Wednesday, June 19, 2013

No. 735: The realities of fuel-cell vehicles (1/2) (June 18, 2013)

A fuel-cell vehicle is scheduled to be put on the market for five million yen in 2015. Toyota is conducting the substantiative experiment to drive a fuel-cell vehicle at such a low temperature as minus 10 degrees centigrade in Hokkaido and in the Nevada desert in the U.S. The development is reportedly in the final stage. Honda is working with Saitama Prefectural Government. The project is to generate electricity by the solar batteries on the rooftop of the government building and hydrogen by the electrolysis of tap water using power that comes from the rooftop, the hydrogen produced is filled in a fuel-cell vehicle. An engineer of the project said, “The fuel-cell vehicle technology is no longer a technology of the future. It will surely be put to practical use in two years.”

A fuel-cell vehicle uses hydrogen as fuel. Water is produced when hydrogen reacts with oxygen in the air, and the reaction generates energy that runs a motor. The two great advantages provided by a fuel-cell vehicle is that it has almost the same or a longer travel distance per charge as a gasoline vehicle and that you can fill hydrogen as fast as you put gas in a gasoline vehicle.

(Photo) A Saitama Prefectural Government official is conducting an experiment to create hydrogen by the electrolysis of tap water using electricity generated by solar batteries on the rooftop of the building.  

A fuel-cell vehicle attracted attention about 10 years ago, but it cost 10 million yen to build a fuel-cell vehicle. Now technology developed quite rapidly, and various innovations occurred. For example, a tank to store hydrogen is much stronger, smaller, and lighter than one created 10 years ago thanks to the development of a technology to coil a hydrogen tank with carbon fiber. Because the Japanese government is considering supplying a subsidiary to the design of autobody, a fuel-cell vehicle may be as low as four million yen.

A consulting firm predicts that fuel-cell vehicles will account for 5% in 2025 and 10% in 2030 of all vehicles and that the impact on the overall economy will be 2,700 billion yen. In fact, various new industries related to the fuel-cell vehicle are going to be established. 

 Fuel-cell vehicles displayed in the  FC Expo 2013

Toyota's fuel-cell vehicle

Nissan's four-wheel fuel-cell vehicle Terra

Honda's fuel-cell vehicle runs on the public road

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