Attending the New York International Auto Show fueled my love for design and sustainability. What’s so great about the press preview days is that you get to explore the cars without the crowds. I was the only one in line to go on a test drive at the “Toyota Fuel Cell Ride Along”. In the past, I had driven EV cars (Tesla Roadster, Smart Fortwo, Nissan Leaf) but never a vehicle powered by hydrogen.
The car during my ride along was the FCHV-adv whose design is based on the Toyota Highlander SUV. FCHV stands for “Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle” and “adv” for advanced. The vehicle has been on the road for a couple of years but I was mostly interested in the technology. It works similar to the Toyota Prius in a sense that it’s a hybrid. But the FCHV-adv runs on hydrogen and replaces the gasoline engine with a fuel cell stack. The way it works is that within the fuel cell stack, hydrogen combines with oxygen to create electricity that powers the car. In a hydrogen economy, the hydrogen would come from renewable resources such as solar or wind power. What’s so great about Toyota’s new technology is that the only exhaust is water vapor and the car has a range of approximately 300 miles. My test ride had a good acceleration and it was great to know that the regenerative braking system turned kinetic energy into electricity to recharge the car’s battery.
After my ride along I went up to the showroom to see the Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV). It uses the same technology but is a mid-size sedan and will hit the roads in 2015. The hydrogen-powered car can be refueled in 3-5 minutes. Currently, the only problem I foresee is that there aren’t too many hydrogen fueling stations in the United States yet. However, to me this is a key technology of the future since it’s purely based on renewable resources. My hope is that automakers and energy suppliers will work together to make this a reality.