• Apr 15, 2010
Third-gen Toyota FCHV-adv – Click above for high-res image gallery

Toyota isn't going to sell anyone a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle any time soon. In fact, it'll be about four years before the company's first model hits the market. We don't know what that vehicle will be or where it will be sold first, but we've heard that it will be priced "shockingly low." Toyota's reasons for building a fuel cell vehicle will be familiar to anyone who's heard one of the big companies talk about their H2 programs: pure electric vehicles simply can't provide the range people want, and hydrogen represents a viable alternative to gasoline for this purpose. Oh, and that we should have a variety of options.

The company's current H2 demonstration vehicle, the FCHV-adv, is based on the Highlander SUV. This is where the powertrain technology for the 2015 vehicle is being tested, and we had the chance to drive one during the recent Toyota Sustainable Mobility Seminar in San Diego. The last time we drove the FCHV-adv was back in 2008, and we were ready to experience the improvements Toyota has made since then. Read on after the jump to see what we learned.

Photos by Sebastian Blanco / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Starting the FCHV-adv is exactly the same as starting a standard gasoline car. Twist the key and the car turns on. Of course, considering this is a H2 vehicle, the only sign that things are on is a lit-up dashboard. Want an engine sound? You'll have to look elsewhere. In the center of the dash, the driver information screen is similar to the one in the Prius, but with an added fuel cell icon. This shows that some of the time, power is drawn from both the fuel cell and the battery, something required to give the SUV realistic performance on the open road (we'll get to that in a bit).

Under the hood of the FCHV-adv, the silver power control unit – similar to the PCU used in the Prius – dominates the view. The PCU is where the inverter, converter, computer and other electronics are housed. Buried under the PCU and assorted wires is the hydrogen fuel cell stack and the hydrogen recirculation system. The hydrogen for the stack comes from four 10,000-psi tanks that together can hold six kilograms. The second-gen's tanks are 5,000 psi. The stack can't use 100 percent of the H2, so some of the escaping gas is captured and fed back into the anode side of the fuel cell. The fuel economy of the stack was also improved by about 25 percent by changing the hydrogen pump, the humidifier, the control software and other aspects. Toyota engineers made a lot of incremental improvements to the latest-generation FCHV-adv and, taken together, they extend Toyota's official range of the FCHV-adv to 310 miles (500 kilometers). In 2009, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Savannah River National Laboratory released a PDF stating that the vehicle's maximum range was an estimated 431 miles. On the optimistic 10-15 drive cycle that the Japanese government uses to establish fuel economy ratings, the FCHV-adv is rated at 790 km (491 miles). You can see under the skin of the FCHV-adv here.

Under the trunk floor sits a 21 kW NiMH battery from Panasonic. This is similar to the pack used in the standard Prius model, but it doesn't give the FCHV-adv any EV-only driving capability. Instead, the battery is only used to assist the fuel cell by providing additional acceleration power and to recapture brake energy. The acceleration assist is important because there can be a delay between stepping on the go pedal and getting the vehicle to respond, we were told. The always-on electrons in the pack prevent this from happening. Even with the battery assist, though, the FCHV-adv is not a quick car. It will get you to the speed you want to reach, just not right away. It is fast, though, for what it is, and it is mighty impressive how unnoticeably the FCHV-adv accelerates. In fact, the SUV gets going so smoothly that we managed to hit 95 miles per hour before realizing it.

The reality of the FCHV-adv is that it's got a lot of new technology packed into a normal-looking and normal-driving vehicle. The FCHV-adv is heavier than the standard highlander, the suspension tuning was changed. We didn't notice during our short drive. Considering most non-powertrain parts in the hydrogen SUV are the same as what you can get in the Highlander today – if you like the way the normal model drives, you'll like the FCHV-adv. What else is there to say? Toyota is taking a similar incremental progress approach to the development of the plug-in Prius.

So, this is the third-generation FCHV-adv. It's a step up from the second-gen, and it shows where Toyota is going with the technology on the way to the planned roll-out in 2015 of the company's first production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Now that the technology is working as expected, the team working on the next-gen models has one important goal: reduce cost by about 90 percent. What will that cost? Unknown. We couldn't get a specific target number for this price, just that Toyota wants the production H2 model to be able to compete with the plug-in hybrids and pure electric models of 2015. What will it look like? Another unknown. It's unlikely that Toyota will choose to make the Highlander the company's first H2 offering, the technology demands a fresher look. We doubt Toyota will manage to create a car as gorgeous as the Honda FCX Clarity for their first H2 model, so we guess the vehicle will look at least a little something like today's Prius. A cost reduction down to 1/10th of today's number is an unimaginably huge task; we're pretty sure the idea of having four more years to crack this nut makes a lot of people in Toyota's R&D centers quite happy.

