Toyota predicts promising future for hydrogen fuel cells in trucks, vans

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Trucks and vans are part of Toyota’s growing vision for the future of hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Toyota’s Mirai, a sedan powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, has definitely claimed its share of the company’s green tech spot light, and it’s also captured the attention of its R&D scientists who envision bigger plans for the technology.

“A fuel cell has a lot of applications especially as the technology increases,” Brian Williams, Toyota CSAIL research scientist at MIT, told autoblog.

“A big thing about fuel cells is they actually offer a lot of advantages to fit in to different types of vehicles. While you may have gasoline vehicles that have different range of fueling time, but maybe a larger carbon footprint. You get into that middle ground and EVs.”

However, while hydrogen fuel cell technology advances, range anxiety remains for those interested in the alternative tech.

“Fuel cells could potentially give you the range you want, the power output you want, but they can be put into buses. They can be put into semis. You can put those in cargo and package vans. You can put those in buses.

“[Hydrogen power] is definitely something that we see as meeting the needs of longer range, quicker refueling, lower footprint of emissions. The benefit of it is that it can go in other vehicles.”

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center lists 29 hydrogen fueling stations across the U.S., with the vast majority being located in California.

“As the station infrastructures increase, it’s becoming less of a thing within Southern California and San Francisco areas,” he said. “You’re also going to have to have those people who wonder, ‘What if I want to go to Phoenix? What if I wanted to go to Vegas? What if I want to go from LA to San Francisco?’ There is a station coming in half way in between, so you can actually go from LA to San Francisco.”

Time spent refueling at a hydrogen station is not as long as you might think. On its website, Toyota states that the Mirai has a five-minute fill-up time.

Hydrogen availability map: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center website lists a total of 29 hydrogen fuel stations. Williams says more are on the way.