Toyota banking on fuel cells for the future

Mark Rechtin
AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

Published: May 20, 2014 4:30 pm ET
Updated: May 20, 2014 4:35 pm ET

Image By: Toyota Motor Corp. Toyota Motor Corp. introduced its latest fuel cell vehicle concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Related to this story

Topics Sustainability, Automotive
Companies & Associations Toyota Motor Corp.

LOS ANGELES — Toyota Motor Corp. is walking away from building longer-range battery-electric vehicles in favor of its effort in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, its top North American executive said.

At a time when EV maker Tesla Motors is the darling of Wall Street, Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota’s North American region, said Toyota sees battery-electric vehicles as viable only in “a select way, in short-range vehicles that take you that extra mile, from the office to the train, or home to the train, as well as being used on large [corporate] campuses.

“But for long-range travel primary vehicles, we feel there are better alternatives, such as hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and tomorrow with fuel cells,” Lentz said in an interview after Fortune magazine’s Brainstorm Green conference.

Because hydrogen fuel cells are cheaper on a cost-per-vehicle basis and are more efficient on a well-to-wheel basis, Toyota has turned away from a 20-year effort to create a viable battery-electric vehicle.

Both fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles use plastics extensively in both the cells and electric infrastructure.

Lentz’s comments come on the heels of Toyota’s decision to end its R&D deal with Tesla to supply the RAV4 EV. Lentz said the deal, through which Toyota agreed to buy Tesla components for 2,600 RAV4 EVs over three years, “was never about open-ended volume. It was time to either continue or stop. My personal feeling was that I would rather invest my dollars in fuel cell development than in another 2,500 EVs.

 “We learned a lot about being a smaller entrepreneurial company in the auto business and being faster to market,” Lentz said. “They learned about our quality control. It was more about two types of companies working together than about batteries. We’re not anti-battery. We are a big battery company. We have 6 million hybrids running on batteries.”

Not that Toyota has done poorly investing in Tesla. When Toyota President Akio Toyoda joined forces with Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2010 with a $50 million capital infusion, there was no way Toyota would know the investment would be worth 10 times as much today on Wall Street.

“It’s done OK,” Lentz said, with a hint of sarcasm. “It’s an investment and we have to treat it like an investment. If it were my money in my pocket, I would take a little off the table. But it’s a [Toyota] investment, so I don’t control it.”

Toyota’s commitment to fuel cell infrastructure in California -- timed to coincide with the launch of its hydrogen fuel cell vehicle as well as those of Honda and Hyundai -- includes a $7 million arms-length loan to the California Energy Commission to help build hydrogen refueling stations. A Toyota study has calculated that it will take 68 refueling stations to meet the needs of 10,000 California fuel cell customers to not worry about being stranded. By the end of 2016, California should have 50 stations in operation, “which is a good step,” Lentz said.

He said most of the hydrogen fuel will have to be trucked in, initially, before self-generating hydrogen stations can become affordable.

“My hope is that other automakers will see our investment and will invest as well, so hopefully we can accelerate to 70 [stations] before 2018,” Lentz said. “Unlike hybrids when we were on our own, all the major players will be out there with us in fuel cells.”


Comments

Toyota banking on fuel cells for the future

Mark Rechtin
AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

Published: May 20, 2014 4:30 pm ET
Updated: May 20, 2014 4:35 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

SPI hopes to build on EPS recycling

November 26, 2014 6:00 am ET

Successfully recycling expanded polystyrene can be a challenge, there's no doubt about that. EPS, however, has value, is in demand and deserves to be ...    More

Image

Pan-European plastics recycling show scheduled for 2015

November 26, 2014 6:00 am ET

Europe is to get its first pan-European exhibition and conference aimed at the region's plastics recycling industry next year.    More

Image

Visteon in talks to sell its stake in Halla Visteon Climate Control JV

November 26, 2014 9:07 am ET

Visteon Corp. confirmed this morning that it is in discussions with a private equity firm to sell its stake in South Korean joint venture Halla...    More

Image

World Plastics Council takes on sustainbility for its initial priorities

November 25, 2014 9:51 am ET

The recently formed World Plastics Council (WPC) has set marine debris and post-consumer recycling and energy recover as its initial top priorities.    More

Image

Canada's Papp Plastics is eyeing big opportunities with JV in Mexico

November 24, 2014 4:11 pm ET

Canadian injection molder and turnkey solution provider Papp Plastics & Distributing Ltd. will open an $11 million to $12 million joint venture facili...    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events