After billions of dollars and years of research, you’ll be able to buy a mass-produced fuel cell car next year.
That’s according to Japanese automakers Honda and Toyota, who both say they will bring hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles to the consumer market as early as next year.
Five seat sedan, Model S range
As the Nikkei Asian Review reports, Honda is currently finalising development of a five-seat passenger sedan which it said could be offered in Japan as early as November 2015. Although the vehicle’s wheels will be turned by an electric motor, electricity to power the motor will come not from a battery pack but from a hydrogen fuel cell stack and a tank of compressed hydrogen gas.
Honda says the tank, made of carbon fiber to help reduce weight, will hold enough hydrogen to enable a range of around 500 kilometers (310 miles) per tank. Like its rival Toyota, Honda is keen to point out that this is twice the range of most electric cars, although we should note that 310 miles is around one mile less than the official NEDC range for the top-spec all-electric Tesla Model S.
Like Honda, Toyota too says it will launch limited numbers of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in Japan, the U.S. and Europe next year.
Model S price
The similarities between Honda’s first mass-produced Hydrogen fuel cell car and Tesla’s all-electric Model S won’t stop at range, however: the price will be about the same, too.
Initially, Honda expects its fuel cell sedan to retail for under ¥10 million. At current exchange rates, that’s about $97,000 US. That’s Tesla Model S P85+ money. While we’ve heard rumors that Honda is even considering giving early adopting owners free hydrogen to power their cars in the same way Tesla offers its owners free use of its network of Supercharger stations, we’ve heard nothing official from Honda to confirm this.
It’s worth noting too that initial vehicles will likely go to fleet and governmental customers rather than individual private buyers. Like electric cars, it’s going to take a while before you’ll be able to walk into your local dealership and buy one.
Economies of scale?
Like the early days of electric cars, Honda and Toyota are predicting a slow start to hydrogen fuel cell cars, with Honda intending a global output of around 1,000 cars in the first year and 5,000 cars over the first five years of manufacture. Toyota, who has teamed up with General Motors in a joint Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle partnership, is more optimistic, talking of a much faster increase in production volume to tens or even hundreds of thousands by 2020.
We note that this is a far slower ramp up in production than all-electric cars like the Nissan LEAF, which earlier this year reached a global output of 100,000 cars in just over three years of manufacture. We think this figure alone highlights just how slow hydrogen fuel cell vehicle rollout could be.
Furthermore, with such low volume production, we suspect it’s going to take longer before hydrogen fuel cell vehicles truly reach an affordable price, although Honda and Toyota are obviously keen to reach mass-market affordability within five years of vehicle launch.
What do you think?
Here at Transport Evolved, we’re keen to see any new vehicle technology which reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and decreases our carbon footprint. We also think that the future of transport doesn’t rely in any one vehicle technology or other, and if the hurdles of fuel cell vehicles can be overcome, we can even see a future where they coexist alongside other transportation forms like electric vehicles.
But will next year really be the dawn of the hydrogen fuel cell car? Or will something else happen instead?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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