While competitor Honda has been tinkering with Fuel Cell Vehicles for ages without putting one up for sale, Toyota just announced that it’s going to commercialize the future of driving on a worldwide scale in just one year.

Like the Honda FCX Clarity, the Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) uses basic chemistry and high technology to turn compressed hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. The only waste product is water vapor. Toyota says its prototype has a range of 300 miles before it needs refueling, which takes less than five minutes.

Tesla founder Elon Musk recently said, “Fuel cell is so bullshit.” But the technology is actually quite promising. Electric cars such as those made by Tesla have been held back by the slow pace of innovation in battery technology. It typically takes electric cars hours to recharge, and range is limited. Musk’s Tesla has come up with numerous schemes to circumnavigate those problems, but fuel cell cars, which have their own power plants, don’t have such issues.

Here in Southern California, where Honda allows 200 Clarity cars to be leased a year, we already have a network of hydrogen refueling stations. It’s easy for drivers to wrap their minds around that concept, because it mirrors the fossil fuel network we already have. There’s no need to install special equipment in your garage or at work. And it allows private industry an opportunity to buy into the future.

Only time will tell if it takes off, but it’s very exciting news given that billions of new drivers are emerging from poverty in the developing world and in Los Angeles we’ve been enjoying winter temperatures in the 80s. Global warming is real, and any and all solutions are welcome.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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