Toyota Motor Corporation has announced it will begin producing and selling a modular version of its hydrogen-powered fuel cell system, the same technology found in the Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV). The compact and self-contained module would become accessible to manufacturers of fuel cell products utilized in larger mobility applications such as buses, trains, and ships. Additionally, they could serve as fixed unit power generators for an array of industrial uses.
As Toyota makes its fuel cell technology available in a conveniently packaged form, it could eventually make its way to vehicles from other manufacturers, as well. That means automakers pushing to go battery-powered, such as Volvo is by 2030, could more readily develop FCEVs as part of their electrification plans.
The fuel cell modules will be available in four vertically or horizontally configured units for adapting to various spatial needs, each weighing approximately 530 to 550 pounds (240 to 250 kilograms). They will provide an output of 60 kilowatts or 80 kilowatts with an impressive voltage range from 400V to 750V. According to Toyota, the system, consisting of a fuel cell stack, boost converter, and other components, installs easily. It directly connects to an existing electrical instrument with a motor, inverter, and battery.
Toyota originally developed its famed fuel cell system for the Mirai, one of the world's first mass-market and commercially sold FCEVs. The Mirai has been in production since 2014, and Toyota recently introduced an all-new second-generation model with enhanced performance and a longer all-electric range. Despite the Mirai's strides, fuel cell technology overall has not found widespread acceptance similar to that of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) or those with hybrid systems.
A primary reason for fuel cell technology's limited success is the significant shortage and sluggish expansion of hydrogen fuel infrastructure in the U.S. and worldwide. Another reason is the buying public's general lack of knowledge or understanding of fuel cell technology.
Fuel cell systems are arranged in stacks and generate electricity by harnessing a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. That energy propels a vehicle without producing any emissions except water vapor at the tailpipe. Toyota has been a major proponent of fuel cell technology over the past decade as the auto industry becomes more ambitious about electric mobility in order to achieve carbon neutrality and reduce the harmful effects of greenhouse gases on the environment.
Toyota expects sales of its fuel cell modules to start in spring 2021. The automaker has not yet announced pricing.