Tag Archives: toyota

Toyota to start selling long-range electric car by 2022

Toyota says the new car will feature an innovative battery which charges in minutes.

When Elon Musk promised to usher an electric car revolution with Tesla Motors, reactions ranged from skepticism to ridicule. Here was a man that hadn’t done anything in the car industry that promised to change the way things had been done for decades. But slowly, Musk’s promise started to sink in, and nothing shows that as much as the actions of his competitors.

Toyota made an exciting announcement, promising to deliver a new electric car built on a new platform, using all-solid-state batteries. It’s not clear exactly what the “new platform” entails, but Toyota did specify that the new car will have a long range and will recharge in minutes.

If this comes to fruition, the solid state batteries will be one of the main highlights. A solid-state battery is a battery that has both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes. They can be much smaller and lighter than conventional car batteries, but producing them at a reasonable price has proved challenging for companies. Since Toyota doesn’t mention any specifics, it’s not clear if they’ve reached a breakthrough or they just anticipate it being ready by 2022. As early as 2011, Toyota has worked with scientists to develop perfect crystalline structures that will move lithium ions through a solid electrolyte. Last year, they published a paper detailing a breakthrough — they created batteries that work at temperatures between -30 and 100 degrees Celsius.

Overall, this announcement doesn’t really surprise anyone. If anything, it’s surprising that the Japanese company didn’t make the announcement earlier. Toyota has long touted the benefits of electric and hybrid cars, while in parallel touting hydrogen cars as the future of driving. But there’s also a lot of vagueness and we don’t have any specifics. Also, 2022 is a long time away, and not everyone is buying it.

“There’s a pretty long distance between the lab bench and manufacturing,” said CLSA auto analyst Christopher Richter. “2022 is ages away, and a lot can change in the meantime.”

Either way, it’s yet another clear market signal that car manufacturers are looking into electric vehicles more and more. The development of batteries (and especially battery costs) are vital for the end product. If Toyota, or anyone else for that matter, can make cheaper batteries that offer a long range, we’re good to go.

The latest Toyota hydrogen car, the Mirai. Image: Toyota

Toyota releases all its 5,680 hydrogen car patents for free

Major automaker Toyota announced at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that it would release all of its nearly 6,000 patents pertaining to hydrogen car technology royalty-free for the next five years. Officials most likely hope that this sort of move will encourage other auto manufacturers and capital to invest in the hydrogen economy.  Of the nearly 6,000 patents, about 1,970 are related to the in-vehicle fuel cell stacks, 290 surround the technology of high-pressure hydrogen tanks needed to safely transport the fuel, and 70 relate to hydrogen production.

The latest Toyota hydrogen car, the Mirai. Image: Toyota

The latest Toyota hydrogen car, the Mirai. Image: Toyota

Toyota isn’t the first major auto maker to make such a bold move. In fact, they might as well taken inspiration from Tesla Motors which also released all its patents royalty-free last summer. Both hydrogen and electric cars have failed to win over customers past early adopters and rich eco enthusiasts, and both companies hope that this way there might be enough incentive to get the ball moving. A smart player knows that you need to make the pie bigger, so that even if you get a small slice, it’s still a lot bigger than what you had before.

Before electric and hydrogen cars can take off, however, they first need to settle some of their major issues. Most importantly, infrastructure. Both vehicles need custom filling stations to meet their needs, else customers won’t be able to leave their suburban neighborhood. There’s also an issue concerning their eco friendliness. While both types of cars have zero emissions during operation, their life cycle says otherwise. Hydrogen is mainly made from refining methane in an energy intensive process that burns fossil fuel. The same can be said about the electricity that charges the batteries for the electric car; batteries which are made from toxic materials, also manufactured in an energy intensive process.

Yes, there are many hurdles ahead, but I for one salute Toyota’s initiative. What kind of progress would the world see if everything was “open source”? I’d leave that to you to answer.

via ThinkProgress

A Honda FCX Clarity was the firstretail fuel-cell electric vehicle customer to refuel at the new Shell hydrogen station in Torrance, Calif., on May 10, 2011. (c) Honda

Hydrogen fuel station opens in Torrace, CA

A Honda FCX Clarity was the firstretail fuel-cell electric vehicle customer to refuel at the new Shell hydrogen station in Torrance, Calif., on May 10, 2011. (c) Honda

A Honda FCX Clarity was the firstretail fuel-cell electric vehicle customer to refuel at the new Shell hydrogen station in Torrance, Calif., on May 10, 2011. (c) Honda

Toyota is the leading electric car manufacturer in the world, and now the Japanese automobile manufacturer is prepping to dominate another emerging green auto market – the hydrogen fueled car market.

The first step hydrogen fueled cars need to take to actually make it, and maybe sometime in the not so distant future to actually go mainstream, is to have an infrastructure. This first step was made just recently when the first hydrogen refuelling station in the US which is fed directly from an active industrial hydrogen pipeline went operational.

The hydrogen fuel station is located in Torrace, a suburb of Los Angeles, and was oppened in cooperation between Toyota, who owns the land on which the station was built, and Shell, which works directly with Air Products and provides on-site equipment and station maintenance. Air Products’ also provides storage and dispensing technology and hydrogen compression; and currently has the requested fuel capacity of 50kg per 12hour day. Quite a joint venture.

“Building an extensive hydrogen refueling infrastructure is a critical step in the successful market launch of fuel-cell vehicles,” said Chris Hostetter, a Toyota group vice president. “We plan to bring a fuel-cell vehicle to market in 2015, or sooner, and the infrastructure must be in place to support our customers’ needs.”

Los Angeles is home to probably more hydrogen vehicles than anywhere else in the U.S., which doesn’t necessarily say a lot since there are only a handful, but the new station is only the seventh in the region, so  if hydrogen vehicles ever take off, then SoCal is likely to be the place.

The station will also feature a learning centre that provides hydrogen and station information to local students and the general public. The arrival of the site will also make the part of the California Hydrogen Highway Initiative.

Fuel cell cars are still a long way though, and don’t expect to see too many hydrogen fueled cars in the near future. The current procedure is so intricate and exclusive that only a handful of people are currently driving such vehicles, most of which are actually test drives. But it’s starting to take off, bit by bit.

About three years ago, Honda started leasing the Clarity, a fuel cell car, to qualified people. Now Mercedes-Benz joined the bandwagon as well, and started leasing it’s own fuel cell car. It isn’t cheap at $850 a month, but that includes insurance and the fuel once stations start charging for it. Besides the high price, you need to also live near a hydrogen station to be considered for the waiting list.

“Currently, that’s our biggest challenge,” said Mercedes spokesman Larkin Hill. “The technology is ready, but the fueling is an integral part, and we need to have people live next to or close to a fueling station.”