Toyota, Honda and Hyundai: Are Fuel Cells the Future of Sustainable Cars?
Toyota recently announced their intention to scale-up production of their fuel-cell powered cars to commercial levels by the beginning of 2015 and Honda and Hyundai have also announced similar intentions.
Toyota chose the Tokyo Motor Show as the platform for launching a new concept car which is based on fuel-cell technology and called the FCV.
The car manufacturer is claiming that the FCV can be re-fueled in a matter of minutes and will be capable of covering a distance of about 300 miles (500km) on a full tank. Hyundai also confirmed recently that they have made plans to start mass production of a fuel-cell powered version of its SUV vehicle the Tuscon, in the US market initially.
The challenge ahead
Eco-friendly cars are the number one topic of conversation in the automotive industry and fuel-cell powered vehicles are winning the battle to be the technology that features in future models that roll off the production lines.
The challenge ahead for all carmakers is to successfully take their concept cars from the flashy motor show surroundings and then bring them from car showrooms around the country and onto the drives and into the garages of the motoring public.
There are certainly concerns being voiced about the lack of hydrogen filling stations currently available and it will also be a stiff challenge to make the cars cheap enough to be considered an attractive buying alternative to a traditional petrol car.
Toyota has indicated that their new FCV model will probably cost somewhere between £31,000 and £62,000, which will price some motorists out of this developing market for the time being, despite a desire to embrace the new technology.
It is the infrastructure problems such as the lack of hydrogen filling stations that is dividing opinion amongst car manufacturers and Nissan has already publicly stated that infrastructure worries were a key reason why they were putting some of their own plans on hold until they can see how the market develops.
The technology used to generate the electricity to power the engine has a lot offer for future car making plans, particularly when you consider that it offers emission-free motoring. This is because hydrogen is used to generate the electricity that powers the engine and the only waste products it produces are heat and water.
Fuel-cells also charge much faster and allow you to travel a greater distance in comparison with battery-operated cars, so despite the divided opinion as to when the technology will actually be a viable commercial success, it appears that it is going to be the way forward for electric cars.
Christopher Beck is an environmental impact consultant for UNITS. He graduated with a degree from the University of South Carolina, and is now trying to make the world a cleaner, better place.
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