By Seth Fitzgerald / CIO Today. Updated November 20, 2013.
Among the various emission-free car designs that are growing in popularity is one for fuel-cell vehicles. And Toyota said it may be coming out with a fuel-cell car by 2015. But the car maker may actually be beat by rival Hyundai, which wants to come out with the cleaner, electric vehicles in 2014.
These fuel-cell designs are relatively new and while Toyota and Hyundai are optimistic regarding when they can manufacture them, other car companies are unsure how they are going to do it. Fuel-cell vehicles are different from battery-powered cars and for the average consumer, they may be better options since they recharge significantly faster.
Better Than Batteries
Tesla, Ford, and other mainstream car manufacturers are entering into the zero emission car market with battery-powered vehicles. Although this is the most common type of non-gas vehicle, fuel-cells car may end up being better since they recharge in a matter of minutes and can travel 300 miles on a charge.
If fuel-cell cars become more popular, the recharging stations could function like gas stations, with people coming in and out but only spending a few minutes at the station. However, battery-powered vehicles take at least 15 minutes to partially charge and, even then, some of the current battery-powered cars cannot easily travel 300 miles before they run out of juice.
Fuel cell cars are based around hydrogen-power, which has been in the works for decades but only recently gained any real attention from consumers and manufacturers. For a long time it was thought that gas would always remain the most viable option for powering cars.
When it comes to cost, fuel-cell cars do not come at a higher price -- for the most part. Instead, Toyota is expecting its fuel-cell model to sell for between $50,000 and $100,000 and the company will be trying to get the price as close to the lower figure as possible. Of course, a $50,000 car is out of reach for many people but it sports the same price tag as current high-end consumer vehicles.
Hyundai, Toyota, GM, and others are all working hard to come out with fuel-cell cars before 2015 and perhaps as early as 2014. However, the existence of fuel-cell cars does not automatically mean that the market will be able to shift, so most people will probably not be driving non-gas cars any time soon.
There are quite a few obstacles that have yet to be overcome by these car manufacturers. The biggest of which is building charging stations around the United States and making them as prevalent as gas stations. Of course, to start, the charging stations will not be as common as gas stations but in order for fuel-cell cars to become mainstream, they will have to eventually be on every corner.
Combine the logistics of building a massive amount of charging stations with the fact that fuel-cell stations cost quite a bit more than charging stations for battery-powered cars, and the idea of non-gas vehicles becoming mainstream still seems a little far off.