Hydrogen fuel-cell cars remain compliance vehicles

Hydrogen fuel-cell cars remain compliance vehicles image

In case you aren’t familiar with what “compliance cars” stand for, back in 2012, the California Air Resource Board insisted on the most popular six carmakers in the state to produce zero-emission vehicles.

Therefore, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Toyota manufactured the Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus EV, Honda Fit EV and Toyota RAV4 EV in order to still be able to sell its other cars in the region.

Most hybrids scored low sales until the second-generation Prius went on the market in 2004. However, sales projection of hybrids looked huge compared to estimates of sales of hydrogen fuel-cell cars in their first years.

Toyota has announced its plans to produce 700 units of its Mirai fuel-cell model for the 2016 model year, which are to be followed by an increase in production of 2,000 models in 2017 and 3,000 in 2018. Yoshikazu Tanaka, the car model’s chief engineer explained that the limit is 3,000 until a technological revolution could be reached. Out of the 700 cars, 300 are meant for the U.S. and European markets, with the first Mirai model to be delivered in November to a buyer close to California where nearby hydrogen fueling stations exist and function. The Japanese carmaker said that it expects Mirai sales to reach a total of 30,000 units by 2020 when the Tokyo Olympic Games are set to take place, out of which, 12,000 are produced for the Japanese market.

Honda launched its 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell mid-size sedan last week at the Tokyo Motor Show and will start selling its model next year in Japan, certain regions in the U.S. and other automarkets. Kiyoshi Shimizu, the car’s chief engineer, has stated that at the beginning the company only planned to sell 200 units in Japan. The country has seen a growth in its hydrogen fueling infrastructure and might stand for 40% of Honda’s Clarity sales, leading to a production of around 500-1,000 cars per year.

California remains the key market for Toyota and Honda, both selling numerous gasoline cars there. This American state has had zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) sales rules since 2012 and about 1% of the in-state car sales must be battery-electric or fuel-cell cars.

The Honda Fit EV and Toyota RAV4 EV were sold in 1,100 and 2,600 units, both having been taken off sale in the meantime. However, these low U.S. volumes of hydrogen-powered cars are still high enough to comply with the ZEV regulations up through 2018.

A hydrogen car that has a range of 300 miles and needs 10 minutes for fuel refueling brings in more ZEV points than a battery-electric vehicle, as the later one takes less time to recharge. Until 2020, any hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle sold in the U.S. still stands for a compliance car, being sold in limited markets and in numbers that only meet the California rules of ZEVs. It is estimated that by 2018-2020, the plug-in vehicles in California could stand for 5 to 10% of total car sales there.

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