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Toyota Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle

Toyota Fuel Cell Hybrid VehicleToyota has brought the ultimate eco-car a step closer to reality through a project involving a fuel cell hybrid vehicle (FCHV) in Japan. The Toyota FCHV (pictured), which does not emit any atmospheric pollutants, has been loaned to a transport company located in Nagoya. Based on the mid-size Kluger SUV and registered as a commercial vehicle, it will be fuelled at a hydrogen station at the Central Japan International Airport. Toyota Motor Corporation plans to use the project to obtain a wide range of data necessary for commercial production of FCHVs. The Toyota FCHV is seen as the closest vehicle yet to the ultimate eco-car.

Highly energy-efficient and very quiet, it features an electric-motor hybrid system powered by a battery and fuel cells supplied with high-pressure hydrogen gas. During operation it does not emit carbon dioxide, said to be a cause of global warming, or any other atmospheric pollutant such as nitrogen oxide.

In development, Toyota pursued efficiency right down to the smallest details, saving about 40kg by using aluminium for the roof, bonnet, fenders and side doors. A large rear spoiler suppresses turbulence and a flat underbody reduces wind resistance, resulting in a 0.326 coefficient of drag – excellent for an SUV. Fuel-efficient tyres greatly reduce rolling resistance.

Natural carbon dioxide is used as an air-conditioning refrigerant, avoiding the use of CFCs or HFCs (chlorofluorocarbons or hydrofluorocarbons). This reduces the potential effect on global warming to a remarkably low level of 1/1300th compared with a conventional system. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which consume little power, are used for the rear combination lamps.

Crash testing of the Toyota FCHV was particularly rigorous, including new safety confirmation tests for high-voltage components and for protection against hydrogen leaks. If a collision occurs, sensors in the Toyota FCHV’s front, rear and sides detect impact and instantly shut the valves on the high-pressure hydrogen tanks.

For additional safety, the valves are also closed if a leak is detected by any of the hydrogen sensors placed on the fuel-cell stack, bonnet, high-pressure hydrogen tanks and cabin ceiling. The high-pressure hydrogen tanks are designed for maximum safety to avoid rupture even if the vehicle suffers a rear-end collision. Toyota is committed to tackling a range of other technical issues as it aims to bring FCHVs to maturity and make their benefits available to the general public as soon as possible. The Toyota FCHV’s current cruising range is about 330km.

Toyota is aiming for further improvements in fuel cell and system efficiency to match the cruising distance of a petrol-engine vehicle. Other options being considered are liquid hydrogen or a hydrogen-absorbing alloy instead of a high-pressure hydrogen tank. Further development efforts may include doubling maximum tank pressure to 70MPa (about 700 bars).

In December 2002 Toyota became one of the first companies to commercialise a FCHV. In June 2005 it produced the first FCHV in Japan to acquire vehicle type certification.

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