Hyundai, Honda, Toyota Lead With Zero Emission Contenders
Hyundai First Fuel Cell In The Showroom
Story & Photos (except Toyota) By Michael Coates
Electric cars running on hydrogen, creating their own electricity as they drive, are officially no longer the cars of the distant future. As Hyundai Motor America president and CEO John Frafcik said last week: “The future is much closer than you think.” Come spring, you can go to a select Southern California Hyundai dealer (one near the growing hydrogen station infrastructure), put down $2999 and drive away in a Tucson fuel cell car, a compact SUV with water as its only tailpipe emission, a 300-mile range on a tank of free (for the life of the $499/month loan) fuel, and free Concierge Service (like that offered with the Equus model). In other words, Hyundai is ushering in the hydrogen age and doing its best to make it an easy transition for the early adopters who choose to shift to zero emission driving. It made the announcement at the Los Angeles Auto Show, creating a stir among the more mundane introductions of conventional cars and trucks.
Hyundai, which has made a commitment to produce several thousand Tucson FCEVs on the same assembly line as its gas-powered cousin, is not alone as both Honda and Toyota will have their own fuel cells on sale in 2015. Both companies showed off concept cars hinting at the look of their 2015 FCEV sedans. Honda’s car, shown at the LA Auto Show a few hours before Hyundai’s announcement, was a futuristic design that will probably be tamed down for production, but clearly takes a page from its initial foray into hybrids with the 2000 Insight. Toyota’s FCEV, which was introduced at the Tokyo Auto Show, featured more conventional styling but carried the same promise as Hyundai of a consumer-friendly market approach.
Others Will Join In The Fuel Cell Parade
Of course, Mercedes, General Motors, Nissan, Ford, BMW and Volkswagen are not far behind the three leaders. All have their fuel cell cars ready to roll out (and some have done limited marketing as have Hyundai, Honda and Toyota) and are expected to hit the market prior to 2020.
The big hang up for fuel cells has been the refueling infrastructure. Unlike pure electric cars, which can rely on the ubiquity of electricity for easy, if slow, refueling, FCEVs need a network of stations to truly become a technology that can replace the internal combustion engine. Governments in Germany, Japan and Korea (and a few other spots in the world) have committed to build that infrastructure and California fell in line this year when it passed a bill to fund up to 100 stations, most of which will be located in Southern California where the cars will see their initial rollout.
Early adopters opting for the 2015 Tucson FCEV will get quite a deal. For comparison, we ran the numbers for a base gas-powered 2014 Tucson in Southern California. A 36-month lease with $2,999 down would give you $544/month payments – and you’d have to pay for your own gas and service!
Honda and Toyota didn’t have the retail details that Hyundai offered, but they made it clear that 2015 would be the introduction date of their fuel cell vehicles, which in the U.S. also will be targeted to the Southern California region with an infrastructure to support the cars.
The Hyundai Fuel Cell Deal
At the introduction, Hyundai’s Krafcik ticked off the advantages his company sees in fuel cell vehicles, compared with pure battery electrics. He also said there was plenty of room in the market for both types of zero emission vehicles, but FCEVs offered:
- Driving range of 300 miles,
- Capable of refueling in less than 10 minutes,
- Minimal reduction in daily utility compared with its gasoline counterpart,
- Minimal cold-weather effects, and
- Extensive crash, fire and leak testing.
What fuel cells share with battery electrics is instantaneous torque from its electric motor, good daily reliability and long-term durability, few moving parts, quiet operation and zero greenhouse gas emissions from operation. Krafcik noted that a UC Irvine study done this year found the well-to-wheels emissions of fuel cell vehicles to be lower not only than gas or diesel vehicles, but also battery electrics.
In addition to the straight sales pitch, Krafcik also said that the Tucson FCEVs will be available as rentals through Enterprise.
Honda Fuel Cell Concept
Honda Gets Zoomy With Its Next Fuel Cell
Honda, while adamant about the 2015 launch of its next generation fuel cell car, was less committal about planned volumes or price at the LA Auto Show. Honda has been leasing its FCX Clarity fuel cell for several years, but in very small volumes. Honda reviewed its history getting the public into its fuel cell cars, noting that the next generation’s fuel cell stack (the “engine” for an FCEV) will have a 60 percent power density improvement over the one used in the Clarity. The stack also is 30 percent smaller than its predecessor and costs have been reduced.
The Honda FCEV is a five-passenger sedan, similar in exterior size to its current FCX Clarity, but with a more spacious interior because of the smaller fuel cell stack. Honda didn’t release exterior dimensions of the concept, but said its stack would yield more than 100 KW of power output and would deliver a driving range of more than 300 miles.
Toyota Fuel Cell Concept
Like Honda, Toyota chose an auto show to unveil a concept version of the fuel cell sedan it will launch in 2015. The Camry-size four-passenger sedan, unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show last week, is a less radical design than Honda’s, appearing to be much closer to the production intent for the production version. Its released dimensions indicate it is slightly longer overall than a Camry (191.7 inches compared to 189.2 for for the Camry), has a wheelbase that is almost identical and is about a half-inch narrower. Toyota said its new fuel cell stack has a power density similar to Honda’s at 3 kW/liter, which they said represents more than twice that of its current stocks. The company also claimed reduced size and costs. Automotive News quoted Toyota officials as saying that fuel cell cars by 2020 will cost roughly the same as a plug-in hybrid to produce.
