Where Are All of the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Pickup Trucks?

You know the thought occurred to me as we cruise closer to the 2015 rollout date (that the eight major automakers have pegged for introducing a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle into the commercial marketplace), where are the fuel cell pickup trucks?

My curiosity was further peaked when I read this article about the most recent list of top auto sales in the U. S. For November 2012, the number of light duty trucks slightly edged out the numbers of cars sold. And of the light duty trucks sold, the most popular was the crossover followed by pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans.

And if you look at the top 20 vehicles sold in November 2012, the top two were the Ford F Series PU and the Chevrolet Silverado PU. So, I decided to do a search of my own website for the different types of light duty trucks and sure enough in the past 10 years there have been a significant amount of hydrogen fuel cell prototype crossovers, SUVs and minivans introduced by the major car companies.

So, then I decided to do a different kind of search and start with the history of hydrogen cars from 1807 to 1986 and then navigate forward from there. What I found were 205 hydrogen-powered vehicles of all types (fuel cell and internal combustion engine) shown to the public.

Out of these 205 vehicles, what I found were 4 hydrogen fuel cell pickup trucks. Two of these were experimental vehicles built by Energy Partners and Virginia Tech University.

The other two were both made by Chevrolet including a 2001 Chevy S-10 Pickup Truck and a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado hydrogen military pickup truck.

So, this begs the question as to why would a class of popular selling vehicle such as the pickup truck be neglected (when it comes to fuel cell power) by all of the major automakers?

Now, I’m not a marketing expert but I would think that at least a few of the major automakers would start showing off, at the auto shows, their brand of fuel cell pickup trucks in order to gauge customer interest and acceptance and/or to build a marketplace for such vehicles.

If fuel cell vehicles are to be the path forward as the major car companies and many others believe then what is holding them back?

Well, anyway, that’s my 2 cents. Does this make sense?

 

8 Responses to “Where Are All of the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Pickup Trucks?”

  1. All very true. Pickup trucks would be a great place to start marketing fuel cells. Electric drivetrains have plenty of torque and can easily accommodate four wheel drive.

    And it seems that it would be very easy to fit hydrogen cylinders under the bed of a truck, between the frame rails with little or no loss of payload.

    Perhaps the engineers wanted to demonstrate to management that a fuel cell drivetrain would fit in anything. A van or pickup truck would have been too easy.

    Or, perhaps, the OEMs started with off-the-rack parts from Azure Dynamics or other FWD EV conversion companies, so it just worked out that way.

  2. When the OEMs finally got serious about FCEV research, GM already had the EV1 drivetrain; Toyota already had the RAV4 EV drivetraind; Honda already had the EV+ drivetrain. Etc.

    Strangely, even the electric S10 pickup truck that GM sold used the EV1 drivetrain and was front wheel drive.

  3. True, the advantages of fuel cells are most evident in heavy long range vehicles. It is unlikely that batteries will have the required energy storage capacity and economy of FCs fed by hydrogen or methanol even a long time from now. Rapid battery replacement requires a standardized infrastucture which is more remote than hydrogen stations.

  4. Toyota has a famous fuel cell SUV prototype, but it certainly is interesting that we don’t hear much about pickup trucks in regard to hydrogen fuel cells. The V8 engine has a reputation of producing tremendous amounts of torque where it is also typically a gas guzzler. I wonder how the best fuel cell equipped truck will compare torque wise against a V8 gasoline engine? One way to get the car companies to produce fuel cell vehicles is to tax the internal combustion engine based on carbon emissions, but I doubt there is enough political will to do that. We continue to hear that fuel cell vehicles are coming, that they are just around the corner. As long as battery electric vehicles and hybrids are cheaper than fuel cell vehicles though, I don’t see fuel cell vehicles making significant inroads. I am optimistic that people want clean transportation, but the auto makers have to get serious about bringing the cost down where I very much doubt in a climate of raise the fuel efficiency requirements that the automakers are compelled enough to commercialize hydrogen vehicles. Gasoline and diesel are too cheap, especially with the discovery of large reserves in the U.S.

  5. “As long as battery electric vehicles and hybrids are cheaper than fuel cell vehicles though…..”

    Mass produced fuel cell: $47 per kw ($3760 for a 80kw pack)
    Small battery pack: ~$1200
    Hydrogen tank: ~$3000

    Remove the $12,000 battery pack from a Nissan leaf and replace it with a mass produced fuel cell, buffer battery pack, and hydrogen tank, and the price actually drops by ~$4000.

    Unfortunately, that is still ~$8000 more than a Prius.

  6. references for above:

    http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/12020_fuel_cell_system_cost_2012.pdf

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360319910023050

  7. All good points.

    Part of the equation as I see it is what other vehicles will a particular model of fuel cell vehicle compete against? For instance the 2013 Model S Tesla car will have a base price of about $59,900 before federal rebates.

    http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/2013-model-s-price-increase

    Also, thanks for sending the other links in which I find encouragement.

    For instance in the .gov pdf file under table 2 it says the price in 2007 for an 80kw fuel cell was $94/kw and just 3 years later it was $51/kw and in 2012 it was $47/kw which is exactly 1/2 the price. If the prices keep coming down at this rate then fuel cell vehicle will be competitive with many lines of battery electric and even mid-priced gasoline-electric hybrids soon.

    I do believe, however, that it will take a while for the price of fuel cell vehicles to be competitive with lower end priced vehicles. And I know that many people will be frustrated about this. In fact, I want my $10,000 fuel cell vehicle yesterday. :)

  8. “Part of the equation as I see it is what other vehicles will a particular model of fuel cell vehicle compete against? For instance the 2013 Model S Tesla car will have a base price of about $59,900 before federal rebates.”

    Yes, I believe that fuel cell powered Mercedes luxury cars will be easier to sell at first than fuel cell “econoboxes.”

    And, I believe that, (going back to your original point) the same applies to fuel cell powered full size pickup trucks, vans, and boat/horse pulling SUVs.

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