A key point about fuel cells is that they’re scalable—able to power cellphones and large trucks alike. Toyota is proving that point through the use of an adapted Toyota Fuel Cell System (TFCS) system—as seen in the Mirai car—for a new fleet of buses that will be sold in Japan beginning early next year.
The first 100 FC buses will be introduced mostly in the Tokyo area, ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics. Tokyo’s goal is to have more than 6,000 fuel-cell cars and trucks operational in the city at the time of the Games (and 100,000 on Japan’s roads by 2025). Toyota and Honda are partners in that enterprise. The governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Yoichi Masuzoe, has created a $350 million fund to subsidize both fuel-cell vehicles and filling stations in the city before 2020.
Two of the Toyota FC Bus models will be used before the Games on regular fixed routes in Tokyo. Hino Motors LTD (a Toyota subsidiary) provides the 77-passenger platforms.
It’s not just transportation, because the plan is to power the entire Olympic Village, including press lounges and the athletes’ housing, with hydrogen—possibly using a giant pipeline.
The buses will also be sold commercially in Japan. According to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the buses are likely to be priced at 100 million yen ($962,000), or four or five times the cost of a regular diesel bus. But their operating costs will be much lower than diesel.
Toyota builds its own solid polymer electrolyte fuel cell stacks—two to a bus, each with 114-kilowatt output. Also doubling up is the AC synchronous motors (each 113 kilowatts). There are 10 hydrogen storage tanks, operating at 10,000 psi, a 10-minute fill-up time and 200 kilometers (124 miles) of range. The company also points out that the FC Bus “can be used as a power source in the event of disasters, such as at evacuation sites (including school gymnasiums), or its electricity supply can be harnessed for home electric appliance use.”
The hydrogen has to be produced and transported for the scheme to be effective. According to the Wall Street Journal, a collaboration between Kawasaki Heavy Industries LTD, Electric Power Development Company and plant builder Chiyoda Corporation is working to produce the gas from coal resources in Australia, then ship it (via a special tanker developed by Kawasaki) to Japan. Similar exploratory efforts are underway to source hydrogen (as a byproduct of oil refineries) in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, or from hydroelectric power in Russia or Canada.
Tokyo has set itself a formidable challenge—to be ready with hydrogen power for the Games—but its corporate partners appear to be stepping up to meet it.