Toyoto and Hyundai Make Headway into Green Transportation with Fuel Cells

The use of hydrogen fuel cells in green transportation has remained, for most of the last several years, more an interesting notion than a practical means of replacing fossil fueled cars. The reasons for the slow growth of hydrogen fuel cells are often blamed on the lack of a developed fueling infrastructure and the costs associated with developing the technology. Despite this, Honda has remained adamant that hydrogen fuel cells would become the future of green transportation while other companies seemed to take a step away from their projects. However, recent developments by Toyota and Hyundai show that hydrogen might become a little more popular over the next five to ten years.

Toyota currently plans to add to their green transportation roster a hydrogen fuel cell model by 2015. While no actual specifications for the model are known, Toyota has said that they are aiming to introduce an affordable mid-sized automobile. Compared to other green vehicles, however, the affordability may end up being called into question with the proposed price tag of $50,000. To try and help solve the problem of a small or, in some cases, a nonexistent fueling infrastructure for hydrogen fuel cell cars, Toyota announced a recent partnership with hydrogen fuel station company SunHydro. The intention behind the partnership is to begin test driving a series of Toyota hydrogen fuel cell hybrids in Connecticut that will be exclusively serviced by a small network of SunHydro’s solar powered hydrogen fuel service stations. The hope is that the demonstration will gain popularity for the concept and allow the further development of hydrogen fuel stations across the nation in preparation for a fuel cell automobile market.

While Toyota is preparing plans for a green transportation fleet, Hyundai has been working since 2005 to develop their own hydrogen fuel cell program. Currently Hyundai plans to release a commercial version of the 2007 i-Blue prototype sometime in 2012. Based off Hyundai’s own fuel cell technology, they believe they can cut production costs enough to release their fuel cell cars at a cheaper price than Toyota’s model and at the much earlier date. This places Hyundai in the unique position to use the three years head start they have to gain a significant foothold in a developing fuel cell market. Alongside the i-Blue, Hyundai has also said that they are working on other models that would utilize the hydrogen fuel cell technology with the hopes that they can generate more interest not only in fuel cells, but also in Hyundai’s willingness to think outside of the box when it comes to green transportation.

Though Toyota and Hyundai are the biggest names in the news when it comes to hydrogen fuel cell green transportation, they are hardly the only companies. The aforementioned Honda has several models while European automotive manufacturers Mercedes Benz and Audi also have plans to unveil and begin driving their own hydrogen fuel cell designs. Whether the current interest in the technology means it will have a place in the future alongside electric and other alternative fuels still remains to be seen. It seems the technology still has a few obstacles to overcome before it can be seen as a serious contender.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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