Amid the slate of luxury rockets and hypercars gracing the stands at the 2014 New York Auto Show, Toyota (NYSE:TM) is showcasing its full range of automobiles. At the Javits Center through April 27 are the new Lexus sport sedans, the different Prius models, a brand new Camry, and the redesigned Highlander. Tucked away in the corner of the automaker’s vast display was the type of car that would be a headliner in other circumstances: the Toyota FCV.
This green car, which is powered by hydrogen fuel tanks rather than lithium-ion batteries, made its formal U.S. debut at the CES conference earlier in 2014. At the New York auto spectacle, Toyota brought both a display and “ride-alongs” in a fuel-cell utility vehicle to give attendees a taste of the technology. It’s enough to make someone a believer in the game-changing concepts Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda (NYSE:HMC) are bringing to market in the coming years. Here are seven things to love about the Toyota FCV.
1. It nailed the image
Toyota has taken its share of criticism over the years, with a good deal of it directed at the brand’s bland styling. In the case of the fuel-cell concept, there is nothing but praise to offer the FCV’s designers. From the stylish profile to the exotic grill and winning headlamp design, this car delivers an attractive impression of the future.
While Toyota may not have labored over the car’s looks when it created the Prius and other cars in its past, the automaker didn’t slack on the design front with the FCV.
2. There’s power under the…hood?
Since the hydrogen-electric powertrain in the FCV is so unique, it takes a few looks at the dissected model vehicle Toyota offers to auto show attendees to get the picture. However, the questions are answered while hopping inside the fuel-cell vehicle, where the driver gives you a taste of the power available via fuel cells. In its quiet yet swift acceleration, the feeling is similar to other electric powertrains.
3. No charging is necessary
The biggest knock on electric vehicles is how long you have to wait for the lithium-ion batteries to charge. Using a regular outlet at home, it can take the whole night to charge a car’s batteries. In the case of fuel cells, the cars can cover hundreds of miles on a single batch of fuel. Hydrogen transfers into usable power for the car’s electric motor during the ride. When the hydrogen tanks are empty, they are replaced with full tanks in a process that takes fewer than five minutes.
4. The FCV’s emissions are only water.
If you hate smog, you’ll love the Toyota FCV. All that comes out of the tailpipe is a little water. There are no fumes, so anyone hoping to reduce their carbon footprint has an ally in fuel-cell vehicles.
5. Range issues disappear
The phenomenon known as “range anxiety” haunted all pre-Tesla electric cars. In fact, even Tesla’s impressive range was questioned before the Supercharger network reached its current state. With respect to fuel cell cars, there is no range anxiety to speak of unless you drive hundreds of miles a day. After 300 miles, FCV drivers need a “fill-up” of hydrogen power, which is a process that comes off like any other trip to the gas station. Problem: hydrogen filling stations basically don’t exist.
6. Fuel-cell vehicles would help end dependence on petroleum
Automakers are feuding a bit about whether fuel cells or lithium-ion batteries are best for powering electric motors. Actually, there is little need to end the debate. Both offer a way to end the United States’ costly dependence on foreign-sourced oil, so they should both be able to contribute to the movement. Fuel cells simply need the same type of boost batteries got from the government in the form of subsidies.
7. Toyota’s changed the game before
Many people derided the Prius and the potential for electric vehicle technology in the U.S. Then Toyota silenced them with a decade of success. Though much about this fuel-cell vehicle technology sounds too good to be true, Toyota has proven it can overcome big challenges. Along with Honda and other top automakers, it’s feasible it could do it again.