Hydrogen fuel cell technology has been hot and cold over the last couple of years, mostly because interest in the gasoline alternative seems to fluctuate with oil prices. Toyota is betting that fuel cells will catch on within the next decade and the company is forecasting its plans to eventually introduce them to passenger vehicles.
Although details are scarce at this point, Toyota plans to roll out a hydrogen fuel cell-equipped sedan to consumers roughly five years from now. A price tag of $50,000 may seem a bit steep but Toyota is working hard to bring this technology to consumers in an affordable package. In reality, $50,000 is quite reasonable compared to previous estimates. The automaker’s efforts to this end have yielded a fuel cell design that requires less platinum, which, among other things, reduces overall cost of production.
For those wondering about performance, Toyota claims the range of its fuel cell sedan will be comparable to gasoline powered cars. Although the technology is still being proven, it offers some attractive benefits. Most significantly, as the fuel cell converts hydrogen and oxygen to electricity, the only emissions are in the form of water vapor.
I would like to see more OEM manufacturers and suppliers invest in fuel cells. A major hurdle remains, however, as most of the world lacks a network for "fueling" or "charging" fuel cell-equipped automobiles. This means the energy companies need to begin testing the waters. It may take some risks and failures from both sides but fuel cells could end up being a promising alternative to fossil fuels in the next 10 years.