Takin all bets!

Honda has just released an image of their upcoming production ready HFCV (hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicle) called the FCV (Fuel-Cell Vehicle). Its supposed to seat 5, have good passenger and cargo room and have a range of 435 miles.

Toyota has the Mirai

Which aside from being HIDEOUS is actually pretty clever AND Toyota is trying to push hydrogen infrastructure a little harder than Honda.

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Tesla made BEV’s (battery electric vehicles) fashionable and, at the very least, gave critics (such as myself) some pause to reflect on the viability of the BEV though at great personal expense to Tesla in starting up and investing heavily in infrastructure. It makes me wonder if we are starting to see the sparks of the same kind of market viability of the HFCV and what it would take to make it stick.

First of all, the cars need to be sexy in some way or another. The Tesla was sexy because it looked good inside and out, had gee-wiz features no one was trying and drove like a bat outta hell. Sexy.

The Honda and Toyota aren’t exactly lookers, inside or out and they are more or less cars in their interiors and their performance is...car like. That’s not sexy. However, I do think there is some sex appeal in the fact that its space exploration science at mid manager prices. These will definitely compete in different markets than a Model S or X (though the model 3 could stir things up).

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Secondly, Tesla has been fanatic about building and supporting infrastructure to support his vehicles needs in the supercharger system. Toyota has built a few California Hydrogen stations but for the most part has been waiting for the Egg...or the chicken...whatever.

Detractors of Hydrogen claim that its not a great way forward because creating hydrogen is energy negative, therefor, not worth doing. While that’s currently true it doesn’t take into account that you CAN create hydrogen at some levels of efficiency using the supercharger model of converting sunlight into power to separate water into base elements. True its not as effective as putting that power right into the batteries but 100% of the hydrogen is used to propel the car without damage to the car, where in a BEV draining the battery to dead is a bad idea. To say nothing of how much faster fillups are and how filling up quickly wont hurt your car in the long run. In any case, free solar power is free solar power and needing more of it to convert water to hydrogen is not that big an issue in the ecological sense (aside from needing bigger solar arrays).

The trouble I see for HFCV’s is two part:

1. Who’s driving the infrastructure build-out - currently no one

2. Who’s paying for it? The Model S is a pricey car and while that limits its adoption to people who can afford to pay it, it also means that some amount of that money is being used to fund infrastructure, plus it means that fewer vehicles put demand ON that infrastructure.

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I personally Don’t think Honda OR Toyota is up to the challenge of doing what Tesla has done in that regard, so who will? The government? Right now I feel like as much as Toyota or Honda would love the HFCV to take off and be a big hit, neither is willing to take the risks that Tesla has to ensure its place in the automotive landscape.

That being said, I’m exciting about the idea of a hydrogen economy, at least in a 5-10% market share kind of way, and I’m hopeful that bringing fully baked products like these to market is a good, if inadequate, first step.

Whats your take on HFCV?