Toyota Hydrogen Fuel Cell Hybrid with 400-Mile Range

Toyota Hydrogen Fuel Cell Hybrid with 400-Mile Range

Toyota FCHVBy Tom Bartley (4/30/11)

In 2012, Toyota will start selling an SUV with 100-mile electric range – the RAV4 EV. In 2015, Toyota will start selling an SUV with an electric drive and 400-mile range – the FCHV.

Electrically driven cars could fast become part of our transportation landscape and hydrogen is still in the running as a candidate fuel. As part of the Toyota Sustainable Transportation Symposium April 4-7, 2011, three fuel cell hybrid vehicles (FCHV) were part of the ride and drive. I had driven the original Toyota FCHV some years ago at the hydrogen station in Chula Vista.  As I remember it was a Highlander model conversion.  While these new ones look similar to the Highlander they could easily be a heavy RAV4.

After years of fleet tests, public sales of the FCHV are planned for 2015 or earlier. Toyota wants to have a fuel cell that will last the life of the car. Life cycle cost of the fuel cell, it’s fueling system, car components, and hydrogen as a widely available fuel are all challenges. I have been an early and continuing skeptic that there was any path to an affordable sustainable fuel cell for vehicles. Toyota is changing that by focusing on the economies-of-scale mass production technology and costs to drop the price to a small fraction of 2001 prices for the fuel cell and hydrogen fueling system. For now, Toyota has built 100 prototype FCVHs to put into fleet customers’ hands for demonstration in the U.S. If you would like to have one, the biggest requirement is having a hydrogen fueling station available.

Test Drive of the Toyota FCHV

Driving the test vehicle was smooth and quiet. I didn’t hear any of the fuel cell throttle compressor sounds, but occasionally heard the cycling of a small vacuum pump. This is a well-engineered comfortable functional small SUV. The overall design for performance and functionality matches today’s standard production cars for city and highway driving. The 10,000-psi compressed H2 fuel tank is well placed on the bottom rear of the car and does not cut into the storage space. To buffer the fuel cell power ramp rates to match the vehicle demands, Toyota uses a standard Prius battery that is also used to recycle the braking energy like a standard hybrid. There is masterful packaging of the fuel cell, electric drive and accessory components to neatly fit under the hood. The PRND selection lever had the extra “B” position like in the Plug-in Prius for getting more deceleration from the braking regen if desired. The passenger comfort controls, entertainment, navigation, and communication accessories are following the overall Toyota telematics evolution.

Looking at the range, efficiency, and operation side of this car, the numbers are impressive – 433 miles on one tank fill of 6.34 kg H2. One kg of H2 has energy content very close to 1 gallon of gasoline.  That is 68.3 miles per gasoline gallon equivalent, about the same I got with the Plug-in Prius At 4,100 pounds, the FCHV is a bit heavier than the RAV4 EV. Both use a 90 kW electric drive motor. The drag coefficient is about .33 compared to the .25 for the Prius. Drag and weight are the two biggest factors when looking at average vehicle fuel efficiency. Braking energy recycling through regeneration and energy storage batteries also helps.

Carbon Intensity Comparison of Hydrogen Fuel Cell and Battery Electric Cars

The gasoline hybrid Prius is hard to beat if wasn’t for all the consequences of using gasoline as a fuel. Electric cars look much better as the electric energy mix moves to renewable energy and hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will depend heavily on the source of the hydrogen fuel. The FCHV is already in the competitive energy range. Whether or not the FCHV sells in 2015 will depend on whether or not the cost of the fuel cell comes down to the sustainable range, the hydrogen fueling infrastructure, the cost of other fuels, and the real or perceived penalty associated with GHG fuels. Here are some estimates:

Let’s assume that we want to look at the carbon intensity of using coal and petroleum carbon based fuels where: 34% is the carbon intensity of a coal burning power plant with 7% transmission and distribution losses, 36.6 kWh is the energy content of each a gallon of gasoline and a kg of hydrogen, a Prius gets about 285 Wh/mi, 13% of the plug-in Prius miles are on the battery, and the whole country will eventually go to 33% renewable energy with 7% transmission and distribution losses for our electricity. The 33% renewable added to the coal powered grid increases the carbon intensity to about 50%.  The 50% is even higher for the combined cycle natural gas power plants. The carbon intensity of making hydrogen is about 50% by either electrolysis or reformation, but new processes could increase this up to 70%.

