quarta-feira, 26 de agosto de 2009

Mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell cars will cost $30,000 without subsidies in 2015 *

It has been widely reported that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be arriving at dealerships in large numbers by 2015 (and in much more limited numbers in 2012). However, how much will these vehicles cost? My prediction is that mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell cars will cost $30,000 without subsidies in 2015.

I fully understand that this is quite a claim to make, because many, many millions of people in the U.S. would line up to buy a hydrogen fuel cell car in 2015 for that amount if the hydrogen fueling infrastructure were in place. But here is evidence to back it up.

Byung Ki-Ahn from Hyundai/Kia said last month that hydrogen fuel cell cars would cost $50,000 each right now if 50,000 cars were produced each year. Since 2015 is six years away, isn’t it quite reasonable to think that Hyundai could get the cost down from $50,000 each to $30,000 each by that time?

Furthermore, Hyundai/Kia did not start researching hydrogen fuel cell vehicles until 2000.
On the other hand, Toyota started their in-house hydrogen fuel cell vehicle program back in 1992! Moreover, as of last year, Toyota was investing nearly $1 million PER HOUR on R&D. This is almost certainly more than Hyundai/Kia.

This is probably why Justin Ward, advanced powertrain program manager at the Toyota Technical Center, told Ward’s Automotive last month that: “We have some confidence the vehicle released around 2015 is going to have costs that are going to be shocking for most of the people in the industry. They are going to be very surprised we were able to achieve such an impressive cost reduction.”

Moreover, Irv Miller, TMS group vice president, environmental and public affairs, made the following comment on August 6th: “In 2015, our plan is to bring to market a reliable and durable fuel cell vehicle with exceptional fuel economy and zero emissions, at an affordable price.”
What does Toyota mean when the company says the costs of their hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be “shocking” to the auto industry? What does “affordable” mean? Nobody outside of Toyota knows for sure. But my guess is that this means something along the lines of a vehicle that will cost $30,000 (in 2009 dollars). For reference, the 2010 Toyota Prius starts at $22,000. I could see Toyota possibly coming out with something along the lines of a hydrogen fuel cell Prius starting at around $30,000 in 2015. This would allow the vehicle to cost $8000 more than the gasoline-powered version.~

Furthermore, here is an excerpt from a Spiegel (Germany) article published on March 26th that discusses Daimler’s hydrogen fuel cell program: “But the question remains: When will hydrogen-fueled cars be mass-produced and affordable? (Daimler CEO Dieter) Zetsche says that annual production of the new vehicles would have to reach 100,000 and that by around 2015, the vehicle prices could match those of conventional cars.”
How much might a Mercedes hydrogen fuel cell vehicle cost in 2015? Here is a quote from Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche that was part of the company’s fourth quarter 2008 earnings conference call on February 17, 2009: “We will also produce a small volume of Mercedes-Benz B-Class models equipped with a fuel cell drive this year.” If you live in the U.S. like me, you might notice that you have never seen a Mercedes like this on the road. It turns out that Mercedes does not yet sell the B-Class car in the U.S. Though, the company might do so in 2011.

The reason is that the B-Class is a more economical Mercedes car. And the company did not want to “tarnish the brand’s prestigious image” in the U.S. Currently sold in Canada, the Mercedes B-Class starts at (Canadian)$29,900.

Based on the Yahoo! finance currency converter, this is equivalent today to US$27,479.
Therefore, once a few thousand dollars is added for the hybrid system in the hydrogen fuel cell version, the mass-produced cost would only be slightly above the US$30,000 level.
While all of this is very exciting, the key is making sure that lots of hydrogen fueling stations are in place by 2015.

* Greg Blencoe, CEO of Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.

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