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Alternative mobility: are hydrogen fuel cell vehicles gaining momentum?

Electric Vehicle charging
Electric Vehicle charging
Michal Lenchner

Although in 2010, Toyota invested in Tesla’s efforts to develop a better electric vehicle (EV) battery - a wise investment that has yielded 10 times returns with Tesla’s rise on Wall Street, last month Toyota announced it was moving away from EVs toward hydrogen fuel cells, a net-zero emissions power source. Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota’s North America, said the company won’t be building long-range battery for EVs. The automaker views batteries for EVs as viable only in short-range transportation, such as in neighborhood mobility, urban commutes, home-to-work, and for corporate or academic campus transit. What is a better alternative? Toyota believes that hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and fuel cells cars are more feasible and economical solutions (Interview with Jim Lentz in autonews.com)

Some other auto manufacturers have been developing vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells like BMW. The BMW Hydrogen 7 is a hybrid-type and has an internal combustion engine that can run on both gasoline and hydrogen. The Hydrogen 7 runs on liquid hydrogen. Hydrogen is in liquid form when it’s be kept cold, however, in normal temperature it turns into a gas and cannot provide energy to the vehicle engine. For more information about BMW green vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells check here.

Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota are committed to support building a fuel cell infrastructure in California. Toyota has extended a $7 million loan to FirstElement Fuel Inc. to help build refueling stations. FirstElement announced its plan to deploy network of hydrogen refueling stations across California by Fall 2015.

How many hydrogen fueling stations do we need?

According to a study by Toyota, 68 refueling stations across California can handle 10,000 fuel cell cars.

Hydrogen cells are cheaper on a cost-per-vehicle basis and are more efficient power source for engines. Investing in R & D (research and development) and delivering fast to market are important to Toyota, but the company is still heavily involved with batteries for EVs with its over 6 million sold of hybrid vehicles running on batteries. Industry experts estimate that other major players will also move into fuel cells.

Today, there are over 200,000 PEVs and 7,750 charging stations across North America. Automakers are offering various types and models of vehicles, coupled with advancements in technologies, as well as some highly visible with successful breakthroughs manufacturer like Tesla Motors - have gained more momentum. PEV markets have grown significantly in the past few years, although mass adoption is still a challenge. PEVs cost more consumers. The conference will focus on the progress made in the markets, automakers, consumer patterns, and more.

The annual premier electric vehicle conference in the U.S. - Plug-In - is coming up next month. Organized by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), this year the event will take place on July 28-30 in San Jose, California in Silicon Valley.

A highly regarded organization, EPRI has done an extensive research in the Electric Transportation space. The institute conducts R & D on vehicle and infrastructure technologies that enable the use of electricity as a transportation fuel. According to EPRI, the transportation program has played a leading role in the development of plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) technologies that are at the forefront of automotive industry efforts, where EPRI serves as a focal point for collaboration among the automakers and utilities. This collaboration has been working on several areas: advancement of infrastructure standards, creating vehicle demonstration programs, cost-effective batteries, and advancing charging technologies for EVs. Read more about EPRI's work at http://www.epri.com/Our-Work/Pages/Electric-Transportation.aspx

For more information and to register for Plug-In conference sessions, check http://www.plugin2014.com/index.php

EPRI provides transportation modeling in order to estimate the range of values for customers with different driving patterns and relies on a cost-of-ownership model that examines only current vehicles, current fuel prices, and a relatively conservative set of customer values.

For the ‘Total Cost of Ownership for Current Plug-in Electric Vehicles: Update to Model 2013 and 2014 Model Year Vehicles’ click here.