Toyota hybrid does 68 miles for $2.50

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Torrance, CA - A Toyota hybrid vehicle has achieved an estimated 431-mile range on a single tank of compressed hydrogen in government tests.

The Toyota Highlander Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle did this with an average fuel economy of 68.3 miles/kg  - roughly equivalent to miles per gallon - during a day-long trip down the southern California coast.

In mid-2008, the US Department of Energy (DOE), Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), asked Toyota to participate in a collaborative evaluation of the real-world driving range of the FCHV-adv. Late last month, two fuel cell vehicles completed a 331.5 mile extended round trip drive between Torrance, California and San Diego.

The route encompassed a variety of drive cycles, including high speed highway driving, moderate highway driving and stop and go traffic on surface streets, in an effort to capture a typical commute. Each vehicle was outfitted with a data collection system that captured speed, distance traveled, hydrogen consumed, hydrogen tank pressure, temperature and internal tank volume.

Driving range data was calculated by SRNL and NREL engineers. The results were averaged for an estimated range of 431 miles, with an average fuel economy of 68.3 miles/kg.

For comparison, the 2009 Toyota Highland Hybrid achieves an EPA-estimated rating of 26mpg combined fuel economy and has a full-tank range of approximately 450 miles. With premium grade gasoline currently priced at about $3.25, the gasoline-powered V6 Highlander hybrid is estimated to travel approximately 26 miles at a cost of about $3.25.

Currently, hydrogen gas pricing is not fixed, but the DOE expects it to come in at $2 to $3 per kilogram. This means that the FCHV-adv should be able to travel approximately 68 miles for about $2.50 - more than double the range of the Highlander Hybrid, at equal or lesser cost.

SRNL and NREL have analyzed the data and prepared a formal report for the DOE. The aim is to help regulators and government research programs assess the status of the fuel cell industry and the viability of current technology.

"Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell technology has advanced rapidly over the last two years," said Irv Miller, TMS group vice president, environmental and public affairs. "In 2015, our plan is to bring to market a reliable and durable fuel cell vehicle with exceptional fuel economy and zero emissions, at an affordable price."