Photos by Sebastian Blanco / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Our travel and lodging for this media event were provided by the manufacturer.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Always forever 5 years away.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Well, to be fair, 5 years is better than the 20 years they have been promising for so long. All we can do is wait now and see what kind of prices they bring it out at (and hopefully it's not leasing again). 2015 should be an interesting year (a lot of plug-ins will be out by then too).

        The FCHV-adv reminds me of the RAV4 EV. I would like to see them eventually do a new version with li-ion (they can probably make one with 200+ miles range with li-ion instead of nimh).

        To bring the FCHV-adv down 10x in cost seems like a pretty big challenge (although it depends on what it actually costs right now in components/assembly ignoring R&D, something no automakers have really revealed). Toyota will probably have to release it in huge volume (like the Leaf), which means they should be doing pretty heavy lobbying work to get stations installed pretty soon (a hydrogen car is useless in the current state of infrastructure). It is likely we will see this happen first in Japan and Germany. It should be interesting.
        • 4 Years Ago

        I wonder if Toyota's definition of "production" is like Honda's - i.e. referring to their "production" Clarity vehicle, there's just a few, there is no production as they are hand built vehicles, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a piece and you can't just go buy one. Yeah, production...as in continued production of ICE vehicles and their associated dependency on oil.

        There was always a good reason oil companies were big backer's of fool cells from the beginning (i.e. they got a 10 year delay on the work in BEV's and got the governments to fund it).
      • 4 Years Ago
      Haha... more comment fodder.
      Even used Blenco's favorite line: "shockingly low"
        • 4 Years Ago
        I suppose if you know a current FCEV costs more than a million,
        • 4 Years Ago
        Just saying I suspect Sebastian makes these posts because they end up generating so many comments.

        Also "shockingly low" is funny since Blenco quoted it so often, yet clearly even $100K is shockingly low compared to $1M+.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I hardly think it will be a deluge , just a few drips on dry dusty ground !
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Under the trunk floor sits a 21 kW NiMH battery from Panasonic"

      Do you mean 21 kW·h energy capacity, or 21 kW power delivery?

      If you mean the former, then Toyota are being willfully pig-headed in not let letting you plug in their FCH car to refill the 21 kW·h. If the latter then "it doesn't give the FCHV-adv any EV-only driving capability" is more Toyota stupidity, they should let the 21 kW (28hp) of power move the car along for a few miles.

      Just as people were pointing out in the BMW hydrogen-electric article, I still don't see the point of this over a PHEV like the plug-in Prius or Volt. "Zero tailpipe emissions and infinite range with easy refueling so long as there's an H2 station nearby" is awfully close to "Zero tailpipe emissions for the first 40 miles and then infinite range because there are thousands of gas stations". Traveling powered by the fuel cell is less pollution well-to-wheel than running a gasoline engine in a hybrid, but traveling EV-only is less pollution still, and this FCV misses out on the "You can refuel it at home as the cheapest way to go the first 40 miles" killer feature.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "If anyone has data on the weight of the hydrogen storage, I would appreciate it."

        Toyota uses H2 tanks supplied by Quantum Technologies. Currently, the Type IV composite tank weighs 76.5 kg, with the next tank incorporating design changes that reduce that weight to 70.5kg.

        "Current Efficiency:
        0.08 kWh/$: Energy / Cost
        2.36 kWh/kg: Energy / Mass
        1.72 kWh/L: Energy / Volume"

        "Target Efficiency:
        0.19 kWh/$: Energy / Cost
        2.72 kWh/kg: Energy / Mass
        1.72 kWh/L: Energy / Volume"


        "Based on our current composite design results, approximately 6 kg of materials may be eliminated from the current 76.5 kg design."

        "The end-user cost efficiency of such a system based on the assumption of 500,000 units/year as well as the assumption that 1 kg hydrogen is able to generate 33.3 kWh energy, is estimated to be $45.9/kWh, with a weight efficiency of 1.50 kWh/kg."

