FC Expo 2015: Measures to increase FCV market penetration

Details of government support and technologies in Toyota Mirai and Honda FCV




 The FC EXPO 2015, organized by Reed Exhibitions Japan Ltd., was held on February 25 to 27, 2015 at Tokyo Big Sight. The unprecedented crowd at the exhibition venues and seminar halls proved high public interest in fuel cell technologies. This report focuses on the operating principles and latest technologies of fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) and market conditions toward commercialization of FCVs. These contents are based on the lectures given by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), automobile manufacturers and hydrogen suppliers at the Expo.

 In June 2014, METI published a strategic roadmap toward promotion of market launch of FCVs. The Ministry has since been revising laws such as the deregulation of rules regarding hydrogen refueling stations. The roadmap calls for building 100 hydrogen stations during the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2016.

 Prompted by the ministerial decisions, JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corporation and Iwatani Corporation have started installing hydrogen stations. The hydrogen refueling cost is set at JPY 1,000 to 1,100 per kilogram, equivalent to refueling cost of hybrid vehicles of the same class. The companies already use the prices which are set as the target prices to be achieved in 2020 in the ministerial roadmap to promote the market penetration of FCVs.

 In December 2014, Toyota Motor Corporation launched the Mirai, the world's first FCV. The FCV already received 1,500 pre-launch orders within the first month after its launch and Toyota plans to increase production capacity for the Mirai to 3000 units a year from 2016 onward. Honda plans to launch its FCV by the end of March 2016. The structure and technologies implemented in the two companies' FCVs are introduced below in relation to the operating principles of FCVs.

Related reports:
Toyota launches Mirai fuel cell vehicle in December 2014 (December 2014)
FC EXPO 2014 and FCV launch plans (March 2014)

Path to hydrogen society proposed by METI

Chihiro Tobe The technical seminar session started with a keynote lecture on Japan's strategy regarding hydrogen and fuel cells presented by Chihiro Tobe, director, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Promotion Office of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, METI. In 2014, a roadmap toward achieving "hydrogen society" was published by the Ministry. It contains medium- to long-term plans calling for an expanded use of hydrogen and establishment of hydrogen supply systems from 2020 to 2030, and achieving a carbon-dioxide-free hydrogen supply system by 2040.



Source: Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)

 The roadmap calls for achieving a hydrogen society in three phases. The Ministry is taking necessary measures addressing issues on the infrastructure, manufacture of hydrogen for uninterrupted supply and development of storage and transportation technologies, aiming for the full market introduction of FCVs.

 Phase 1 focuses on the market availability of fuel cells. The specific goal of this phase is to set affordable prices for the FCVs and hydrogen fuel from around 2020 to the mid-2020s.

 Phase 2 focuses on establishing a large-scale supply system for hydrogen by around 2030.

 Phase 3 is aimed at establishing a totally CO2-free hydrogen supply system by around 2040.



Source: METI


Full introduction of FCVs (by reducing the FCV price by 2025 to the competitive level with the hybrid vehicles in the same class)

Financial aid for FCV users  Financial aid for supporting volume efficiency of FCVs from the viewpoint of creating initial demand (JPY 2.02 million per car)
Technical development of fuel cells  Promotion of development of fuel cells and technologies for hydrogen tanks (subsidy in R&D expenditures)
Legislative measures for overseas development  Harmonization of domestic laws with universally unified standards, promotion of mutual recognition agreements


Installation of hydrogen refueling stations (by reducing the hydrogen costs by 2020 to the competitive level with the fuels for hybrid vehicles of the same class)

 Plans are under way since the fiscal year ended in March 2014 (FY 2013) to install hydrogen refueling stations at about 100 locations mainly in the four large cities by the end of March 2016. The Ministry already decided to provide subsidies for 45 hydrogen stations as of February 2015.

Aid for building hydrogen stations * Partial subsidies (half of the installation costs) for installing hydrogen stations prior to the market introduction of FCVs
Development of low-cost hydrogen stations * Technical specifications for market introduction of FCVs * Technical development toward reducing costs of the compressor, accumulator and other equipment * Use of package or mobile refueling stations


Reviewing the regulations for hydrogen refueling stations

 Design standards for pressure vessels, restrictive use of steel materials in the High Pressure Gas Safety Act will be reviewed in reference to similar regulations in Europe and the U.S. Work has already started reviewing about 25 provisions according to the "regulatory reform execution plan" announced by the Cabinet in June 2013.

