Last week at the Tokyo auto show, Toyota unveiled its FCV-R concept. According to a Toyota spokesman, John Hanson, the vehicle was designed to give the public an impression of the hydrogen-powered fuel-cell sedan it expected to make available in 2015. With a projected range of more than 400 miles, a production version of the FCV-R would surely dodge the range-anxiety stigma that afflicts battery electric vehicles.
Fuel-cell cars are coming, and not just from Toyota. Daimler, Hyundai and Honda have all committed to production on the same approximate timetable. Fuel-cell performance has increased, costs have come down and the cars should be ready, automakers say.
But will they be able to refuel?
Hydrogen stations, which can cost more than $1 million to build, are few and far between in the United States, even in target states like California, which is creating bottlenecks for automakers that are rolling out or ramping up demonstration programs.
Sascha Simon, head of advanced product planning at Mercedes-Benz USA, said in an interview that the company was able to utilize only two hydrogen stations in Los Angeles that were “publicly available and working right now.” As a result of fuel constraints, he said, Mercedes has leased only 22 of its B-Class F-Cell hydrogen cars there, and has another 20 sitting in a city parking lot.
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