First Toyota Mirai Delivered and Hyundai Cuts Prices

On January 15, 2015 Toyota delivered its first production Mirai fuel cell vehicle (pictured above) to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Handing off the keys was Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda.

Mr. Toyoda is quoted saying, “This is a historic step and I’m truly excited. This will be a long journey, and to make this first step truly historic we will all need to work together.”

Now according to the Korea Herald, the relatively low price of the Mirai is forcing Hyundai to drop the price of their ix35 Tucson fuel cell vehicle almost in half.

The Korea Herald states, “Toyota debuted the FCV Mirai, a mid-size four-door sedan, at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show in November with a price tag of 7.24 million yen ($62,000). The price is almost half that of a Tucson FCV priced at 150 million won ($139,000). Both prices exclude the government rebates …

“…In Korea, the government subsides $55,700 per Tucson FCV unit, meaning that individual Korean consumers still have to pay $83,500 to buy Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered car … Hyundai Motor recently informed Gwangju City, a major local buyer of the Tucson FCV, of its internal decision to cut the car price.”

Because of the high price tag Hyundai had only sold 10 Tucson FCV’s in South Korea last year. Compare this to Toyota which has already received orders for 1,500 Mirais in Japan of which 60-percent are going to government agencies and 40-percent to individual consumers.

At least now Hyundai is headed in the right direction towards finding a price point that will get both government and commercial consumers excited about buying their cutting edge vehicles.


Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion Fuel Cell Vehicle Unveiled

At the 2015 CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas the Mercedes Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion fuel cell vehicle has been unveiled. This concept vehicle is also a self-driving car.

According to Sci-Tech Today, “The F 015 is built from lightweight carbon fiber, aluminum, and high-strength steel. The car is technically a rechargeable hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. It has a battery that recharges by parking it on a charge pad, a technology that will likely arrive as an alternative for plug-in electric vehicles before this concept car goes on sale. The F 015 also has a fuel cell powered by tanks of compressed hydrogen.

“Such a concept car allows Mercedes to flex its technical and creative muscles, and keeps the Mercedes name at the forefront of the self-driving conversation. Both experts and automakers say it isn’t a question of if these vehicles hit the road, it’s when.”

Mercedes-Benz says that this vehicle won’t be available until around 2030, but it wants to start the conversation now about the benefits of luxury models of self-driving cars that are also zero emission vehicles. At some point Limo drivers may need to find a new line of work.


Lexus LS Fuel Cell Limousine in the Works for 2017

In late 2014, Toyota unveiled its production fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai. Now there is a fairly credible rumor floating that the car company will also unveil its luxury Lexus LS Fuel Cell Limousine in 2017.

According to, “Like the Mirai, the LS FCEV will employ the Toyota Fuel Cell System (TFCS), but it will be reconfigured for retro-fitment within the LS’s conventional layout.

“According to one source, the LS’s nose section will be redesigned with larger air intakes to ventilate the hydrogen powered electric system. The car will incorporate a fuel-cell unit under the front seat, a hydrogen tank under the rear seat and another tank under the rear parcel shelf.

“Tipping the scales at around 2100kg (at least 200kg less than the existing LS hybrids), the LS FCEV will incorporate a power unit combining a 150kW fuel-cell stack and a powerful 220kW electric motor to deliver a potential emissions-free driving range of 384km.”

Presumably priced at over $100,000 including subsidies, the Lexus LS Fuel Cell Limousine will most likely be produced in small numbers. It also may be a desirable solution for the Hollywood elite and business executives who would like to make a statement about the merits of going green.


Preview: hydrail in 2015

by guest blogger Stan Thompson

Long before he was honored with with his own automobile brand, Serbian inventor-engineer Niccola Tesla had an annual tradition of predicting on his birthday the future of technology.  Lesser lights, including myself, use the birthday of the New Year to make predictions. Here are ten for 2015:

2015-1     The announcement last year by Alstom Transport that its Salzgitter works will produce 40 hydrail trainsets for northern German states by 2020 will move substantially toward becoming a norm rather than just an introduction.

