Toyota’s upcoming release of its first production fuel cell vehicle is certainly something of a gamble — as you no doubt already know — but could the company actually end up losing as much as $100,000 on every unit sold?
Possibly. Or at least that’s what one analyst is arguing. The former European Parliament President Pat Cox has argued that when the cost of building out hydrogen fuel infrastructure is factored in, that the potential costs for Toyota are set to be quite high.
Compounding this is the fact that the European Union recently released member states to have full control of their own alternative fuel transportation network plans — there are no longer any requirements for hydrogen fuel stations.
As it stands now, there are only 27 public refueling stations in the whole of Western Europe for fuel cell vehicles (FCV) — and those are spread pretty thin. That number is expected to climb to 47 stations next year, but considering that each new station costs around $1.3 million to build, the cost is pretty high for this buildout.
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This means costlier fuel, with a full tank of hydrogen costing $50 for about 300 miles of driving range. But the real kicker is the cost of the vehicle itself.
Cox estimates that the Toyota FCV (also known as the Mirai) will actually cost between 50,000 and 100,000 euro more to produce than the automaker sells it for. That works out to about $66,000 to $133,000 (I split the difference at $100,000), which makes the $14,000 lost on every Fiat 500E look like small potatoes. In the US the FCV will sell for around $70,000 before incentives, but Cox says that in order for any hydrogen vehicles to work in Europe, they’ll have to be financially viable independent of government incentives. Member countries will support the early stages of the network, but the onus will fall on automakers like Toyota and Hyundai to invest in the necessary infrastructure to support their vehicles.
The odds really look to be stacked against Toyota to my eyes. Not sure how I think this will play out.
When you compare the situation as a whole to that of battery electric vehicles, the benefits just don’t seem to be there. Without the benefits, why not just stick with what you know (gas-powered vehicles)?
Image Credit: Toyota