Let the fuel cell debate begin.
Right now, Toyota is the only major global automaker that seems to favor hydrogen fuel cells over battery electric vehicles. It's not that Toyota isn't interested in EVs - there's the new bZ4X - but it claims to see the long-term potential of hydrogen combustion. Hyundai has also been dabbling in this technology but it too has heavily pivoted towards BEVs. But there was another Asian automaker that was keen on hydrogen about a decade ago. Today, however, it's come to a different conclusion.
Speaking recently to Automotive News, Honda CEO Toshiro Mibe said the carmaker did its due diligence on hydrogen fuel cells in recent years but no longer sees it as a good solution to C02 emissions. "We have conducted research into every possibility that's out there," Mibe said. "As for hydrogen engines, we see some quite difficult technological challenges. So, about 10 years ago, we decided this would not become mainstream."
The now-discontinued Honda Clarity Fuel Cell was proof. In contrast, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda not long ago demonstrated the latest benefits of hydrogen propulsion in a race car. The company also very recently revealed an experimental GR Yaris whose 1.6-liter three-cylinder turbo engine was combined with a modified fuel supply and injection system tailored for hydrogen.
What's so good about hydrogen, aside from being emissions-free? It burns at a faster rate than gasoline, resulting in better response time. It also doesn't sound half bad, unlike BEVs which are nearly totally silent. There's also the Toyota Mirai, now in its second generation. However, Honda has no plans to abandon hydrogen entirely; it just doesn't plan to make it a central component of its future passenger vehicle lineup.
Last April, Mibe stated the following: "Honda today announced key targets for sales of electrified vehicles in North America, with a plan to make battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles to represent 100% of its vehicle sales by 2040, progressing from sales of 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2035." There's also Honda's highly successful aircraft division. Mibe is fully aware aircraft cannot utilize battery power alone but green-friendly propulsion like hydrogen can offer the solution.
"If we look at what will become mainstream, probably for smaller mobility it will be EVs, and fuel cells for larger mobility. That is the conclusion so far." It'll be fascinating to see whether or not Toyota will eventually come to the same conclusion.