Toyota Aiming for $ 50,000 Fuel-Cell Car by 2015

It looks like fuel cell cars will be available at acceptable – well, relatively speaking to what they cost now – prices soon.

From Wired.com:

Toyota says it has cut the cost of building fuel-cell vehicles by 90 percent and could sell its first hydrogen vehicle for $50,000 by 2015.

That’s still a big chunk of change, but a bargain compared to the six- or seven-figure price tags the cars are generally thought to cost now. The exorbitant cost has been among the technology’s greatest hurdles and one reason Honda, General Motors and others lease or loan — rather than sell — the few hydrogen-fuel-cell cars they have on the road.

But Toyota says it has cut the cost of building such cars by 90 percent in recent years. It hopes to cut that by another 50 percent in coming years, so it can can sell an “affordable” mid-sized hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle. Such a car would offer the same range as a conventional auto “with some extra cost,” says Yoshihiko Masuda, Toyota’s managing director of advanced vehicles.

“Our target is, we don’t lose money with introduction of the vehicle,” Masuda told Bloomberg. “Production cost should be covered within the price of the vehicle.”

Toyota has slashed costs by using one-third the amount of platinum typically found in a fuel cell, Masuda said at a conference in Long Beach, California. It also has reduced the cost of the polymer-electrolyte membrane used in the cell. Both Toyota and GM use about 30 grams of platinum and are cutting that to 10. They also say scaling up to large-scale production would cut costs further.

Toyota, Honda, General Motors, Daimler and Hyundai are among the automakers who hope to have hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2015.

Toyota may team up with Daimler to achieve that goal writes automobilemag.com:

Toyota’s plan to push a $50,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicle into mass production by 2015 is ambitious, but the automaker may have some assistance from Daimler. New reports suggest the two companies are looking to team up to help expedite and amortize fuel cell development.

Both firms already have significant experience in fuel cell vehicles. Daimler has been playing with the technology since 1994, but Toyota first started experimenting with FCVs back in 1992. Both companies have a number of fuel cell test vehicles on the road, but the cost to build them is nothing short of astronomical. Most estimates suggest each vehicle costs roughly $1 million to manufacture, although Toyota says it has already cut that cost by 90 percent. Still, the company wants to halve that cost before pushing such a vehicle into series production.

One of the reasons for the significant cost is the hundreds of cells used in each fuel cell stack, which produces the power. The cells use a carbon matrix with platinum as a catalyst and each is hand assembled. Hydrogen storage is also a big research topic. Current storage systems that give vehicles a good range eat into cargo space and are extremely heavy.

Well, that’s good news. The main reason why fuel-cell cars are still so expensive is that they are not yet produced in sufficient numbers to bring costs down, but costs will only come down, if there are enough buyers for the cars and their simply are not at current prices. That’s kind of an awkward situation – unless you would kind of make a government stimulus program out of it – you know they did just that for conventional gas and diesel cars in Europe (cash for clunkers) to help out the car makers. Why not do it for fuel cell cars?
At the same time, governments could subsidise the deployment of refueling stations to expand the network where people can fill up their zero-emissions cars.

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