The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas opened with a bit of theatrics. Actor Christopher Lloyd of Back to the Future fame blew into town in the film’s famous time traveling DeLorean. But once the smoke dissipated and Dr. Brown left the stage, it was another futuristic ride that stole the spotlight. Only difference – the Toyota FCV isn’t a far-off fantasy. In fact, the company’s hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle has been 20 years in the making will hit West Coast showrooms as early as next year.
Toyota has unveiled several prototypes of fuel-cell vehicles over the past decade. A fuel cell is a device that converts chemical energy from a range of fuels into electricity via a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent. Hydrogen is considered a potential answer to global energy issues because it’s renewable, nonpolluting and easily stored and transported.
Toyota’s latest prototype is a mid-sized four-door sedan that looks a lot like the Corolla. Company officials claim they’ve been able to reduce the cost of building the car’s powertrain by 95 percent since 2002. And they’ve reduced the size and weight of both the powertrain and fuel tanks without compromising the total power output, which reportedly peaks at more than 134hp. A fully fueled FCV is capable of hitting 60 miles per hour in about 10 seconds and can go some 300 miles before needing to refuel.
Looking forward to driving the Toyota FCV? Then, a move may be in order. This ride hits the market next year, but only in California. As of this writing, there are only nine publicly available hydrogen fueling stations and every single one of those is located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Toyota and the University of California Irvine’s Advanced Power and Energy Program worked together to strategically map out potential hydrogen fueling locations throughout the state, and the California government has approved more than $200 million in funding to establish 20 new public fueling stations in time for the car’s release. Another 20 will follow the next year the state could boast as many as 100 by 2024. No news on whether other states are following suit.
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