Toyota Motor Corp. has big hopes for its fuel cell technology — the zero-emission powertrain has already been used in a futuristic passenger sedan, is being adapted for heavy commercial trucks and could potentially be applied to just about every vehicle in between.
But if hydrogen isn’t readily available, all of that is useless.
It’s a technical and logistical double-whammy that bedevils any innovator hoping to scale up hydrogen fuel cell use in vehicles. Not only must the hydrogen be laboriously converted for use as a fuel, customers can’t get to it unless some sort of delivery infrastructure is in place.
“If Toyota is going to do this, it will have to invest in getting the [hydrogen] fuel out there and to do whatever else is needed to make it more user friendly,” said Lisa Jerram, a transportation analyst and fuel cell specialist with Navigant Research.
That will be one of the key challenges as Toyota develops Project Portal, its fuel cell semi-truck.
Where to Get It
Hydrogen is the most plentiful element on the planet. But with automakers only beginning to adopt the technology, hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S. amount to just dozens.
The federal Department of Energy’s