High Pressure Gas Safety Act (METI) * Approval of a broader variety of steel pipe materials. * Deregulation of pipe and other design coefficients (weight reduction of nozzles) * Standardization of stations for supplying liquefied hydrogen
Fire Service Act (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication) * Deregulation allowing parallel installation of gasoline and hydrogen stations
Building Standards Act (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism) * Elimination of limits to inventory of fuel to ensure enough supply of hydrogen in cities



Source: METI


 The next issue is to review pressure gas safety standards to enable self-service refueling by drivers at hydrogen stations. The Ministry is also considering establishing standards that will allow hydrogen stations to use vessels made of composite material that will help reduce the use of costly carbon fibers.


Hydrogen stations and price of hydrogen by energy suppliers

 Hydrogen stations were built by Iwatani Corporation, JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corporation and Tokyo Gas Company to coincide with the market launch of the Toyota Mirai FCV in December 2014. The price of hydrogen fuel has been set at JPY 1000 to 1100 per kilogram, which is equal to the fuel price for hybrid vehicles traveling the same distance.



Source: METI



Toyota's technologies in Mirai FCV

 Satoshi Ogiso, managing officer of Toyota Motor Corporation, provided a keynote lecture. Taiyo Kawai, Project General Manager in R&D Management Division, Toyota Motor Corporation, provided a more detailed lecture in one of the seminars. Their lectures are summarized below along with the technical aspects of the Mirai FCV.


Satoshi Ogiso Satoshi Ogiso, managing officer of Toyota Motor Corporation Taiyo Kawai Taiyo Kawai, Project General Manager in R&D Management Division,Toyota Motor Corporation


Operating principles of fuel cells (FCs)

Source: Toyota Motor Corporation

 A fuel cell (FC) is a generator that converts hydrogen and oxygen to electricity and water. The generated electricity is used to power the motor and drive the vehicle. The operating principles of FCs are as follows:

1) Hydrogen fuel is channeled through the hydrogen electrode.

2) Hydrogen is activated by the catalyst in the hydrogen electrode and electrons are released.

3) Electrons that are released from hydrogen are channeled from the hydrogen electrode to the air electrode and electricity is generated.

4) Hydrogen having released electrons becomes hydrogen ions that move from the hydrogen electrode through the polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) and to the air electrode.

5) The catalyst in the air electrode causes the airborne oxygen and hydrogen ions to combine with electrons to form water.


Basic structure of Fuel Cell Vehicles

 Fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) supply hydrogen stored in a high pressure gas tank and oxygen in the air to the fuel cell stack and convert them into electricity and water. Generated electricity is used to power the motor and drive the vehicle.



Source: Toyota Motor Corporation

(1) Air is taken in to use the abundant supply of oxygen.

(2) The airborne oxygen and hydrogen stored in the high pressure tank are fed to the fuel cell stack.

(3) Oxygen and hydrogen are converted into electricity and water in the fuel cell stack.

(4) Generated electricity is sent to the motor.

(5) Generated electricity is used to power the motor and drive the vehicle.


Vehicle structure of the Toyota Mirai FCV

 The Toyota Mirai FCV has two high pressure hydrogen tanks, under the rear seat and in the trunk. Hydrogen and airborne oxygen are fed to the fuel cell stack located under the front seat to generate electricity. Generated electricity is boosted to 650V by the FC boost converter to drive the motor. The number of cells in the FC stack is reduced by using the FC boost converter. It also allows the use of the same 650V power unit used in Toyota's existing hybrid vehicles.



Source: Toyota Motor Corporation


Structure of FC stack


Source: Toyota Motor Corporation

 Compared to the fuel cell stack used in Toyota's early FCV, FCHV-adv (2008 model), the new FC stack in the Mirai is compact in size and delivers a higher power with 2.2 times higher volume power density (3.1kW/L), one of the highest in the world. The compact FC stack can be located under the front seat of the Mirai FCV.