Toyota’s 2015 FCEV Concept
More Stories On This Subject:
Suddenly Hydrogen Cars Are Back
Hyundai To Produce 2,000 Fuel Cell Cars
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Buses In Service
On April 20, 2004, after 40 years of fighting it was all smiles between auto executives from Detroit and the regulators of California’s health and emissions. That day a new governor signed the historic California Hydrogen Highways Executive Order. California would be energy independent, instead of consuming more oil than all nations except the USA and China. You read that right. 38 million Californians uses more oil each year than all of Japan, all of Germany, and more than over one billion people in India.
Terry Tamminen, then Secretary California Environmental Protection Agency, now an energy and environmental consultant to governments and author of Lives per Gallon, walked to the podium and delivered a powerful address:
“More than six generations of Californians have relied upon petroleum to power everything from our industries to trips in the family car. But the basic motor vehicle has changed little in over a century, while air pollution sends one in seven children in this region to school every day carrying asthma inhalers. The health of our businesses is also threatened by rapidly rising fuel prices – – with no end in sight.
We cannot build a 21st Century economy on 19th century technology. Four decades ago, President Kennedy’s bold leadership sent Americans to the moon using hydrogen fuel and fuel cells. Today we can certainly harness that same technology to take us to work, to school, and on a family vacation.”
Terry Tamminen now drives a Honda FCX hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. The car is an electric vehicle that uses an electric motor, not an engine, and captures braking energy into advanced batteries. The car also has a fuel cell which takes hydrogen from the onboard storage tank and makes continuous electricity. From his home in Santa Monica, Terry can drive almost 200 miles then pull into a hydrogen station and refuel. Terry leases the car from Honda for $500 per month. The lease includes all maintenance and collision insurance. In the future, he may lease Honda’s latest fuel cell vehicle, the FCX Clarity for $600 per month, and get a range of almost 300 miles.
Unlike most places in the United States, Terry can find over ten hydrogen stations in the nearby Los Angeles area for a fill-up. Conveniently nearby is a new Shell gas station that also includes a hydrogen pump. The hydrogen is made from H2O at the station. Yes, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen. Customers like Terry can fuel their hydrogen vehicles in five minutes then drive off, an advantage over battery electric vehicles that are typically charged overnight.
With his zero-emission vehicle, Terry gets convenience while staying true to his environmental values.
This Thursday, June 26, Shell opened a new public hydrogen fueling station, conveniently located near two of the world’s busiest freeways – the 405 and the 10. The station looks like any other Shell Station.
You can also stop and fill-up with gasoline, buy snacks, use the restroom, even inflate your tires for better mileage. “California is leading the way with clean fuels,” said Graeme Sweeney, Executive Vice President for Shell Future Fuels and CO2 at the official opening of the station.
The electrolyzer will make enough hydrogen for about seven cars per day with 40kg of storage. Hydrogenics provided the integrated hydrogen fueling station, including electrolyzer, compressor, storage, and dispensing systems. In order to meet the demanding space requirements of the fueling station, Hydrogenics implemented a canopy system where all the components are mounted on the roof of the station canopy, minimizing the footprint of the hydrogen station.The electrolyzer is powered with Green Energy from the LA Department of Water and Power. By paying an extra 3 cents per kilowatt hour, Shell uses renewable energy generated by wind, solar, bioenergy, hydro and geothermal.
The station’s added capacity will be welcome by California’s fleet users of over 100 hydrogen vehicles who need refills on some of their trips. These fleet users include the nearby City of Los Angeles, City of Santa Monica, and UCLA. Most of California’s 24 hydrogen stations serve only their own fleets; some offer courtesy fills to other fleets. Shell competitor, BP, also offers a public hydrogen station at LA Airport, but this is not a full service station with gasoline filling.
The new Shell hydrogen station is also near the rich and famous who are starting to drive hydrogen vehicles. The station is easily accessed from Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood, and Santa Monica. Early customers of the new Honda FCX Clarity include actress Jamie Lee Curtis and filmmaker husband Christopher Guest, actress Laura Harris, and film producer Ron Yerxa.
Over the next three years, Honda will be leasing 200 FCX Clarity four-door sedans. In California, a three-year lease will run $600 a month, which includes maintenance and collision coverage. Although Shell will be selling hydrogen for about double the gasoline equivalent, the new Honda is speced at 68 miles per gallon equivalent (your mileage may vary), so drivers replacing gasoline vehicles that get less than 34 miles per gallon are likely to be money ahead in fuel costs.
The new FCX Clarity demonstrates the continuous improvement that Honda has made since its early fuel cell vehicles and electric vehicles with limited range: an advanced new four door, four-passenger sedan design, a greater than 30 percent increase in driving range to 280 miles, a 20+ percent increase in fuel economy, and a 40 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter new lithium-ion battery pack. Its fuel efficiency is three times that of a modern gasoline-powered automobile, such as the Accord.
