Is hydrogen a better bet than electric for tomorrow’s cars?
One automaker recognizes the pitfalls of current battery technology in today’s electric cars.
Fact: Electric cars can’t go much more than 100 miles on a single charge. Fact: The batteries’ capacities diminish with use. Fact: Batteries are less effective on cold days, which is definitely not an advantage to the many drivers who have had to shovel their cars out of snow piles in recent weeks.
Unless we have a big battery breakthrough in the next few years, today’s technology for electric cars doesn’t very well serve drivers who live in rural areas or who have to drive long distances.
In response, Toyota has plans to put a hydrogen-powered car into production by 2015. The company’s goal is to price the car at $50,000.
Yes, this is the same Toyota that is one of the leaders in hybrid technology. And yes, its hydrogen-powered car would compete with zero-emissions vehicles like the Nissan LEAF, which sells for about half the price after government rebates.
But with its experience in the economics of electric, Toyota is wise to hedge its bets with hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles offer many advantages that electrics can’t — namely, range. According to Toyota, its new hydrogen vehicle will have comparable range to gas-powered cars. Size is another ‘huge’ issue. Toyota’s most visibly promoted hydrogen prototype is a fuel-cell hybrid Toyota Highlander, a big SUV — clearly a far cry from the little egg-shaped subcompacts.
It’s great for tech-savvy companies like Toyota to explore different ways to deliver a product that can help the environment and also give consumers the type of cars they really want.
Until Toyota rolls out this prototype, go ahead and see if today’s hybrid cars are the right choice for you.