From:
http://www.energy-futures.com/issues.html#


 
JAPANESE AUTOMAKERS MOVE FORWARD WITH FUEL CELL VEHICLE PROJECTS
 
The NECAR 4 from Germany and the HFC P2000 from the United States may be two
of the biggest fuel cell vehicle (FCV) announcements this year from major
automakers. Several Japanese auto producers, however, continue to move their
fuel cell vehicle programs forward as well. (See article elsewhere in this
chapter about Honda's fuel cell work.) Some highlights appear below.
 

Toyota
 
Toyota Motor Corporation has established a new division to accelerate its
FCV development effort. The division is staffed by 110 engineers, including
50 engineers drawn from various Toyota operations and from the personnel at
the company's affiliates such as Denso Corporation and Aisin Seiki Company.
 
Top officials at Toyota claim that the company will be the first to
commercialize an FCV. Its target date is 2003, a year ahead of the schedule
of DaimlerChrysler. To date, Toyota has built two prototype FCVs, one fueled
by methanol and the other by hydrogen stored in a hydride system. The
company has maintained an FCV development program since 1990.
 

Nissan
 
Nissan Motor Company unveiled its first FCV this year. It is fueled by
methanol and based on the company's Altra electric vehicle, which is already
in commercial production. The fuel cells for this vehicle were purchased
from Ballard Power Systems. The FCV is also equipped with lithium ion
batteries.
 
Nissan is concentrating on developing the fuel supply system rather than on
fuel cell research. The company plans to produce a second prototype FCV next
year, but currently does not expect to be in commercial production until
2010.
 
Nissan and another Japanese automaker, Suzuki Motor Corporation, have
recently joined a five-year government fuel cell research project sponsored
by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).
The 18-member consortium includes five Japanese manufacturing companies and
11 universities, in addition to the automakers.
 
The budget for the project is $5.6 million. The project's objective is to
produce a vehicle powered by a direct methanol fuel cell. This technology is
generally considered to be at least 10 years away from commercialization.
 
The research is taking place at the Japan Automotive Research Institute in
Tsukuba. The first prototype, scheduled for 2003, will probably include a 20
to 30 kilowatt direct methanol fuel cell.
 

Mitsubishi
 
Late in 1998, Mitsubishi Motors announced that it would have a commercial
FCV on the market in 2005. Earlier this year, it moved the date up to 2003
and quadrupled the size of its FCV development team to 20 professionals. The
company is working closely with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi
Oil in this effort. The research is taking place at the company's passenger
car engineering center in Aichi Prefecture.
 
Mitsubishi is working to develop alternative liquid fuels for FCVs.
Synthetic oil and methanol are two leading possibilities. The first
prototype FCV is scheduled for testing beginning next year.
 
Meanwhile, another company affiliate, Mitsubishi Electric, has developed a
new microchip for use in the electronic control systems for hybrid electric
vehicles. The company expects sales to exceed $2.5 million in its first year
on the market.
 
Energy Futures Inc.
James Cannon, Publisher
POB 4367
Boulder, Colorado 80306
(303) 541-0185 (voice)
(303) 541-0186 (fax)
jscannon@msn.com
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