American Honda has been recognized four consecutive times as America’s “greenest automaker” by the Union of Concerned Scientists, most recently in 2007, and has maintained the highest automobile fleet-average fuel efficiency (lowest fleet-average CO2 emissions) of any U.S. automaker over the past -years. In addition to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Honda is expanding its offerings of hybrid vehicles. My mother, who has carefully watched every dollar since her childhood in the Great Depression, loves the fuel economy of her Honda Civic Hybrid. The company is rumored to be planning a new hybrid for next year, priced well under $20,000 to reach a broader market.
Although Honda can deliver 280 mile range with hydrogen at the lower pressure 5,000 psi (35 mPa) delivered at this new hydrogen station, and at most stations, most other auto makers need double the pressure of 10,000 psi (70 mPa) to get adequate range.
General Motors is putting 100 of its larger crossover SUV Hydrogen Equinox on the road with fleets and individuals. For example, in Burbank the Walt Disney Company is using ten of the GM Equinoxes in a 30 month trial. They fill at a private 10,000 psi (70 mPa) station in Burbank to achieve a 160 mile range. Anyone filling an Equinox at the new Shell station is likely to only get an 80 mile range at the lower pressure. Burbank and Irvine have the only 10,000 psi (70 mPa) stations in California. GM’s Project Driveway
GM is placing a bigger bet on its Chevy Volt, the sleek 4-door sedan plug-in hybrid targeted to start selling in 2010. The vehicle will travel 40 miles on an electric charge, then use a small gasoline engine to extend its range. GM will eventually offer a family of vehicles using the Volt’s E-Flex architecture. One E-Flex concept car that GM has demonstrated, uses a fuel cell not a gasoline engine to give extended range. Plug-in hydrogen vehicles may be in GM’s future.
Both Honda and GM will face competition from Daimler which has over 100 hydrogen vehicles in use by customers. 60 are Mercedes F-Cell passenger vehicles, 3 are Sprinter delivery vans used by UPS and others, and close to 40 buses that transport thousands globally on a daily basis.
By using green energy to power the electrolysis, Shell provides a zero emission source-to-wheels solution. This overcomes the problem at half of California’s hydrogen stations where hydrogen is remotely reformed from natural gas, then truck transported, providing modest lifecycle GHG benefits when compared with the most fuel efficient gasoline hybrids. Newer stations, however, use approaches that dramatically reduce emissions such as pipelining waste hydrogen, onsite reformation, and electrolysis using renewable energy.
Over the next twenty years, hydrogen will neither be the sole solution to energy security and global warming, nor will it fail. There will not be a Hydrogen Economy. Nor, as some critics claim will there never be hydrogen vehicles.
Most likely, hydrogen will follow the success of natural gas vehicles. There are about five million natural gas vehicles in operation globally. Over 90% of the natural gas used in the USA is from North America. Transportation use of natural gas has doubled in only five years. Natural gas vehicles are popular in fleets that carry lots of people: buses, shuttles, and taxis. Los Angeles Metro uses 2,400 natural gas buses to transport millions. Most of the City of Santa Monica’s 595 vehicles run on natural gas, be they buses, trash trucks, or heavy vehicles.
Natural gas is primarily hydrogen. The molecule is four hydrogen atoms and one carbon. Steam reformation makes hydrogen from CH4 and H2O. Hydrogen is used in fuel cell electric vehicles with far better fuel economy than the natural gas engine vehicles that they replace. For example, at Sunline Transit, their hydrogen fuel cell bus is achieving 2.5 times the fuel economy of a similar CNG bus on the same route. Specifically 7.37GGE to the CNG vehicle’s 2.95GGE. Sunline has a new fuel cell bus on order with even great expected gains. NREL Report
Some major auto makers and energy providers calculate that it will only take about 40 public hydrogen stations and reasonably priced vehicles to the hydrogen dilemma of which comes first, vehicles or stations. By targeted the area from Burbank to Irvine, in Southern California, both are happening.
Public education will also be critical for hydrogen to be embraced by the public. In addition to the new hydrogen pump at the Santa Monica Boulevard Station, Shell has converted an unused service bay into a visitor center to help educate drivers about the use of hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles.
From London to Los Angeles, from Shanghai to Santa Monica, cities are planning for a zero-emission future. To encourage the transition, cities like London have imposed pricey congestion fees, but exempted zero-emission vehicles such as battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell. In response, auto makers have accelerated their electric vehicle development and providers like Shell are planning on hydrogen stations for these cities.
Southern California will have cleaner air and less gasoline usage for several reasons including: electric rail, more fuel efficient vehicles, plug-in hybrids and electric cars. In an upcoming article, I will also document the growing success of public transportation in Southern California. The advances being made by major providers such as Honda, GM, and Shell are part of the solution.
Copyright © 2008. John Addison. Portions of this article may be included in John Addison’s upcoming book. Permission to reproduce if this copyright notice is included.
HMC, GM, RDSA, DAI, BP