Source: Toyota Motor Corporation


New FC stack (Mirai) 2008 model FC stack
Max. output 114kW (155PS) 90kW
Volume power density Mass power density 3.1kW/L (world top level)/2.0kW/kg 1.4kW/L / 0.83kW/kg
Volume/weight 37L/56kg (cells + fasteners) 64L/108kg
Cell Qty 370 cells (1-row stack) 400 cells (2-row stack)
Thickness 1.34mm 1.68mm
Weight 102g 166g
Channel 3D fine-mesh channel (world's first air electrode) Grooved channel
Location Under floor (sedan) Motor room (SUV)


Newly-developed cell channel designed to increase power generation efficiency

 The newly-developed 3D fine-mesh channel design increases drainage of water and diffusion of oxygen. This prevents the stagnation of generated water and ensures uniform power generation in cells.



Source: Toyota Motor Corporation


Electrode reactions improved significantly

 The thinner electrolyte membrane, improved diffusion of the gas diffusion layer, and the higher activation of the catalyst contributed to improving the electrode reactions significantly.

(1) Thin electrolyte membrane: Reducing the thickness to one third triples the conductivity of the protons (positive hydrogen ions).

(2) Better diffusion of gas layers: Using low-density and thin substance doubles the gas diffusion.

(3) Higher catalytic activation: Using highly reactive Pt/Co alloy catalyst increases activation by 1.8 times.



Source: Toyota Motor Corporation


Internal circulation system without the humidifier

 The previous fuel cell stack had a humidifier to moisten the air (oxygen) to ensure sufficient conductivity of the protons (positive hydrogen ions) that pass through the electrolyte membrane. The new system is of a self-humidifying type where the generated water (vapor) circulates in the stack to moisten the air. The elimination of the humidifier has simplified the system design that is 15-liter less in size and 13kg lighter in weight.



Source: Toyota Motor Corporation


FC boost converter

 The newly developed large-capacity FC boost converter uses a higher-voltage motor and a fuel cell stack with a fewer number of cells. The new system is lighter, more compact and quieter.

 The new system has the same voltage rating as that of the existing hybrid vehicles. This allows interchangeable use of the motor and battery units in the new and previous models. This also eliminates the need for new development, which contributes to reducing the development expenditure and costs while ensuring higher reliability. This represents a very effective way to reduce the development expenditure that is one of the important concerns for small-lot production vehicles.



Source: Toyota Motor Corporation



Source: Toyota Motor Corporation


High pressure hydrogen tank


Source: Toyota Motor Corporation

 Toyota has been developing high pressure hydrogen tanks in-house since 2000. The Mirai FCV features an innovative carbon fiber-reinforced plastic layered tank designed to reduce the weight. The tank has achieved tank storage density of 5.7wt%, one of the highest in the world.


Cost reduction of the fuel cell system

 According to Toyota, the cost of the fuel cell system used on the Mirai FCV (2015 model) has been reduced to one twentieth that of the FCHV-adv (2008 model). Toyota plans to achieve further cost reduction toward the full market penetration of FCVs. The FCVs will become well received in the market if the cost of parts and components is reduced further, more hydrogen refueling stations are built and hydrogen is sold for a more affordable price. This, in turn, will bring cost reduction of the vehicles due to volume efficiency. When the production quantity of FCVs increases from only 1000 to 3000 units a year to more than 1000 units a month, the cost of development and equipment per vehicle will be reduced significantly.


 FC System Cost: The system cost was reduced to less than one twentieth of that of the 2008 Toyota FCHV-adv, by reducing number of materials and parts, and also by using mass-produced parts.

 FC System Size: FC system size was downsized so that it can be installed on a sedan ( The 2008 toyota FCHV-adv was a sports utility vehicle.).


Source: Toyota Motor Corporation



Technologies in Honda FCV Concept

 Takashi Moriya, senior chief engineer of Automobile R&D Center, Honda R&D Co., Ltd., presented a lecture on Honda Motor's approach on FCVs. The lecture is summarized below focusing on the Honda FCV Concept slated for market release by the end of March 2016. Honda's FCV Concept represents a major advancement since the FCX Clarity was launched for lease sales in 2008 for demonstration purposes.

 The most significant change is the FC stack. It was located in the center tunnel of the FCX Clarity. The FC stack on the FCV Concept is downsized substantially and integrated with the drive motor and gearbox. Because of the much smaller size, it is now located in the powertrain compartment (engine room). This creates a larger cabin space allowing the seating capacity to be increased from four to five.


Takashi Moriya Takashi Moriya, senior chief engineer of Automobile R&D Center, Honda R&D Co., Ltd. Honda FCV Concept Source: Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

 Compared to the FCX Clarity, the newly developed FC stack is 33% smaller in size while the output is kept at 100kW or higher. The voltage control unit boosts the stack voltage to drive the motor. It uses a SiC power module to achieve a compact size and high power output. The air supply pressure of the electric turbo compressor has been increased by 1.7 times.

