The Massive Cost of Fuel Cell Vehicles, Part 2

We now know the cost of producing and delivering hydrogen for use in Fuel Cell vehicles(FCVs) is exorbitant, and should preclude the use of FCVs. See Part 1.

But what about the cost of manufacturing FCVs? Could they become competitive with gasoline or diesel powered vehicles?

The Mirai is currently the only FCV offered for sale in the United States, so it will be used as the reference case. For comparison purposes, the Mirai has a range of around 300 miles, while battery electric vehicles (BEVs) tend to have a range of around 100 miles, with an objective of achieving a range of 200 miles. This gives the Mirai a competitive advantage over BEVs, such as the Tesla.

The MSRP of a Mirai is $57,500, so the Mirai is likely to be a loss leader where Toyota absorbs the loss.

The two components of the Mirai that account for the high cost of manufacture are:

  • The fuel cell
  • The two tanks for storing hydrogen on the vehicle.

Fuel cell cost
The Mirai’s fuel cell is rated 113 KW. The Department of Energy estimates that the current cost of fuel cells is $280 per KW.

The cost of the Mirai fuel cell would therefore be approximately $32,000.

Mirai cutaway showing H2 storage tanks, courtesy Toyota
Mirai cutaway showing H2 storage tanks, courtesy Toyota

Hydrogen storage tanks

The Mirai has two hydrogen, reinforced carbon fiber storage tanks operating at 10,000 psi, containing 5 kg of hydrogen.

Each tank is estimated to cost at least $2,000, which adds $4,000 to the cost of manufacturing an FCV compared with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles using gasoline or diesel fuel.

FCV cost vs ICE vehicles

The incremental cost of manufacturing an FCV includes the cost of the fuel cell plus the cost of the hydrogen storage tanks. Together, these cost approximately $36,000.

This is approximately 6 times the cost of the engine and fuel tank of an ICE vehicle.

This $30,000 premium for an FCV is being imposed on the American public by regulations requiring zero-emission-vehicles.

Theoretically, the cost of fuel cells and hydrogen storage might be reduced with higher volumes, but they will still exceed the cost of an ICE engine and fuel tank.

And, the infrastructure costs of producing, distributing and dispensing hydrogen must still be paid for.

Other FCV issues

While BEVs have the question of battery life and battery replacement costs, FCVs have questions concerning the life of the fuel cell and the life of the storage tanks.

The media reported that Toyota established a 14-year life for the Mirai. One report showed a 2029 expiration date for the storage tanks, which could easily have represented the life of the fuel cell with its accompanying systems. There is no question that hydrogen can seriously affect metals used in the system.

The average life of an ICE vehicle in the United States is around 11.5 years, however many vehicles operate for longer periods of time.

Whether a 14-year life for an FCV will affect the resale value of FCVs is an unknown.


The next article in this series, Absurdity of Zero-Emission-Vehicles, will summarize the problems associated FCVs, and the related issues concerning BEVs.


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