(see search argument:  alstom+forty+trainsets+salzgitter+gazette) Hydrail is hybrid electric railway traction powered by hydrogen fuel cells and batteries in combination. It needs no power applied along the track and so is far less costly.

Specifically, hydrail will become the traction power of choice (replacing diesel) for those European lines where traffic has not been considered adequate to justify the cost of constructing and maintaining external electrification.

Last month I got a call from the staff of a member of the European Parliament.  He asked to be put in touch with hydrail experts in the EU. His Member’s interest had to do with northern Italy.

While it’s dangerous to extrapolate a paradigm shift from just two points, a European shift of rail traction from carbon to sustainably-derived hydrogen is natural for a couple of reasons: (1) oil has become an economic weapon in Europe’s neighborhood and railways are an asset important enough to shield from it; and (2) Europe takes the role of carbon fuels in climate change very seriously.

Well before the German hydrail fleet is deployed, its planned existence could make further extension of track electrification—even where traffic growth might formerly have justified it—non-fungible. The European economy is too stressed allocate millions of Euros to a doubtful legacy technology, just on the basis of tradition and familiarity. If the Alstom innovation becomes generally known, public funding for expensive, 130-year-old overhead electrification could become hard to justify.

2015-2    The venerable Oxford English Dictionary will finally—if belatedly—include a hydrail entry.

2015-3    The developing hydrail collaboration among North Carolina’s Appalachian State University (“ASU”), the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (“UNCC”) and the University of Birmingham, UK (“UB”), will be formalized.  Ever since UB hosted the Seventh International Hydrail Conference in 2012 they have been exchanging speakers and graduate students with UNCC.  UB granted its first hydrail Ph.D. to Dr. Andreas Hoffrichter (now at Warwick University) in 2013. I expect to see the first advanced railway technology school in the Americas to offer hydrail courses begin to take shape  at UNCC in 2015.

2015-4   UNCC will, I predict, host the Tenth International Hydrail Conference in North Carolina this year, becoming the first host to organize two Hydrail Conferences. (UB will host the Eleventh Hydrail Conference in the UK, becoming the second repeat host.) Appalachian State will continue to play the central organizing role in both, as they have for every Hydrail Conference since the first in 2005.

2015-5  The small fleet of hydrail mining locomotives now being tested in the Republic of South Africa will be expanded and plans for the total replacement (or upgrading) of battery powered mining locomotives in the country with hydrail will be disclosed.

Now, following are some predictions that I devoutly hope to get wrong.  They are things that could be going to happen in 2015 but which won’t—not because of any technological or financial reasons but simply because of Niccolo Machiavelli’s principle explaining “The Difficulty of Change.”

“It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things.

For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have actually had experience of it.

Thus it arises that on every opportunity for attacking the reformer, his opponents do so with the zeal of partisans while the others only defend him halfheartedly, so that between them he runs great danger.”

Machiavelli was referring to innovators. His principle, though, is just as applicable to the innovations themselves—including hydrail. Here are some predictions concerning what might have been but almost certainly won’t:

2015-6   SICA (the Spanish acronym for the Central American Integration System) will not announce the first leg of a hydrail train line connecting Panama to Guatemala (and all the intervening countries), powered by hydrogen electrolyzed from the abundant hydroelectricity  in the region. The United States, whose Congress funded the invention of hydrail at the beginning of this century, will not take a leadership position to facilitate such a rail line, which could enhance relations with Latin America. But China, whose Southwest Jiaotong University recently produced their first hydrail locomotive, may do so.

2015-7   The USA will not include, as part of its thaw with Cuba, help with the integration of the Island’s railroads into a system of  hydrail tourist trains powered by renewable biomass hydrogen made from bagasse—the fibrous waste product of cane sugar production.