FC stack FC stack


FCV Concept FCX Clarity (2008)
FC stack output over 100kW 100kW
Cruising range (JC08 mode) over 700km 620km
Seating capacity 5 4
Hydrogen pressure 70MPa (700atm) 35MPa (350atm)
Refueling time About 3 minutes* 3 to 4 minutes

* Refueling time may vary by hydrogen refueling conditions


Challenges for developing FCVs

 According to Mr. Moriya, Honda has found basic solutions to remaining technical problems under certain conditions. For the full market penetration of FCVs, Honda continues to develop more advanced technologies that will work in more challenging conditions.


Item Current R&D situations and challenges
Durability * Causes of durability issues were identified * Performance of fuel cells falls significantly especially when a vehicle starts moving, stops and  is parked. →Hydrogen and air circulation at both electrodes must be maintained (by control technology) →Solutionsto improve durability have been identified.
Quality assurance * FC stack has a mechanically special structure (several hundred multi-functional sheet components are stacked in series) →A single defective part affects the performance of the entire stack (performance, safety of hydrogen and high-voltage electricity) →At least a two-digit reduction of the fraction defective is required for quality assurance of individual parts
Cost reduction * Material cost can be reduced by using general-purpose items * Production cost can be reduced by reducing the parts production time * Use of precious metals must be kept to a minimum (less use of platinum in electrodes) →Establishing technologies for basic cost reduction and assurance of production volume are the keys



FC EXPO 2015 in summary

 The FCV, long considered a technology of the future, became a reality with the market launch of the Toyota Mirai FCV and hydrogen stations. The vehicle is priced high but is within a realistic range. The supply system for hydrogen is being developed rapidly with a cheaper-than-anticipated hydrogen price of JPY 1000 to 1100 per kilogram. This fuel price brings the FCV down to the same affordability level as the existing hybrid vehicles. However, both the vehicle and the hydrogen fuel must be reduced further in price before the FCV sees a full market penetration. There is a long path ahead before users can enjoy cost advantages of FCVs. Increasing the number of hydrogen stations also has a long way to go because the payout is not easy until there are more users. It is important, therefore, to clarify the value of the FCV itself before full market penetration becomes a reality.


Comparison of fuel costs per given distance

 The fuel price of the FCV is compared below with that of the HVs and EVs. The price of hydrogen has been set at JPY 1,000/kg by JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corporation and at JPY 1,100/kg by other manufacturers. These prices are lower than expected. As a result, the FCV is already within the same affordability level as that of HVs as far as fuel cost is concerned. The fuel price for the EV is even cheaper but the hydrogen fuel pricing has established a proof that the FCV, being a type of electrified vehicles, travels cheaper than the gasoline-fueled vehicle.


Comparison of fuel costs between FCV and EV/HV


 The fuel prices above are based on the JC08 fuel economy test mode. The price of the hydrogen for the FCV is calculated at JPY 1000/kg. The price of electricity for the EV is based on the nighttime rate of JPY 12.16/kWh. The price of gasoline varied significantly in average from the full year 2014 to the first three months of 2015 and both rates are quoted below. The Toyota Mirai FCV is compared with the Lexus GS (hybrid and gasoline versions) of the similar vehicle size and cabin dimensions.

 In terms of the fuel cost per travel distance, the cost advantage is evident for the EV when charged with nighttime electricity. However, the EV would need to settle for a shorter travel range as in the case of the Nissan Leaf, or carry twice as heavier and costly battery as in the case of Tesla Model S to extend the range. The FCV presents no problem as far as the travel range is concerned but the vehicle price is very high at present.

 It is too early to compare EVs powered by batteries with FCVs powered by a combination of fuel stacks and hydrogen tanks and to draw any reliable conclusions on which powertrain is superior. Both EV and FCV have room to improve their powertrain performances and reduce their weight and prices further. Considering value of electricity and hydrogen supply systems in a whole social system, not only in the automotive industry, hydrogen seems more advantageous as it can be transported more easily and excess electricity can be stored. It may take long before the hydrogen supply infrastructure is ready for the FCVs but we must keep a close eye on the rapid evolution of the FCV-related technologies.

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