Toyota: Fuel-cell cars in 2015, and infrastructure needs may surprise you

Jan 6, 2014

Toyota will launch its fuel-cell car in 2015, the company confirmed at CES 2014 today, along with some perhaps surprising statistics on just how many hydrogen recharging stations might be necessary in order to sustain a public roll-out. The final fuel-cell car won't be named and production volumes detailed until later in 2014, but Toyota says that it will initially launch in California, where independent research suggests that just 68 refueling sites would be needed across San Francisco and Silicon Valey, LA, Orange, and San Diego county.

That's based on figures from the University of California Irvine's Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) which Toyota partnered with to figure out the hydrogen demands. The team there calculated that, based on owners wanting to reach a station within six minutes or less, not to mention typical traffic patterns and population density, a layout of less than seventy stations would suffice.

Those 68 spots could feasibly support around 10,000 fuel-cell vehicles, though Toyota isn't saying whether that's the sort of number it's looking to dispatch onto the road. However, the company does point out that California has already approved in excess of $200m to build up to 100 stations by 2024, with around 20 expected to be operational by 2015.

According to Toyota, the prototype car has been used across North America for over twelve months, in a variety of road conditions. Nonetheless, it has "consistently" managed around 300 miles per full tank, with 0-60 mph acceleration of around 10 seconds. Filling up the tank with hydrogen takes between three and five minutes, the company claims.

That power needn't just be used for transportation, however. Toyota's engineers are also looking at how the fuel-cell could be repurposed to power a house, with the company claiming that a full tank of hydrogen might be enough for a week of emergency use. It's a similar approach to the "Leaf to Home" system Nissan has offered with its EV, though with considerably longer run-times.

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