Toyota had a Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (HFCV) on its stand at the car show, and a dedicated salesperson talking it up. Hyundai had a hydrogen fuel cell Tucson on its stand, but they didn’t make a big deal of it.
Toyota is acting like this is new. It isn’t Honda sold the FCX Clarity, a genuinely amazing car from the future, in Southern California from 2008–2014. In 6 years Honda leased less than 50 of them.
HFCV competition isn’t battery electric vehicles, but plug-in hybrids
HFCV advocates always compare the car with a “pure” battery electric vehicle like the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S, then the HFCV wins on range and refueling time.
Imagine car buyers looking at a pure hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. When they’re told “It’s an electric car, but you can’t plug it in at home as the cheapest most convenient way to power the first NN miles of driving”, they’re going to turn around and walk out of the dealer. Maybe someone with no access to a plug at home or work who lives near an H2 station will stick around for the rest of the sales pitch.
The problem is hydrogen fuel cell competes with plug-in hybrids for the “I’m not sure a pure battery electric vehicle will work for me” uncertain buyer, and is much more expensive. How many Volt drivers go on long trips often enough, and hate burning gasoline enough, to pay an extra $20,000 to never burn any gasoline? Especially when they realize the H2 nearly always comes from fossil fuel. Yes HFCV is more efficient than a gasser but the analyses of “How much highway driving do you have to do before HFCV is better for the environment than a plug-in hybrid” are going to increase uncertainty and decrease sales.
Also, until those H2 stations are built along the highways, you’re going to have to drive out of your way to reach them. So unless your regular long trips pass by these H2 stations, you’re not saving time over driving a Model S, and the refueling costs far more money once the lease with three years of free fuel runs out.
A plug-in hydrogen vehicle is more desirable than a pure HFCV, but it still faces tiny demand and huge challenges. Meanwhile people aspire to own pure BEVs.