  1. Mitsubishi iMiev ~ 270 Wh/mi @ 27% of the power plant = 1000 Wh/mi; with 33% renewables @ 50% = 540 Wh/mi
  2. Nissan LEAF ~ 320 Wh/mi @ 27% of the power plant = 1185 Wh/mi; with 33% renewables @ 50% = 640 Wh/mi
  3. Toyota Prius ~ 50 mpg @ 36.6 kWh/gal = 732 Wh/mi, neglecting gasoline distribution costs
  4. Toyota Plug-in Prius ~ 67 mpg + 13% elect miles = (732*.87) + ((285/.27)*.13) = 774 Wh/mi; with 33% renewables @ 50% = 711 Wh/mi
  5. Toyota RAV4 EV ~ 370 Wh/mi @ 27% of the power plant = 1370 Wh/mi; with 33% renewable @ 50% = 740 Wh/mi
  6. 6. Toyota FCHV ~ 68.3 mi/kgH2 @ 36.6 kWh/kgH2 = 536 Wh/mi, which has to be degraded by the carbon intensity of making H2 @ 50% = 1072 Wh/mi; @ 70% = 765 Wh/mi. If the hydrogen is made from renewable energy on site the number goes to 0 Wh/mi, because no carbon fuels are used directly.
Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF Electric Cars Earn Highest Safety Ratings

Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF Electric Cars Earn Highest Safety Ratings

Volt IIHS Front Test(4/26/11) Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf earn the highest safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the first-ever U.S. crash test evaluations of plug-in electric cars. The milestone demonstrates that automakers are using the same safety engineering in new electric cars as they do in gasoline-powered vehicles.

The Volt and Leaf earn the top rating of good for front, side, rear, and rollover crash protection. With standard electronic stability control, they qualify as winners of Top Safety Pick, the Institute’s award for state-of-the-art crash protection. The ratings help consumers pick vehicles that offer a higher level of protection than federal safety standards require.

The addition of the 2 electric cars brings to 80 the number of award winners so far for 2011, including 7 hybrid models. That lifts General Motors’ current model tally to 12 and Nissan’s to 3.

“What powers the wheels is different, but the level of safety for the Volt and Leaf is as high as any of our other top crash test performers,” says Joe Nolan, the Institute’s chief administrative officer.

The dual-power Volt and all-electric Leaf not only surpass benchmarks for protecting occupants in crashes but also exceed current fuel efficiency andLEAF IIHS Side Test emissions standards. Both models are brand new for 2011. The Volt is a plug-in battery/gasoline hybrid that can run in electric-only mode with a range of about 35 miles on a single charge. A gasoline engine kicks in to power the electric motor when the battery is spent. The Leaf runs on battery power alone and has an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated average range of about 73 miles on a single charge

“The way an electric or hybrid model earns top crash test ratings is the same way any other car does,” Nolan says. “Its structure must manage crash damage so the occupant compartment stays intact and the safety belts and airbags keep people from hitting hard surfaces in and out of the vehicle.”

The Volt and Leaf are the first mainstream electric cars the Institute has tested. Last year engineers put 2 low-speed electric vehicles through side barrier tests for research purposes. Results for the GEM e2 and Wheego Whip were starkly different from results for the Volt and Leaf. Crash test dummies in the GEM and Wheego recorded data suggesting severe or fatal injuries to real drivers. The GEM and Whip belong to a class of golf cart-like vehicles that aren’t required to meet the same federal safety standards as passenger vehicles. Although growing in popularity, these tiny electrics aren’t designed to mix with regular traffic.

“Eco-minded drivers keen on switching to electric would do well to buy a Leaf or Volt for highway driving instead of a low-speed vehicle if they’re at all concerned about being protected in a crash,” Nolan said about the electric cars.

Small but safe: The Volt and Leaf are classified as small cars, with their overall length, width, and passenger capacity in line with their peers. But their hefty battery packs put their curb weights closer to midsize and larger cars. The Leaf weighs about 3,370 pounds and the Volt about 3,760 pounds. This compares to about 3,200 pounds for Nissan’s Altima, a midsize car, and about 3,580 pounds for Chevrolet’s Impala, a large family car. Larger, heavier vehicles generally do a better job of protecting people in serious crashes than smaller, lighter ones because both size and weight influence crashworthiness.

For years the debate over fuel economy has been about making cars smaller and lighter, changes that could put people at greater risk of dying or being injured in crashes. The Institute long has maintained that advanced technology is key to improving fuel efficiency without downgrading safety.

“The Leaf and Volt’s extra mass gives them a safety advantage over other small cars,” Nolan says. “These electric models are a win-win for fuel economy and safety.”

About the award: The IIHS awarded the first Top Safety Pick to 2006 models with good ratings for front and side protection and acceptable for rear protection. The bar was raised the next year by requiring a good rear rating and electronic stability control as standard or optional equipment. Last year, the Institute added a requirement that all qualifiers earn a good rating in a roof strength test to assess rollover crash protection. The ratings now cover the 4 most common kinds of injury crashes.

