Toyota has high hopes for the new Prius Prime, the updated version of the Prius Plug-In. If that plug-in hybrid is a success, then the whole tenor of the Prius brand might shift over to plug-in vehicles. But, of course, Toyota is also busy promoting the hydrogen fuel cell-powered Mirai. Just like the Prime contains hints of future products, so does the Mirai. And Toyota's Brian Williams told AutoblogGreen that the company is thinking big.
A fuel cell vehicle is basically an EV that gets its electricity from a hydrogen tank and a fuel cell instead of a battery, Williams said, and that means you can scale it up to larger vehicles simply by adding more tanks. These are lighter than batteries, which means you can get more range for less weight. Put in a higher-voltage electric motor and you can drive almost any size vehicle you want. "A fuel cell has a lot of applications especially as the technology increases," Williams said.
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"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," he said, and while they're very clean, they don't have the range. "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 other side of the hydrogen coin, obviously, is the filling stations. Williams said that there are already dozens in operation in California, and they're becoming more and more reliable. "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."