, I think this id exaggerated. They car must've been driven very economically.

      Maybe they hired a hypermiler even. ;)
      • 7 Years Ago
      The "mobile unit" is an on-board hydrogen reformer. That means you fill up on a liquid fuel - presumably gasoline - and extract hydrogen from it in a clean but energy-intensive process prior to feeding it into the fuel cell.

      If a hydrogen distribution infrastructure were in place, the energy-intensive steam reforming would happen at a stationary site and probably be more efficient, but this just underlines how little sense fuel cells make for mobile applications. Well-to-wheels emissions of CO2 / fossil fuel footprint is no better than a diesel engine, but the cost is massively higher. CARB's narrow focus on *tailpipe* emissions of *toxic* substances is counter-productive, but EPA is still refusing to grant California a waiver to regulate CO2 under the guise of the Clean Air Act.

      The only way to produce large quantities of hydrogen without completely breaking the bank or spewing large amounts of CO2 into the air is nuclear power. Out of the fire, into the frying pan.

      CNG, diesel and PHEV approaches all make more sense wrt environmental and national security considerations than fuel cells do. However, the nuclear lobby is chomping at the bit to greenwash its technlogy and start building reactors again, even though Yucca Mountain is still not operational.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Ah, come on Toyota! When could I actually go into a dealership and plunk down $$ for your Fuel Cell Highlander? I'm not holding my breath, and in the meantime, I intend to have my Prius converted to plug in since you are not selling ANY plug-in vehicles. And speaking of conversions, one of your Prius's will be converted Thursday in front of the LA Convention Center while Toyota show cases that hydrogen car of the future. Hint: The future is NOW, Toyota! My next car will be a Toyota plug-in hybrid or --- you have lost a devoted customer.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The mobile refueling was two trucks, one towing the Linde supplied hydrogen, and the second with a mobile refueling station with a compressor to supply the vehicle with 10,000psi hydrogen. Powertech's role was key to making this whole roadtrip happen. I guess the car was pretty key in making the road trip happen too !
      • 7 Years Ago
      What people don't realize is that these hydrogen cars aren't getting their hydrogen from water. It runs 100% on oil products.

      Oil as a resource is headed straight for the grave and consumers are waking up to the fact that they don't want to be dragged along with it.

      We currently have unused technology for faster longer lasting batteries for cars.

      Be an industry leader who doesn't just pretend to care about the future of it's consumers. Step up to the plate.

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