Electric Car Reports

Nissan LEAF Electric Car Wins 2011 World Car of the Year

Nissan LEAF Electric Car Wins 2011 World Car of the Year

LEAF World Car of YearLatest accolade for zero-emission vehicle comes at New York International Auto Show

At the New York International Auto Show on April 21, the 100-percent electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF was named 2011 World Car of the Year, edging out the BMW 5-Series and the Audi A8 for the top spot. The award is the latest in a string of accolades for the world’s first affordable mass-market, all-electric vehicle for the global market, which was also named European Car of the Year.

“It is a great joy that the world’s first, mass-marketed electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF, has won the prestigious award of 2011 World Car of the Year,” said Nissan Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn. “This accolade recognizes Nissan LEAF, a pioneer in zero-emission mobility, as comparable in its driving performance, quietness and superb handling to gas-powered cars. And it validates Nissan’s clear vision and the values of sustainable mobility that we want to offer to customers around the world.”

The World Car Awards jurors observed that, “The Leaf is the gateway to a brave new electric world from Nissan. This 5-seater, 5-door hatchback is the world’s first, purpose-built, mass-produced electric car. It has a range of over 100 miles on a full charge claims Nissan, takes around 8 hours to recharge using 220-240V power supply and produces zero tailpipe emissions. Its low center of gravity produced sharp turn-in with almost no body roll and no understeer. The good news? It feels just like a normal car, only quieter.”

The World Car of the Year competition was launched in 2004, with winners chosen by a panel of automotive journalists from Asia, Europe and North America.

Nissan LEAF to Expand Manufacturing and Sales in 2012

Nissan LEAF is available in Japan, the United States and select European markets and will be released in other global markets in 2012. The vehicle is currently built at Nissan’s Oppama, Japan plant. It also will be manufactured at the company’s Smyrna, Tenn., plant in the United States in late 2012 and at Nissan’s Sunderland plant in the United Kingdom by early 2013.

Aiming to be the world leader in zero-emission vehicles, Nissan, with its Alliance partner, Renault, has formed partnerships with more than 90 governments, cities and other organizations around the world not only to develop and produce EV and lithium-ion batteries but also to promote sustainable mobility. Nissan is also taking a comprehensive approach to encourage to the world to more sustainable mobility such as improvement of charging service, infrastructure deployment, the promotion of the use of recycled materials and overall energy management system including second-life use of lithium-ion batteries.

Resistance is Futile – Save Gas, Save the Planet Excerpt

Resistance is Futile – Save Gas, Save the Planet Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Save Gas, Save the Planet: John Addison’s book about hybrid and electric cars, pathways to low carbon driving, and the future of sustainable transportation. © 2009 John Addison. All rights reserved.

Resistance is Futile

The Toyota Prius is more aerodynamic than a Chevrolet Corvette. Both have less wind resistance than a square-shaped car or SUV. Being aerodynamic and using low rolling resistance tires are reasons that the Toyota Prius achieves good fuel economy. Manufacturers have been improving engines and transmissions for over 100 years. Engines today have improved timing, fuel mix, less resistance, and variable valve timing. Automakers such as Honda, GM, and Chrysler, continue to improve fuel economy with new engines that can shut off valves when not needed; for example, a variable cylinder management system can deactivate half of an engine’s cylinders during cruising and deceleration. Also used is the continuously variable transmission, which keeps the engine, running at a fuel-efficient speed. In 2007, Nissan sold over 1,000,000 vehicles with continuously variable transmissions. When you buy your next vehicle, look for cars with better miles-per-gallon due to use of advanced powertrains.


Does your family or household own more than one vehicle? If so, use most often the vehicle that consumes the least gas. It is a no-brainer. My wife and I share the high-mileage hybrid. As our main car, it puts on the most miles. The other sedan, which still gets good fuel economy, is used only on days when we both have destinations in opposite directions. There are more than one hundred car models that offer over 40 miles per gallon. An increased number of these models are being made available in the United States. People are often surprised by the excellent safety of some lighter vehicles with excellent fuel economy.

When you buy a new car select one that gets high miles per gallon or one that runs on electricity. If you are watching your budget, this is likely to be a light gasoline vehicle with good mileage. If you have more to spend, you can achieve greater fuel economy with hybrids and with diesels.

A growing number of vehicles are aerodynamic, lighter, safer, use advanced powertrains, and better tires. When you are ready to buy a new car, focus on the mileage for your type of driving. The solutions to our oil dependency are not in the distant future. They are here today. With lighter materials, better drive systems, and better safety features, you have a number of excellent vehicle choices.

