Bullish Toyota admits hydrogen won’t be cheap

Toyota anticipates that the cost of the hydrogen that will power its fuel cell sedan will initially be greater than gasoline.

Speaking at the JP Morgan Auto Conference in New York, Toyota’s senior vice president Bob Carter said that Department of Energy estimates suggest that a full tank of compressed hydrogen will cost around $50. This will fall to $30 in time, however.

Toyota’s ‘mass production’ fuel cell car will have a range of 300 miles when in arrives in California next summer. Refueling will takes minutes, while the Japanese giant says it has modeled “specific locations” that will enable the majority of owners to reach a station in just six minutes.

By comparison, nationwide fuel economy figures indicate that the average driver pays $44.50 to travel 300 miles while owners of the Toyota Prius, with its EPA rating of 50 mpg, pay just $21.

Arguably the greatest rival to the fuel cell is the battery-electric car, however. The only example of the latter that can match the range of the new Toyota (at a push) is the Tesla Model S, which costs owners roughly $9.60 to cover 300 miles using off-peak rates in California.

That price doesn’t factor in Tesla’s growing arsenal of powerful Supercharger stations, either, which are free to use for Model S owners.

It means that the choice to invest in a hydrogen fuel cell car will remain a conscientious decision rather than a financial one, at least for the foreseeable future.

Charging stations in California are currently far more ubiquitous than hydrogen fueling stations. Toyota believes that 68 stations will support 10,000 fuel cell vehicles, and has invested $7.2 million with First Element Fuels and Linde LLC to support the maintenance and operation of refueling facilities.

Carter was bullish concerning hydrogen as an unrivalled source of energy for future personal mobility.

“Of all the advanced powertrain systems we have in our portfolio … we see hydrogen fuel cells as being the no-compromise, primary-option vehicle for the next 100 years,” he said.

“The US movement will start in California and spread to the East Coast, other states and other parts of the world, including England, Germany South Korea and Japan.”