        • 4 Years Ago
        I'd hope that lack of a plug is just because it is a prototype.
        All FEVs are going to need really chunky batteries, as the power output of FCs is low, so why not use them as a plug-in first?
        The Peugeot shows what can be done:

        In this, the 13kwh battery gives you 75km of plug-in range and would weigh in at about 150kg.
        The 17kw fuel cell stack has an energy density of 1kw/kg, so would weigh only 17kg more.
        You have some ancillary equipment like the compressor, but the main additional weight to carry you the next 425km is the hydrogen tank for the 4.2kg of hydrogen
        I haven't been able to find good figures for the weight of these, but am guessing it at around 60kg as the goals for storing hydrogen by adsorbsion are about 7% by weight.
        If anyone has data on the weight of the hydrogen storage, I would appreciate it.

        The Lotus range extender weighs around 56kg, but the fuel tank if laden would weigh maybe 40kg or so.

        So if the engineering works out you have a light, all electric solution which can be topped up with hydrogen or electric, and no range limits.

        In building a prototype Toyota may not want to bother with the extra complication of making it plug in, but I am hopeful that any production model would do so, and that would make the hydrogen infrastructure and the amounts of hydrogen needed to run it much more do-able with far fewer hydrogen stations and most miles done on electric.
      • 4 Years Ago
      There are two facts (and I do mean facts) to consider. BEV technology is not there yet but it will improve. FCV technology is not there yet but it will improve. Let the race begin and may the better (or both) Electric Car Technology win.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Absolutely. For some reason many seem to want to discount any possibility of fuel cells improving on the grounds that they are presently expensive and not available at present.
        These same folk were arguing, often for years, that electric cars should not be disregarded when exactly the same arguments could have been made, and were made, against them.
        So which is it?

        Two other arguments are deployed:
        Producing hydrogen is relatively inefficient, and the distribution is relatively expensive.
        Well, it is not sensible to use only one metric when trying to sort out how a technology will do - a lot of relatively inefficient ways of doing things have been the winning technology.
        Using cars instead of bikes, trains etc IF EVALUATED in pure energy terms, is hugely more efficient than using cars and trucks.
        Just the same, other metrics like convenience came to the fore.
        As for the expense of a hydrogen infrastructure, there are a lot of different ways of doing things, from making it into methanol to in some locations producing it on site.
        In many circumstances it is just better, or the only possible way, to use liquid or gaseous fuels rather than batteries.
        In any case, battery technology is really going to help, as it can cover a lot of use, meaning that you only need to use the less efficient and possibly more expensive ways where it really won't do.
        The whole system ends up much more efficient than the present one.

        There is one further strand to not wanting to use hydrogen byt preferring batteries.
        That is the notion of personal self-sufficiency, with the power ideally coming from the panels on your roof, whilst the evil oil companies make hydrogen.

        Unfortunately, no man is an island unto himself.
        Every single one of us is deeply implicated in the industrial society, and would die without it.
        Batteries and solar panels, or the roads to run EV cars, cannot exist on some sort of cottage industry basis, nor the roads to run them on.
        Sure, try to loosen some of the strangleholds big business has on us, but EV cars, electricity and the food we eat are all dependent on very, very big systems indeed, and that is not going to change.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The way they are using the battery in this car perhaps means that capacitors can have an important role here, as they would reduce the size of the needed battery pack considerably and provide the needed acceleration and regen braking.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Actually, BEV technology has been here for 20 years; we're still driving our OWNED Toyota RAV4-EV, using 30 kWh of NiMH batteries, which yield up to 130 miles range.

      The NiMH EV1 had up to 160 miles range; rated 144.

      The lead-acid EV1 had up to 110 miles using PSB 1260 batteries.

      Add a "range extender" to the EV, as Alan Cocconi did more than a decade ago, and you can drive it 1100 miles if you want to; but no one is complaing about the range of EVs, we are complaining that LIARS like Toyota fail to produce them.

      We need PRODUCTION of existing BEV technology, and it would improve, year by year, it the auto makers were honorable. Which they are NOT. They all lie about fuel cells and the "hydrogen hype".

      Demonstrably, we are driving the darn BEVs, and these fuel cell goofballs can't even see past their own illusions.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Toyota isn't going to sell anyone a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle any time soon. In fact, it'll be about four years before the company's first model hits the market. "

      Wait. wait. SELL? Toyota is going to SELL hydrogen fuel cell cars in about 4 years? SELL? not lease at 2% the cost as honda does?!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Either they plan quickly go bankrupt or that is flat out not true.

        If they can do this with hydrogen fool cells then I see no reason why VW should not announce mass production plans for the Bugatti, beginning 2015, and under $30K a pop.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Faith in FUEL CELLS is like belief in golems or fairies, imps and ogres. It's not susceptible to logical discourse.

