Toyota eyes California hydrogen station network

by Alan Ohnsman

Bloomberg

Toyota Motor Corp., which is getting ready to sell Camry-size sedans powered by fuel cells in the U.S. next year, plans to help create a network of hydrogen stations that may include pumps at car dealers and even trash dumps.

The world’s largest automaker showed its hydrogen-fueled FCV sedan, a concept version of the car Toyota will sell in the U.S. and Japan next year, at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday. Along with cutting costs to make the vehicles, Toyota will do “whatever we can” to get more fuel stations set up, Bob Carter, Toyota’s U.S. group vice president, said in an interview.

“We’re throwing everything against the wall,” Carter said Monday in Las Vegas. “We know we have to push the infrastructure.”

Toyota, Hyundai Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. have announced plans to sell hydrogen cars and crossovers initially to drivers in California, where strict state rules require increasing numbers of zero-emission vehicles be sold each year through 2025. Currently, the state has about 10 public hydrogen fuel pumps, although the number is set to rise from this year, with a target of 100 more within a decade.

California committed last year to spending as much as $200 million to expand its fueling network by 2024. Toyota is working with the University of California at Irvine and state officials to identify ideal sites for future fuel pumps. Only 68 stations are needed to ensure most California drivers have a place to refuel, Carter said.

While hydrogen for fuel and industrial uses is produced mainly by steaming it out of natural gas, Toyota is exploring alternative sources, including methane emitted from waste-treatment plants, trash dumps and landfills, and agricultural sources, Craig Scott, the carmaker’s U.S. national manager for advanced technologies, said in an interview in Las Vegas.

Toyota is exploring how to work with other companies to set up pumps dispensing hydrogen from such sources, Scott said, without elaborating.

Some Toyota dealers in California may also install hydrogen pumps, Carter said.

Concrete steps by Toyota to set up stations will come within a few months, Carter said. “We’re going to do what we can to help kick-start the construction of convenient hydrogen refueling infrastructure.”

Fuel-cell autos are similar to battery-only models such as Nissan Motor Co.’s Leaf hatchback and Tesla Motors Inc.’s Model S sedan in avoiding tailpipe pollution from burning gasoline.

Battery models carry electricity in their lithium-ion battery packs, while fuel-cell vehicles make electricity on board in a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, with only water vapor as a byproduct. While hydrogen vehicles have a range comparable to gasoline vehicles and need only a few minutes to refuel — compared with hours for most battery autos — there are few hydrogen pumps currently open to the public.