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  5. How do we answer critics of fuel cell technology?
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How do we answer critics of fuel cell technology?

"Fuel cell electric vehicles are too expensive"

 

Just like hybrid electric power, we know that it will take time for fuel cell electric cars to become established as a popular, mainstream choice. To make them accessible, we need to make sure they are affordable, too. During our development of Mirai, we were able to reduce the cost of our fuel cell system by 95%, compared to its predecessor, the 2008 FCHV-adv. We achieved this by making its components smaller, lighter, more efficient and cheaper to produce in volume.

The system also shares many common parts with our hybrid electric models, including the electric motor, which saves cost and increases reliability. We are confident that, as with hybrid electric vehicles, fuel cell electric vehicles will become increasingly affordable as sales grow. We aim to be selling tens of thousands of fuel cell electric vehicles a year worldwide by 2020.

“There is no dedicated infrastructure”

 

It is true that we are in the early stages of developing a network for making, distributing and selling hydrogen fuel. We know that providing these facilities is essential to support the first fuel cell electric vehicle customers and as a manufacturer, we are active in promoting infrastructure development with industry and government partners, for example through our participation within Europe’s Hyfive project. We also take an active role in the Clean Energy Partnership, Europe’s largest hydrogen mobility demonstration project, and UKH2Mobility which is promoting the commercial deployment of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in the UK.

Progress is being made and at the time of Mirai’s launch in 2015, there were already 40 refuelling stations in the European countries where it went on sale, with hundreds more scheduled to follow. As well as securing a good number of sites, it is important that these are strategically located, serving major cities and principal routes that link them.

“Hydrogen production relies on fossil fuels”

Hydrogen fuel can be obtained from many different sources that are in plentiful supply. In Europe, most hydrogen is currently produced from steam reforming, which uses natural gas as the source material, or from electrolysis which produces hydrogen out of water. It is already possible to use renewable sources, such as solar, wind or hydropower for the electrolysis process.

This is key to ensure the “well to wheel” carbon performance of hydrogen is excellent. All hydrogen production in Denmark is from renewable sources and Germany and other countries are expected to adopt this “green” type of hydrogen production in the coming years.

“Battery electric vehicles are more efficient than fuel cell electric vehicles”

 

The issue of the efficiency of different vehicle technologies is not just about what can be achieved today. It is also important to think how about their benefits can be sustained in the future. That is where we see a valuable role for hydrogen as a mainstream, low-emissions source of energy that can be produced from renewable sources.

With Mirai and our hydrogen fuel cell electric technology we are also delivering a practical solution – a full-size sedan that needs no overnight charging and can cover the same distance as a similar-sized petrol car on a full tank of fuel. This combination of convenience, performance and environmental efficiency cannot be matched by an electric vehicle today.