Toyota's FCHV market-ready hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle is receiving good grades in on-road use at the University of California.
Two zero emission vehicles were delivered December 2, 2002 to the University of California as the first step towards establishing a California fuel-cell "community" partnership of government, business and higher education that will tackle product, infrastructure and consumer-acceptance challenges. Additional Toyota FCHV models will be delivered before the end of 2003 and each vehicle will be leased for a total of 30 months.
"It has only been a couple of months, but we're very encouraged by the initial response we've received from the university," said Jim Press, TMS executive vice president and COO. "There are still many product, operational and logistical issues to address and this is very much a long-term program, but the early response has been promising."
Toyota is working with University of California, Irvine (UCI), and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) - which have been at the forefront of fuel-cell vehicle research, development and implementation -- to establish fully functional, fuel-cell-friendly model-communities in northern (UC Davis) and southern (UCI) California. Also involved in the efforts to develop and expand a hydrogen-refueling infrastructure are the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and South Coast Air Quality Management Board (SCAQMD), along with corporations such as Stuart Energy and Air Products.
Plans are on track for the model-communities to have a network of six refueling stations up-and-running by mid-2003, including a new station at TMS national headquarters in Torrance, 40 miles northwest of the UCI campus. With a current maximum range of about 180 miles, the southern fleet of Toyota FCHVs will have a driving range covering most of Los Angeles and Orange counties.
"The FCHV is remarkable in engineering detail and the performance is capturing the imagination and respect of all who drive the vehicle," Dr. Scott Samuelsen, UCI professor of mechanical engineering and National Fuel Cell Research Center director.
For the last five years, Toyota has provided more than $2 million in research grants to the University of California for research in advanced transportation systems including fuel cell vehicles. Not only will that research grant more-than-double over the next 3-1/2 years, the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) and the UCI National Fuel Cell Research Center (NFCRC) will now have a fleet of fuel-cell vehicles with which to address the three key challenges that must be met before zero-emission fuel-cell vehicles can be brought to market in volume. The three challenges include product refinement, infrastructure development and building consumer awareness.
Toyota began its own 100-percent proprietary fuel-cell development program in 1992. The current Toyota FCHV model represents advancements on the FCHV-4 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, which underwent 18 months of real-world testing in California and Japan, logging more than 80,000 miles of evaluation on test tracks and public highways. The vehicle has also gone through rigorous crash testing during its pre-market evaluation. During that time the vehicle's hydrogen fuel system has proven to be reliable, durable and user-friendly.
The Toyota FCHV is based on the Toyota Highlander five-passenger mid-size sport utility vehicle (SUV). Its fuel-cell stack is solely developed and built by Toyota.
The Toyota FCHV system features four 5,000-psi hydrogen fuel tanks. Hydrogen gas feeds into the fuel-cell stack where it is combined with oxygen. The chemical reaction of combining hydrogen and oxygen to form water generates a peak of 90 kW of electricity. The electricity from the fuel cell is used to power the 109-hp (194 lbs-ft of torque) electric motor and to charge the vehicle's nickle-metal hydride batteries, which feed power-on-demand to the electric motor. The only by-product is water vapor -- which is emitted through the vehicle's tailpipe -- and the FCHV has been certified by CARB as a zero-emissions vehicle.
By applying the hybrid technologies honed in the Toyota Prius, the world's first electric-gas hybrid vehicle, the Toyota FCHV fuel-cell-electric system precisely regulates power flow from the fuel-cell stack and battery to achieve high efficiency, excellent acceleration and a smooth quiet ride. The FCHV has a top speed of 96 mph. It has a lighter body shell than the Highlander, thanks to the use of aluminum in the roof, fenders and other components. At 0.326 Cd, the FCHV is one of the world's most aerodynamic SUVs, thanks to its flat, well-sealed underbody. It also boasts an environment-friendly air conditioning system using CO2 rather than CFC as a coolant.