Now that the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle has begun rolling out commercially in the United States it makes me wonder what is in store next for the world’s largest automaker. For years I have been talking about the merits of bringing a hydrogen fuel cell plug-in electric vehicle (PHEV) to market.
This idea isn’t that far-fetched. For instance, several years ago Ford rolled out a prototype Flexible Series Edge SUV with HySeries Drive which is an H2 FC PHEV.
In 2008, the city of Burbank, California received a Proterra plug-in fuel cell bus. In 2009, Vision Motor Corporation rolled out its Tyrano Truck which is also an H2 FC PHEV.
Some of the merits of producing a commercial plug-in fuel cell auto include:
- You can plug-in your auto at night during off-peak hours and save money.
- According to a Federal Highway Administration document from February 20, 2015, the average American drives 13,476 miles per year or roughly 37 miles per day. This means that many people will be able to drive on battery alone much of the time.
- A hydrogen fuel cell can be seen as a “range extender” for longer auto trips and to reduce “range anxiety”.
- A PHEV / Fuel Cell combination will still be zero emission vehicles.
- The PHEV / Fuel Cell combination will save on hydrogen gas.
- If fuel cell PHEV’s are widely adopted and they save on H2 gas, this means fewer hydrogen fueling stations will need to be built. This also means that creating a widespread hydrogen refueling infrastructure won’t as overwhelming of a task as many people now believe.
- A PHEV / Fuel Cell combination will put less of a strain on the electrical grid than wide adoption of battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
So, what are the downsides? Size, weight and cost will need to be accounted for in merging these two high-tech automotive technologies. The reason I’m targeting Toyota for this task is that they currently have a commercial fuel cell vehicle (the Mirai pictured above on the right) on the market and they also has two plug-in hybrid models (Prius Plug-in Hybrid Advanced pictured above on the left) for sale as well.
So, how about it, Toyota, is a future H2 FC PHEV in the pipeline?