Automotive industry is making some steps towards usage of renewable energy resources. At the latest Los Angeles autoshow several manufacturers showed their progress in creating mass production vehicle powered by fuel cells. Let’s take a closer look at what was going on there.
As it was mentioned last week, Toyota introduced its Mirai model. Looks odd, a bit geeky (in far from the best meaning), much like early Prius. It took company 20 years to develop the car which will go on sale late 2015 in the US. In some way it has some futuristic appeal (mainly by air vents in the front bumper), but general shape creates a bit retro-futuristic impression. 480 kms (300 mi) range on one tank, 3-5 mins for refill and a price tag of about $57000 before government incentives.
Then there is a Volkswagen Passat HyMotion. Based on conventional model, this version was converted to fuel cell power. Company stresses up its ability to built-in this powerplant into almost any model of the range without significant differences. Hasn’t reached production site yet and unlike Toyota, VW is waiting for someone else to create an infrastructure of hydrogen gas stations.
The last one for today will be Audi and its A7 H-tron. The significant difference from previous two models is usage of all-wheel drive architecture and an ability to top up batteries like any other plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle. You can travel round the city using charge from the batteries and when you need to extend the range – use fuel cell to provide juice to electric motors. Its market appear seems to be on par with VW’s bosses – “As soon as market and infrastructure are ready”.
Therefore, it’s only Toyota who’s properly ready to launch fuel cell powered model. In addition it’ll create infrastructure for other manufacturers to enter the game. Surely, there are other manufacturers like Honda, Hyundai etc., which are also made quite some progress in this field, but Toyota seems to be the biggest contributor. So in 2015-2016 we can expect a whole array of vehicles that drink hydrogen and spit out pure water.
P.S. There is a forecast from OPEC organization stating they are not really afraid of electric-powered vehicles’ market expansion with not giving a fuel cell cars even a chance. And yes, they are pulling oil prices down to make their point even stronger.