2015-8   News media fixation on electric automobiles (whose manufacturers buy retail advertising) will largely eclipse the offshore emergence of hydrail trams/streetcars (whose makers sell only to governments and don’t advertise), further retarding reintroduction of streetcars. The resulting harm to public transit will reprise the 1940’s effort toward displacement of streetcars by private auto manufacturers—though the insistent emergence of an urban no-car generation will assure an eventual streetcar market;  just later in developing than it could have been.

2015-9   The job-creating ability of wireless hydrail streetcar lines to move materials and finished products in and out of urban areas during the wee hours of the morning will not help either Europe or the USA to grow their manufacturing sectors and grow walkable employee commuting. This is a shame; Volkswagen’s brilliant innovation in Dresden could be applied in a lot of lagging American cities, including—ironically—Detroit.  (see search argument:   volkswagen+dresden+urban+factory)

2015-10   US municipalities will continue to pour public money into short-lived, extravagantly priced, legacy trolley lines—restringing unsightly aerial plant and eliminating tree-lined city-scapes—because of a want of news coverage disclosing to the public the existence of a far less costly wireless hydrail alternative.

So much for a look at what will and won’t be. To see what is (for hydrail news references and access to presentations at International Hydrail Conferences since 2005), visit:



ULEMCO Converts Ford Transit Vans into Hydrogen Diesel Hybrids

ULEMCo, the ultra-low emissions vehicle company, has started converting white Ford Transit Vans into hydrogen diesel hybrids instead of vehicles that solely run on diesel fuel. This conversion has resulted in 70-percent lower carbon dioxide emissions for the vans.

According to ULEMCo, “In the tests, Ford Transit vans converted to hydrogen diesel hybrid achieved emissions of 59g/km of carbon dioxide, some 70% lower than a typical diesel Transit. Harmful nitrous oxide emissions were reduced by 40%.

“Using the dual fuel conversion, van operators can continue to use the full tank of diesel after the store of hydrogen is used up, extending their total range to as much as 700 miles between fill ups. Importantly, the conversion kit takes up no valuable cargo space as it fits underneath the vehicle. The van’s driving performance is not affected.”

The drivers of the vans can run for 200 miles on hydrogen fuel before automatically switching over to diesel. Another advantage for fleets is that the hydrogen equipment can be switched over to other vehicles as the fleets upgrade and acquire more vehicles.


Toyota to Triple Number of Mirai Fuel Cell Vehicles

In Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, Toyota will be adding a couple more assembly lines by the end of 2015 to handle the demand for its Mirai fuel cell vehicles, an investment of over $165 million. On next Monday, December 15, 2014, Toyota has stated that they will begin manufacturing the first commercial Mirai cars in this Prefecture.

According to Nikkei, “Exports to the U.S. and Europe are also expected to begin in the summer of 2015. Especially in California, regulations that promote zero-emissions vehicles are seen creating a tailwind. Toyota’s current capacity will not be enough to meet brisk demand at home and in the U.S.

“Toyota plans to sell 400 Mirais in Japan by the end of 2015. In the U.S., it seeks to move 3,000 units or more by the end of 2017. In Europe, the plan is to sell 50 to 100 units a year around 2016.”

The Hyundai ix35 Tucson fuel cell vehicle is a commercial vehicle already available for lease in Southern California. With the Toyota Mirai commercially available in the summer of 2015 in California, this will spur the building of hydrogen fueling stations in that state.

In fact, today in West Sacramento, CA the first public hydrogen fueling station in Northern California is being unveiled at a Ramos Oil Company facility. This will be the first of many to be opened publicly in the Golden State within the next couple of years.


200 Mirais Will Be Manufactured at Toyota’s Secret Plant

In a secret assembly plant in Toyota City, Japan, Toyota will be making 200 Mirai fuel cell vehicles to order by master craftsmen. The plant was previously used to create 500 Lexus LFA V10 sports cars which sold for approximately $375,000 each.

