Zero-emission fuel cell vehicles from Toyota

Monday, June 9, 2008, 11:33 by Auto Correspondent

A new zero-emission fuel-cell vehicle which boasts of a longer cruising distance and also run in freezing temperatures has been developed by Toyota Motor Corp.

It may be recalled that Toyota is a pioneer of petrol-electric hybrid cars – most notably the Toyota Prius – which are attracting growing interest at a time of soaring oil prices and increasing concerns about global warming.

The Toyota FCHV-adv (Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle-advanced) has double the range of its predecessor model. The earlier version could run 205 miles on a charge, while the new version runs 520 miles before requiring re-charging.

The “TOYOTA FCHV-adv acquired vehicle-type certification from Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT) on June 3, 2008.

Note that the Toyota FCHV-adv is not a production vehicle. That is still a long distance away. Costs have to be dramatically brought down, and infrastructure (charging stations, for instance) have to be developed before the technologies developed by Toyota in the FCHV-adv can translate to mass market cars.

It has been a long time since Toyota has been working on this goal. A viable zero-emission car running on fuel cells, which produce electricity through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, leaving water as the only by-product, had been a dream for many a auto major for long.

It is being estimated that at least a billion electric or fuel-cell vehicles would be required to be put on the road as part of an energy technology revolution to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The Japanese automobile major has developed a new fuel cell that has been enhanced to improve cruising distance and low-temperature starts. According to Toyota, the fuel efficiency has also been improved. Toyota said it would continue to strive to improve the durability and reduce the cost of fuel-cell vehicles to bring about their widespread use.

How did Toyota manage to build the new fuel cell vehicle? Toyota’s research enabled them to control the amount of water produced inside the fuel-cell system, which previously interfered with electrical generation at low temperatures.

It is expected that it would take a while before the FCHV-adv innovations would be included in vehicles. Besides, customers would also need to keep some big sums money to make the fuel cell fitted vehicles their own. They would also need an infrastructure of hydrogen filling stations if they are to take the cars on the road.

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