The auto industry has been hard at work developing efficient, low cost fuel cells. Their efforts have translated into a number of advancements in fuel cell technology, but manufacturers have yet to solve the massive expense of fuel cell units. Toyota has announced a breakthrough in their fuel cell technology, allowing them to reduce the price of their flagship hydrogen vehicle, the FCHV-adv. While the lower price may not put the vehicle within the grasp of the middle class, it reflects the efforts of the manufacturer toward that ultimate goal.
Toyota’s aim for the fuel cell sedan – which is to be released in 2015, making Toyota one of the diminishing numbers of companies not releasing hydrogen vehicles in 2014 – hovers at $50,000. Currently, the FCHV-adv is priced at $129,270. The vehicles cost is almost exclusively due to the fuel cell powering it. Thus far, the company has been able to cut the vehicles expense by experimenting with different hydrogen storage tanks, but Toyota will soon have to turn their sights to the fuel cell if they wish to meet their own standards.
The fuel cell being used by Toyota is akin to other conventional models in that it uses a large amount of platinum to function as a catalyst for chemical conversions. Platinum is an extraordinarily expensive metal and is, perhaps, the single purpose for the expensive production of fuel cell units. There have been experiments with alternative catalysts that have yielding promising results, but Toyota has yet to adopt these new catalysts into their efforts.