Print 85 comment(s) - last by namechamps.. on Sep 21 at 9:22 AM

Toyota is betting big on the hydrogen for the long term. Its first fuel cell vehicles (like the Toyota FCHV pictured here at the 2008 New York Auto Show) may debut in 2015. Meanwhile it is scorning electric plug-in offerings.

Toyota plans on continuing to use less efficient nickel-metal batteries in its future Prius vehicles. It believes lithium-based batteries are too expensive for the efficiency gains they offer.
From battery chemistry, to electric vehicle adoption, Toyota isn't going with the flow

If you used industry-wide levels of interest in lithium-ion battery technology and electric vehicles as a barometer, both of these fields are at record highs.  In the U.S., the former "Big Three" -- GM, Chrysler, and Ford -- all have electric vehicles planned for release, with the GM's 2011 Chevy Volt being perhaps the biggest attraction.  In Germany, Daimler and child company Mercedes-Benz have both concepts and planned market EVs.  And in Japan, Nissan is gearing up to debut the electric-only 2011 Leaf EV.  All of these companies' electric efforts are driven by lithium-ion batteries, and these batteries are going in their hybrids as well.

The world's most successful vendor of electric vehicle technology, albeit in the form of mild hybrids, Toyota is going against the current on both of these trends, though.  In a new Bloomberg report aired concurrent with the Frankfurt Auto Show, it is revealed that Toyota extensively tested lithium-ion batteries as a potential replacement for the nickel-metal hydride batteries in its Prius and other mild hybrids.

What it found was that while the batteries were extremely efficient and didn't raise serious reliability or safety concerns, they were overly expensive for the gains they provided.  For that reason, Toyota reportedly concluded that the market wasn't ready for lithium and has decided to primarily continue with its nickel-based batteries for most of its hybrid cars.

Toyota also concluded that electric vehicles were too expensive to succeed in the current market.  Toyota Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada stated at a Frankfurt Auto Show press conference, "Electric vehicles of today are less costly than in 1990s, but if you compare them with the other vehicles out there they are still too expensive.  Unless there is a very big breakthrough in battery costs I don't think electric vehicles can take a large market share."

Toyota indicated that it will likely stay out of the electric vehicle market for close to a decade, the time it believes it will take for EVs to become profitable and affordable enough for the masses.

So is Toyota right?  It's hard to say.  Toyota's demonstration of business acumen over the last several years is hard to argue, given its ability to produce the first profitable mass-production hybrid, the Prius, which leads worldwide hybrid sales to date.  Furthermore, there are a handful of competitors, such as Germany's Audi, whose management are split on the viability of electric vehicles (Audi's North American president recently called buyers of the Chevy Volt EV "idiots"). 

On the other hand, the vast majority of the industry is shifting towards all electrics, and if Toyota counts on its competitors to lower production costs, it may find itself in a foreign hole when it finally decides to enter the market.  While some of the German automakers are pushing for clean diesel as a supplement or alternative to hybrids, Toyota is pushing hydrogen as a long term solution, a technology that faces significant production, transport, and storage obstacles -- all of which raise the price.  Toyota may release a fuel cell (hydrogen) car by 2015, according to recent reports. 

So for now Toyota is opting for one of the least expensive and most proven solutions (mild hybrids), while its mid-to-long term efforts focus on what is currently the most expensive and least proven solution of them all -- hydrogen.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

How to generate hydrogen?
By cjc1103 on 9/16/2009 10:26:06 AM , Rating: 3
Before you even get to the problem of distributing hydrogen, you have to generate it. You can generate hydrogen by electrolysis, in which case the hydrogen effectively acts as a chemical battery, and releases the energy when burned in a conventional engine or used in a fuel cell. The best way would be to use solar cells, but there aren't cost effective, not to mention there's not enough of them available to produce enough hydrogen to completely replace gasoline. Nuclear power plants may the most efficient way to generate hydrogen, but there aren't enough of them either, so you end up burning coal to do this. No matter how you generate it, using hydrogen to store electrical energy is less efficient than using a battery. Currently the most economical method of producing hydrogen is to convert natural gas, which is a big waste. Burning the natural gas directly is a lot more efficient.

RE: How to generate hydrogen?
By Xavi3n on 9/16/2009 10:38:03 AM , Rating: 2
But, as with all young technologies, I'm sure that the process would become a lot more efficient as it becomes more popular.

Its very much a long term plan, where-as Gas, by its nature, is a very short term plan.

We should start the process and let Capitalism do what it does best.

RE: How to generate hydrogen?
By cyclosarin on 9/16/2009 11:26:56 AM , Rating: 3
The best way to produce hydrogen is with thermo-chemical seperation using VHTRs. Produce electricity at peak and H2 any other time. Use the MSR design with a thorium fuel cycle.

RE: How to generate hydrogen?
By drmo on 9/16/2009 11:56:13 AM , Rating: 2
"Burning the natural gas directly is a lot more efficient. "

Actually, it depends on how you burn natural gas on how efficient it is (in energy terms). In an ICE, the best efficiencies are around 30%, but a fuel cell can be 40-60% efficient. In a power plant, the efficiencies for both are greater though.

RE: How to generate hydrogen?
By ArcliteHawaii on 9/16/2009 8:41:09 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, combined cycle natural gas turbines can be up to 89% efficient. Of course, then you have to send the electricity along a wire. Average losses in the US are about 7%, which isn't too bad.

RE: How to generate hydrogen?
By drmo on 9/16/2009 10:12:50 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, NG is great in power plants, but less efficient in ICEs. So fuel cells may make more sense for cars. They are also useful as storage for energy collected from solar or wind.

RE: How to generate hydrogen?
By ArcliteHawaii on 9/17/2009 5:53:27 AM , Rating: 2
So is ammonia (NH3).

RE: How to generate hydrogen?
By drmo on 9/17/2009 9:08:28 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, ammonia is a good way of storing energy/ hydrogen.

RE: How to generate hydrogen?
By FishTankX on 9/18/2009 3:01:37 AM , Rating: 2
I call BS.

That exceeds carnot efficency.

According to this source

CCGT plants are projected to hit 62% in 2030

RE: How to generate hydrogen?
By ArcliteHawaii on 9/18/2009 4:48:29 PM , Rating: 2
Hmm, yeah, I read that a couple of years ago, and now I can't find the source. But I think you're right. The efficiency is only about 60% according several different sources.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki