Toyota Drives Fuel Cell Hybrid Design

Toyota Drives Fuel Cell Hybrid Design

Toyota has designed a fuel cell hybrid vehicle that can drive more than 500 miles on electricity and hydrogen alone, more than twice the distance of the automaker’s first generation fuel cell model.

The company said it was able to overcome several design challenges after a series of tests in Japan, Canada and U.S. For instance, low temperatures presented a problem for the hybrid because internally produced water could interfere with electrical generation within the Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA), which is the building block of the system known as the Toyota Fuel Cell Stack.

Toyota engineers were able to improve the MEA design after running internal visualization tests and other types of research to study the behavior and amount of water generated in the fuel cell. Now the model can start and drive in temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius.

Toyota boosted fuel efficiency 25 percent with several design modifications, such as doubling the amount of storage pressure of the hydrogen tanks. The company also improved the regenerative brake system and reduced the amount of energy used by the auxiliary system. Toyota is now working on driving fuel cell durability and introducing degradation control for the electrode catalyst.

The company said on Friday that the Japanese government gave its FCHV-adv model vehicle-type certification. The zero-emissions vehicles will be leased in Japan beginning in late 2008, but it is unclear when the vehicles will reach mass production because of the expense and the hydrogen fueling infrastructure, which is miniscule in the U.S.

Honda is set to begin leasing its own version of a fuel cell vehicle in California, while Hyundai claims it will produce hydrogen cars by 2012. BMW is allowing some celebrities the opportunity to test its hydrogen model, while GM has about 100 Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell vehicles being tested in Los Angeles and New York City.