Toyota tested its Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle (FCHEV), a refitted Highlander, on a 2,300 mile trek through Canada. The test went very well according to Toyota's Open Road Blog.
So what did the trip prove? Well, for starters, it proved that our FCHV works really well. It underscored the viability of hydrogen as a fuel. And it proved to us that if, and when, hydrogen finally becomes widely available to consumers, Toyota will have the technology to make reliable, clean-running, affordable vehicles available.Of course, that's the rub. In order to test drive the FCHEV, they had to go to Canada to do it. Why? Because it's legal for them to bring along two flatbeds with which to do the refueling.
We enlisted the aid of Linde AG, which provided a supply of hydrogen that was carried with us on a truck, and Powertech Labs, which supplied a self-contained refueling rig that came along on another truck. Both trucks traveled ahead of us and set up shop at predetermined intervals so we could refuel according to plan. And, just in case, a pair of Tundra pickups followed along behind as support vehicles.I don't think they factored in the fuel economy of the flatbeds or the pickups when they calculated their fuel economy for the trip.
Of course that last bit is tongue in cheek, but it's still the truth. Until we have the cars that run on fuel cells, we won't have an infrastructure to support it. And until there's enough of an infrastructure, people won't buy the cars.
Let's say they put in 10 refueling centers in and around Boston. That's great for those people who can afford to have more than one car and live and work in Boston. But until I can take it on vacation with me, I'm not going to spend that much money on a new car with limited usability. That's what is so nice about hybrid cars, as opposed to electric vehicles. You don't have to find a plug at the end of the day.
Mind you, it was still a great demonstration run. They "encountered very cold weather, very rough roads, and herds of elk, goats, caribou and buffalo. We crawled past those animals at very low speeds, and, on open stretches of road, sailed along at more than 90 m.p.h." And at the end of the run, they had no glitches, no technical issues, etc...
Other commentary: Toyota Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle Tackles Canadian Wilderness in Impressive Road Trip and Green Car Advisor - LA Auto Show: Are Fuel Cells Getting Closer to Reality? Honda Will Start Limited Lease Program in 2008