According to AutoNews, “Toyota Motor Corp. has struggled to fill the void at the secretive workshop in Japan where the Lexus LFA was assembled ever since the last $375,000 sports car rolled off a line in December 2012. Now, it finally has landed a new product, one just as niche and high profile: Toyota’s new Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan.

“The backlot LFA Works at Toyota’s Motomachi assembly plant in Toyota City has been tasked with hand building the limited-run car partly because of its craftsmanship and attention to detail. And also because the Mirai, with its dedicated platform and hydrogen-powered drivetrain replete with mammoth fuel tanks, is better built by hand than in Toyota’s ultra-efficient factories.”

The 200 Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicles that have been pre-ordered will be used in corporate and government fleets. Another reason the Mirai is being hand built is so that the car meets customer demand and is not over-produced.


It’s Official, the New Toyota FCV Is Called Mirai

Yesterday in Newport Beach, California Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda announced officially that the company’s new commercial fuel cell vehicle will be called Mirai (which means future). This isn’t a big surprise, since on July 31, 2014 word had leaked out unofficially that Toyota would be going with this name.

But, wait, there’s more …

According to Toyota, “Of course, the car of the future won’t become a reality without the hydrogen stations to support it. That’s why Toyota North America chief executive officer (CEO) Jim Lentz announced a new commitment to drive the development of a hydrogen refueling infrastructure in five northeastern U.S. states.

“To support Mirai’s introduction to the region in 2016, Toyota is collaborating with Air Liquide to develop and supply a phased network of 12 state-of-the-art hydrogen stations targeted for New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The states and locations have been strategically selected in the greater New York and Boston areas to provide the backbone of a hydrogen highway for the Northeast corridor. Specific details of the collaboration will be revealed in the coming months.”

Toyota also has a worth- see video on their website where Akio Toyoda talks and shows the history of R&D that went into making the Mirai. See the press release and video here.


Mercedes-Benz G-Code Hydrogen Concept Unveiled

The Mercedes-Benz Vision G-Code Concept has been unveiled coinciding with the company’s R&D center in Beijing, China. This subcompact crossover concept has been designed to attract the younger Chinese drivers.

According to Benz Insider, “Based from the images and information provided by the German automaker, the G-Code will be designed as a Sports Utility Coupe. It will measure 161 inches, which is even shorter than the GLA—the brand’s smallest crossover so far.

“Not much was revealed about the engine specs of the compact crossover concept. However, the plan is to equip the auto with a turbocharged combustion engine powered by hydrogen. Then, the power will emanate from the front wheels. Also, it will carry an electric motor that will drive the rear axle and transmit its power selectively to the two wheels using a dual multi-disc clutch.”

A couple other notable features of the Mercedes G-Code Concept are the silver finish on the body of the vehicle serves as a solar panel and the holographic grille which gives the car the ‘cool’ factor.




Sainsbury Supermarket to Receive Hydrogen Fueling Dispenser

In the UK, the Sainsbury grocery chain has announced it will receive the country’s first hydrogen fueling dispenser located at a supermarket. The dispenser will be built by specialty gas maker Air Products.

According to Air Products, “Sainsbury’s has announced the UK’s first supermarket forecourt hydrogen dispenser will be located at its Hendon store by the end of the year. Working with global leaders in hydrogen infrastructure, Air Products, the new dispenser will join a network of existing stations helping bring a breath of fresh air to residents and visitors in London and the South East.

“The SmartFuel® station will be able to fuel a growing number of hydrogen-powered fleets driving around the Capital. From hydrogen-powered buses running between Covent Garden and Tower Gateway, to hybrid delivery vans operated by Commerical Group and hydrogen powered taxis already driving on London’s roads; it is clear hydrogen isn’t a fuel of the future, it’s a fuel for today.”

The Sainsbury 700-bar SmartFuel® hydrogen fueling dispenser will be part of a larger network of H2 fueling stations around London that will be supporting the commercial fuel cell vehicles that will be rolling out in that area over the next several years.


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