2013 Frankfurt MS: fuel cell

By replacing the petrol engine by a fuel cell stack, the Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle (FCHV) is the logical continuation of the hybrid car.

Toyota believes that the solutions to energy and emissions issues offered by the Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle (FCHV) make it the closest technology yet to the ultimate zero-emission car, with hydrogen as an ideal, ultra-clean energy carrier.

The company is already overcoming some of the historical barriers to the creation of marketable fuel cell vehicles. This includes closing in on its goal of offering both a driving range and performance comparable to petrol and diesel powertrains, without any harmful emission.

Toyota applies its HSD technology to FCHV development by replacing petrol engines with fuel cells, and petrol fuel compartments with high pressure hydrogen tanks. It employs the same electrical componentry as that featured in a full hybrid powertrain. Moreover, as in a hybrid, the 21 kW battery is used to store energy recovered by the regenerative braking system.

Continuing its research into Fuel Cell durability and reliability, significant cost reduction and improved well-to-wheel CO2 emissions, Toyota will introduce an affordable sedan-type FCHV which matches the performance of conventional combustion engined vehicles, in Japan, the U.S. and Europe by 2015.

The FCV-R Concept -itself revealed at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show- demonstrates significant advances in performance, fuel consumption and packaging over Toyota's earlier, Highlander SUV-based FCHV-adv fuel cell concept vehicle presented in 2008.

The FCV-R Concept sedan is 4,745 mm long, 1,510 mm high and 1,790 mm wide and dispose of a range of approximately 700 km*, whilst generating zero CO2, NOx or PM and with water vapour the only emission.

At the same time, progresses have also been realised on Fuel Cell itself and on the hydrogen tank.

Achieving the world's highest power density of 3.0 kW per litre, the fuel cell stack is considerably smaller than in previous FCHVs.

A marked increase in fuel cell stack energy efficiency has also led to a sizeable reduction in the size of the vehicle's hydrogen fuel tanks. Replacing previous four tanks, the latest design features only two tanks that allowed to use different material, modify manufacturing process and then achieved cost-reduction.

The twin hydrogen tanks and the FC stack are located beneath the vehicle floor, maximising both cabin and luggage space to create an entirely practical family sedan.

In the 2020s, Toyota expects FCHVs to achieve full, mass-market commercialisation, and aim to introduce tens thousands of vehicles annually. This market growth will be boosted by the further roll out of FCV technology, the increased availability of hydrogen refuelling stations and the reduction in costs which accompanies a maturing technology.

Evolution — The Latest Technical Status

The Toyota FC stack has consistently been a performance leader in fuel cell technology. Since the company began work on fuel cell vehicles in 1992, advances in its fuel cell technology have seen significant improvements in every aspect of FCHV performance.

The fuel cell to be used in the FCHV scheduled for launch in 2015 currently achieves the world's highest power output density of 3 kW per litre. This is more than twice the density achieved by the FC stack in the company's 2008 FCHV-adv fuel cell hybrid vehicle.

The development of a high-efficiency boost converter has increased system voltage sufficiently to reduce both the size of the electric motor and the number of fuel cells in the stack. As a result, the new, lower cost fuel cell system offers improved performance, but fuel cell stack is approximately half the weight and size of its predecessor fitted in the FCHV-adv of 2008.

A measure of the progress achieved in Fuel Cell energy efficiency since 1992, vehicle range has improved from 330 km to 830 km**. Simultaneously, fuel cell operating range has been greatly expanded, with cold starts now possible at -30 degrees Celsius thanks to the use of new materials in the fuel cell stack construction.

At the same time, efforts have been concentrated on the necessary cost reduction.

The cost of fuel cell system including FC stack and high-pressure hydrogen tank achieved 1/10 reduction of FCHV-adv introduced in 2008. For early popularization, Toyota aims to reduce another half to achieve finally 1/20 of the cost in the FCHV-adv of 2008.

Although currently a vehicle price under 10 million yen (80.000 &euro) seems attainable, TMC aims to further reduce costs to bring the vehicle to market at a more-affordable price.