Bibendum 2014: Former EU President says Toyota could lose 100,000 euros per hydrogen FCV sedan

Pat Cox Explains Europe's Current Hydrogen Infrastructure Situation

Pat Cox does not work for Toyota and we don't think he has any secret inside information. Still, he's the former President of the European Parliament and the current high level coordinator for TransEuropean Network, so when he says Toyota is likely going to lose between 50,000 and 100,000 euros ($66,000 and $133,000) on each of the hydrogen-powered FCV sedans it will sell next year, it's worth noting.

That was just one highlight of Cox's presentation at the 2014 Michelin Challenge Bibendum in Chengdu, China today, which addressed the main problem of using more H2 in transportation: cost. The EU has a tremendous incentive to find an alternative to fossil fuels, since Europe today is 94 percent dependent on oil for its transportation sector and 84 percent of that 94 percent dependency is imported oil. The tab for that costs the EU a billion euros a day, Cox said, on top of the environmental costs.

To encourage a shift away from petroleum, European Directive 2014/94 requires each member state to develop national policy frameworks for the market development of alternative fuels and their infrastructure. For the member states that choose to fulfill 2014/94 by developing a hydrogen market – and to be clear, Cox said, it's not an EU diktat that they do so, since a number of other alternatives are also allowed – the aim is to have things in place by the end of 2025. The plans don't even have to be submitted until the end of 2016. The long lead time is due to a quirk in a hydrogen economy.

In hydrogen infrastructure, "the first-mover cost is not the first-mover advantage, but the firstmover disadvantage." – Pat Cox

In deploying a hydrogen infrastructure, Cox said, "the first-mover cost is not the first-mover advantage, but the first-mover disadvantage, and high risk." That's why the EU and member states will financially support the early stages, but everyone agrees that "if this is to work, it will have to be ultimately and essentially a commercially viable and commercially driven infrastructure roll-out." Since 1986, European Union research programs have spent 550 million euros on hydrogen-related and fuel-cell-related research, including methods of hydrogen storage and distribution as well as improved fuel cells vehicles, Cox said.

Expensive problems remain to be solved. At a conference in Berlin, Germany this past summer, Cox said, the unit cost of the refueling stations was identified as the main problem. "One can count on up to one million euros per refueling station at the moment and also the very high cost of vehicles." Toyota will sell its upcoming FCV in early 2015 for around 50,000 euros, Cox said, and "they are probably taking a hit of 50 to 100,000 euros per unit in order to achieve that roll-out." Jana Hartline, the environmental communications manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, wouldn't comment on the losses directly but told AutoblogGreen that, "each market ( Japan, Europe and US) is unique in their pricing, launch plan. We'll have additional information on these global plans very soon."

There is small but growing hydrogen infrastructure in countries like Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands and the UK. Today, Cox said, there are 27 publically available H2 stations in the EU but by the end of next year there should be 47 new H2 stations. The big expansion will come between 2020 and 2030, along with more vehicles. That's the plan, anyway.

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