Toyota RAV4 EV Test Drive with impressive Tesla Drive System

Toyota RAV4 EV Test Drive with impressive Tesla Drive System

Toyota RAV4 EVBy Tom Bartley (4/11/11)

The test drive of the new Toyota RAV4 EV had three people in the car for about four miles and included a variety of uphill, downhill, stop and go, and freeway driving in 4:30 pm traffic around the Torrey Pines – UTC area of San Diego. This electric SUV beat a V8 gasoline pickup going up hill. The 0-60 in 9.0 sec performance was fine. From my test drive experience and the comments from the other media journalists, the results are very encouraging here at the Toyota Sustainable Mobility Seminar.

The 90 kW motor, inverter, and battery pack systems are all Tesla components. This car has plenty of torque and is heavy on the regen deceleration. The regen was so heavy that I could drive the car with little or no brake pedal. My impression is that the control system is primarily Tesla, but Toyota will probably add some battery management for long life. When this is released for sale, I expect Toyota to smooth out the accelerator drive and regen controls which could be a bit jerky. The regen in the prototype is so heavy that I noticed in the rear view mirror that following drivers seemed to be riding my rear bumper. Then I remembered that without pressing the brake pedal there is no indication that the car is slowing down.  This was severe enough that it could be the subject of a future safety regulation.

Combine a mature Toyota RAV4 chassis and interior with a maturing Tesla electric drive and you have a premium electric vehicle in months not years. With the heads of the two companies agreeing to the joint development in July 2010, there was no room left for protectionism or “not invented here.” There were a few IP (intellectual property) issues to work out, but teamwork quickly produced 31 converted BEV RAV4 prototypes in the hands of the U.S. Toyota advanced sales team by March 2011. I hope other manufacturers take note and this cooperation can be used as a working model for quickly developing needed products elsewhere.

On the passenger visor there was a sign that said that this was a prototype and may not be up to production quality. Other than the finish of a couple of interior panels, nothing was immediately obvious that would identify these cars to be different from the ones to be sold from the dealer’s show room floor. Upon closer inspection, the charging connector is Tesla and has an adapter to make it compatible with the J1772 Standard. The production model will have the J1772 plug and connector.

The RAV4 driver information displays were based on the standard RAV4, right in front of the steering wheel, making them much easier to see while paying attention to the road. The display is superior to the Plug-in Prius display which is mounted in the middle of the dash. In the RAV4 EV, the left side dial was converted to show how much power was being used and regen recovered by the motor/generator. The numbers seemed to be right on for about 90 kW max output and about 45 max kW input.

The PRNDL directional controls are push buttons on the center console. The position of the buttons are in the traditional gear shift pattern similar to the plug-in Prius that puts R (Reverse) forward and D (Drive) back. I would prefer that the controls highlight the new technology and put the buttons in a location to match the direction of motion, D forward and R back. I understand that the push buttons may not survive into the production model. On this prototype, there was a big red button on the dash that I was warned not to push. I think it was a safety switch that disconnected the high voltage battery.

To achieve 100 mile real world range (not just the LA4 urban drive cycle) there are 37 kWh of usable energy storage that would indicate a 370 Wh/mile consumption rate. For most drive cycles, I’m guessing that the efficiency is a bit better, but Toyota wants to offer a real 100 miles range for highway speeds as well as flat stop-and-go commutes. Tesla wouldn’t disclose the total capacity of the pack nor the specific Li-ion chemistry, only that it is small format cells in modules the same as those used in the Tesla Roadster and the new Tesla Model S.

The battery is liquid cooled with a tight temperature management for cell life and performance in all temperature environments. Similar to the other Tesla vehicles, any time that the car is connected to the charger or whenever the car is turned on, the temperature management system is active.

A separate liquid cool loop for the motor and inverter/controller is also planned for the production model, but they are air cooled in these prototypes. The passenger compartment has another liquid cooling loop for the A/C using a design from the Lexus hybrid.

Rumor has it that the price of the new Toyota RAV4 EV will be in the $40,000 range. This is consistent with a 40 kWh battery costing $500/kWh and with a battery pack being half the price of an electric car. With the Tesla S priced starting at $57,400, the RAV4 EV could be the right electric SUV at the right price for both companies. $40K stills seems expensive, but it gets more attractive as gasoline continues it’s climb above $4/gallon.

Toyota RAV4 EV Specs

  • Curb weight – 3942 lbs
  • Storage space – 73 cu ft, same as RAV4 V6
  • Acceleration, 0-60 mph – 9.0 sec, matched to the RAV4 V6
  • Range – 80 to 120 miles measured by actual driving trips (not LA4 drive cycle)
  • Usable battery capacity – 37 kWh
  • 100% SOC charge time
    • 28 hrs @ Level 1 – 110 VAC avg 12 amps
    • 12 hrs @ Level 2 – 220 VAC avg 14 amps
  • Estimated full battery and cost – 41 kWh @ ~$20,000
  • Estimated selling price at 2X battery ~$40,000