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Click above for a gallery of the Toyota FCHV cutaway display

Toyota first began researching hydrogen fuel cells way back in in the '90s, and the Japanese automaker has continually refined the drivetrain and platform that houses it ever since. We got the chance to drive the latest FCHV a few months ago, so we were naturally interested to see what makes these cars tick. Fortunately for us, Toyota put a cutaway of one of the hydrogen-powered SUVs on display here at the Chicago Auto Show. See our gallery below.

In its latest configuration, the FCHV features four separate storage tanks that keep the hydrogen compressed to 10,000 psi. After the compressed gas leaves those tanks, it flows through regulators that reduce the pressure to something the PEM fuel cell stack can process. A fresh fill of hydrogen allows the FCHV to travel up to 350 miles.

In order to keep a full load of electrons flowing to the 90 kW permanent magnet, DC electric motor, Toyota equips the FCHV with a 21 kW nickel metal hydride battery pack, similar to what's used in the automaker's line of hybrids. When decelerating, the electric motor operates as a generator and assists in recharging the battery. Pretty cool stuff, huh?


Live photos copyright ©2009 Jeremy Korzeniewski / Weblogs, Inc.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 12 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hmmm the thought of a 10K PSI tank of Hydrogen under my feet in a vehicle traveling at 80mph doesn't exactly seem reassuring in the safety department.
        • 5 Months Ago
        Yes, 5 tons pushing on each square inch means that if the tank should fracture there would be an explosion, even if the H2 doesn't ignite - and H2 is very easy to ignite.

        Even a crack would be dangerous, with a jet of H2 shooting out at supersonic speed, it could cut through most materials. Human flesh would be no obstacle at all.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Jeremy,

      While the Toyota exhibit information says the range is 350 miles, the range of the Toyota FCHV-adv hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is actually 516 miles:

      http://hydrogendiscoveries.wordpress.com/2008/04/19/hydrogen-fact-10-the-most-underreported-alternative-energy-story-is-that-toyota-now-has-a-mid-size-suv-powered-by-a-hydrogen-fuel-cell-that-gets-80-miles-per-kilogram-of-hydrogen-and-has-a-driving/

      This was announced in June 2008.

      Greg Blencoe
      Chief Executive Officer
      Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Why they don't sell this truck(along with the second half of it) to a normal early adopter customer. Even if they sell it one million dollar each, along with a house hydrogen producing small machine to refill it, it will sell. There is a lot of customers that will pay one million for this truck and toyota will do like the tv's, microwave, watch sellers, bring the price down with time and the competition on the market. This can sell for 20 000$ in 2 years.

      There is numerous rich artists, actors, businessmans, state employees, politicians, natural ressources cartels stockholders, arms sellers, state and corporate scientists, doctors, gun traders, wall street and political lobbyists, newpaper and internet owners and journalists, bankers, pills traders, alcohol manufacturers, artists and politicians hookers and pimps, special agents without papers and identities, terrorists, celeb pets, mobsters, that have millions to spare.
      harlanx6
      • 6 Years Ago
      Who is going to buy a hydrogen fuel cell car? Nobody I know. Solar panels, batteries and an electric motor, it just can't be any simpler. Hydrogen technology will never be cheap in my lifetime and it just doesn't make any sense.
      Gorr says they could sell for 20K in 2 years. Is he kidding? I just don't see it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Why not replace the hydogen setup with a small gasoline or diesel motor just to recharge the batteries when needed even if car is parked in a lot and is turned off.

      We need to get the electric motor/drive system worked out. We can always throw any type of recharging powerplant on top of that as time warrants.

      Hydogen is not the answer since it will take considerable coal to genarate the electricity to make it vs. using oil in the car straight up. All electric cars have same problem! They are not green since you have to burn coal to make the electicity to recharge them and actually generate more greenhouse gases doing that than using oil only.

      Sorry to burst your green bubble!
        • 5 Months Ago
        The only reason why Toyota is doing this is because the government is subsidizing the cost, and they can use research on the electrical side of it to improve their hybrids. The cost of H2 fuel cells and H2 storage is still far too high to consider bringing it to market.

        Toyota already has a good hybrid design that is well suited for plug-in use, the Hybrid Synergy Drive can transmit most of the power from the IC engine through a more efficient mechanical linkage, giving a slight efficiency edge over series hybrids on long trips.

        The cheapest source for H2 fuel is from steam reformed fossil fuels It is unlikely that they would use electrolysis with coal derived electricity when they can get it cheaper and more efficiently from steam reformed coal. We're also unlikely to see very much H2 produced from renewable electricity, as "clean electricity" would be better used to directly displace fossil fuel used in power plants and vehicles.

        Coal fired power plants can take advantage of several efficiency boosting techniques that are too large to be used on vehicles, and the extraordinarily high efficiency of the grid and EVs mean that, even with coal providing the power, EVs cause less CO2 per mile than gassers. Moreover, only half of US power comes from coal, and the percentage is dropping as more renewables come online.

        The overall combined efficiency of electrolyzer, compression for storage, and H2 fuel cell is only 24%. The overall combined efficiency of charger and batteries is 85%. It would take 3x more electricity, whether from coal or renewables, to go the "H2 electrolysis" route.
        • 5 Months Ago
        You don't have to burn coal to make electricity.
        Where I live in PA, our electric is Hydro and Nuclear.
        Both run 24/7.
        So, make H2 and O2 by electrolysis in the 'off-hours' when demand is other-wise low.
        Oxydize the Hydrogen when demand is high.
        Sure beats pumping water to an up-hill storage pond for peak-period production.
        • 5 Months Ago
        It annoys me when people suggest using a gas engine to charge a battery to run the car. That's the same as saying instead of going from point A to point B straight, you take a huge detour and go to point C first and then to point B. Why wouldn't you just run the car with gas engine itself? There's going to be energy loss in the gas engine, and then some in the electric engine. What's the point? It really defeats the purpose of a hybrid or any eV vehicle...
        As for hydrogen, I think they would produce it from a different source than coal (ie. wind/solar thermal).
      • 6 Years Ago
      With a 21 KW battery pack why not just dump the hydrogen part and make it a plug-in hybrid. It would probably be a couple hundred thousand dollars less to build.
        • 5 Months Ago
        Exactly what I was thinking. With a 21kW battery pack, that should be enough for between 75-100mi range, and then you can remove the fuel cell and hydrogen storage altogether.

        I just looked up the specs of the old RAV4-EV. That had a 27kW battery pack. The Tesla has a 53kW battery pack, double the RAV4-EV.

        Toyota could bring back the RAV4-EV as the Highlander-EV with the same battery capacity, sell it for $60k and I bet they'd move a couple thousand a year.
        • 5 Months Ago
        You've confused Kw (power) with Kwh (energy). That particular battery pack, can put out 21 Kw of power, but not for long. I suspect it is the same 1.5 Kwh battery pack they are using for their larger hybrids.