      Toyota is shamefully deceptive about fuel cells; not just the gaff about the kw vs. kwh battery pack or the failure to explain the full cost (90% reduction of $3 million vehicle is still too much); Toyota, when it gets on the FUEL CELL jag, is obscenly deceptive, at its worst.

      Just explain, if you believe in FUEL CELLS and HYDROGEN, that is, compressed gas vehicles: just one little thing: why not CNG??

      CNG is here, now; it's cheaper and cleaner than gas; it's a clean fuel, CNG vehicles can drive in the HOV lanes; it scales from motorcycles to trash trucks, there's already a CNG distribution system, there's already loads of CNG vehicles (even a CNG Camry, once!); so if you believe in the myth of "HYDROGEN", you should try driving a CNG car instead.

      Because CNG is real, that's the difference; and HYDROGEN is a HOAX.

      There are still, even after CARB and Toyota killed the EV, hundreds more EVs on the road than Fuel Cell hoaxes; and not one Fuel Cell hoax is owned, they are all leased (and only for 9 months, to get their gold ZEV credits, according to CARB).

      If Toyota sells one of these things for a big loss (let's say it costs them $100,000, and they sell it for $50,000), not only will they lose money on each one, but they will simper and whine, like GM, about how there's no "infrastructure" and that's why the things don't work.

      Well, dummoxes, tomake one kg of H2 takes over 60 kWh of electric; compression and storage is difficult (those 10,000 psi tanks won't last more than a year!); the actual cost of technical-grade H2, needed for all fuel cell cars (otherwise the impurities wear out the stack in less than it's lifetime, still only three years!) is $17.50 per kg, the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline.

      Use the same energy to charge a Toyota RAV4-EV (cancelled by Toyota and Chevron in Nov., 2002, but still running fine) carries it 240 miles, for $6; the Fuel Cell hoax only goes at most 60 miles on the kg of H2, and at a fuel cost of $17.

      LOL! DON'T LOOK FOR TOO MANY "HYDROGEN FUEL STATIONS"! Each one only services 80 Fuel Cell cars, and cost $4 million. Imagine the cost of the stations alone!
      • 4 Years Ago
      The deluge of FCV is coming, much to the chagrin of the few.

      Carry on, Toyota!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah. The "deluge" in the form of $600 leases for a few working prototypes. I can hardy wait.
        • 4 Years Ago
        deluge? deluge? : )

        but rather than kick hydrogen when its down, if they can get the cost low and eventually there's no real reason why not, and the efficiency so decent that we can get say 200km range with a tank that doesn't hold exotic pressure, it might actually be viable as the range extending element in a plugin hybrid battery vehicle. it can't be expected to compete against battery drive but it might just beat an ICE generator. and a generator needs much less peak power so as little as 20kW could work or even less when cars become leaner.
        it might never be cheaper than an ICE but the silence and the lack of local smelly smoke might make it a succes. wouldn't hold my breath for it to happen by tomorrow though but it might be a way for HFC to make it despite its many faults. no fuel cell vehicle but just maybe in an assisting range extending role.
        • 4 Years Ago

        I didn't realize that H2 was "down". In the past couple weeks, we've had nothing but stellar news:

        This article, where Toyota discusses its 3rd generation FCHV-Adv...

        BMW announcing a FC Hybrid drivetrain that could end up in the 1-Series and the Mini...

        Germany committing $2 Billion for at least 1,000 H2 stations...

        UC Irvine making an off-hand comment about how demand for H2 is out-stripping their ability to supply it...

        MIT scientists developing a biological method of producing H2...

        The SAE issuing standards for dispensing H2...

        GM using students to help develop marketing for their forthcoming FCV...

        Ballard getting $6.2 million from the DOE...

        London building out their H2 infrastructure for 2012, including 50 FCV Taxis and a good number of FC buses...

        Whew, that only takes us back 2 weeks, to the beginning of April. It's been a great month to be a FCV enthusiast! I'm not even including all the FCVs shown at the 2010 NY Auto Show - specifically the new Hyundai FCV that they're lining up for 2012.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The current lease for the Toyota FCV-adv is $7,000 per month, several times greater than the lease on a Tesla Roadster. I suppose a $600 per month lease would count as "shockingly low" compared to the current lease, but it still won't exactly start a "deluge" - more like a very light drizzle - interrupted by sunny days.
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