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The Race is On

May 19, 2015

The Tesla has received all the publicity, but there is another zero emissions vehicle available, the Toyota FuelCell Vehicle (FCV), the Mirai.

The Mirai has an MRSP of $57,500, which is less than the Tesla’s 70D. (Tesla advertises a price of $57,500 AFTER all government credits and gas savings.)

The MSRP of the Toyota Mirai is unlikely to cover the cost of manufacturing the vehicle, meaning that the Mirai is a loss leader. As a loss leader, it can help Toyota meet California’s requirement for zero emission vehicles, while creating publicity for the brand.

Some comparisons:


Tesla 70D


300 miles

240 miles

Fueling time

5 minutes

30 minutes

Fueling locations

Very Few

425 Supercharger


Tesla advertises a network of supercharging stations across the country, while there are only 12 public hydrogen fueling stations in the United States.

Map of Tesla Super Charging Stations. From Tesla Web Site

Map of Tesla Super Charging Stations. From Tesla Web Site

Most hydrogen fueling stations are in California, which is logical since zero emission vehicles are supported by California with a mandate for their adoption.

The cost of producing hydrogen and a lack of fueling stations are the Achilles heel of FCVs.

There are approximately 160,000 gasoline stations in the united States.

Assuming that only one-third as many hydrogen fueling stations would be required to cover the country so that FCVs weren’t range restricted, approximately 50,000 hydrogen fueling stations would need to be built across the United States.

At $500,000 per fueling station, it would cost approximately $27 billion.

Just matching Tesla’s 425 supercharger stations would cost over $200 million.

Tesla Charging Stations. Photo by D. Dears

Tesla Charging Stations. Photo by D. Dears

Tesla’s supercharging stations are also less costly to build and can be located in buildings and parking garages, something hydrogen fueling stations wouldn’t be allowed to do.

In addition, hydrogen is expensive to produce. It’s also difficult to transport if it’s produced centrally, such as at refineries where most hydrogen is produced today.

Alternatively, electrolysis can separate hydrogen from water.

Since hydrogen produced at a central location can’t be transported in natural gas pipelines, as it corrodes the pipe, it must be transported by cryogenic truck to the fueling station.

When hydrogen is produced centrally for use in an FCV refueling station, it must be cooled to form a liquid. Refrigerating hydrogen uses approximately 25% of hydrogen’s energy content, which is one of the energy losses incurred with this scenario.

Hydrogen can be produced locally at a refueling station by using reforming or by using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Electrolysis, however, is expensive.

On balance, it would appear as though the battery electric vehicle (BEV) has the advantage over FCVs when it comes to refueling or recharging the vehicle.

Another disadvantage of the FCV is the cost and space utilized by the fuel tanks needed to store hydrogen.

Hydrogen Fuel Tanks As Shown On Mirai web site

Hydrogen Fuel Tanks As Shown On Mirai web site

These carbon fiber fuel tanks are obviously far more expensive than traditional gasoline fuel tanks.

The fuel cell stack costs far more than a traditional internal combustion engine, and probably two to three times the cost of the battery pack used by Tesla, though Toyota has not revealed the cost of the Mirai’s fuel cell.

On a side by side comparison, the Tesla BEV is probably less costly to manufacture.

While the BEV seems to have a clear advantages over the FCV, both are more costly and have less range than traditional gasoline powered vehicles.

* * * * * *


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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 20, 2015 6:30 am

    I worked for a startup company that was trying to develop “hydrogen on demand” for fueling vehicles. Hydrogen was produced by a reaction with sodium borohydride. Hydrogen did not have to be stored. Instead it was produced as you needed it. The biggest problem was that sodium borohydride is too expensive to produce. My boss had a used SUV redesigned to use the fuel. It worked! A group of us in white coats were stopped by a policeman for going over 50 mph in a 35 mph zone in an industrial park. When we told him we were trying to test a hydrogen fuel, he just scratched his head and said just don’t do it again and let us go.

  2. May 20, 2015 8:37 am

    Great story. A number of onsite methods have been tried for producing hydrogen where it would be used. So far, they have all proven to be too expensive, though reforming of methane has shown promise.


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