Cars of Tomorrow: Electric Or Fuel Cell

Tesla and Electric Vehicles
It was Puchchu (Anand) who first introduced me to Tesla Motors and its founder Elon Musk. I never knew that it was Elon Musk who had bought the famous NUMMI plant producing GM and Toyota cars. I had visited the plant in 2008, when in US.

Anand had bought some shares of Tesla Motors, and he is one of those rare technocrat shareholders who keeps very close watch on the product and performance of the companies in which they invest.

Tesla S is the choicest vehicle for the auto enthusiasts and environmentalists too. The EV, unlike the internal combustion engine with hundreds of moving pieces, has only one moving piece: the rotor. Acceleration is instantaneous going to 60 miles per hour in 5.4 secs. Tesla S has been a great success.

Next models are X and E. Model X to come soon in production, will be more exhilarating.

Fast enough recharging of the vehicles is the technical hurdle for the users of the cars. Tesla Motors has already started establishing superchargers in large numbers to ease recharging in US and other countries that will have the prospective customers of Tesla Motors. These Superchargers provide half a charge in as little as 20 minutes.

As per the latest quarterly report in early August, ‘Tesla delivered 7,579 Model S vehicles in the last quarter, a bit above its forecast of 7,500. But Tesla has lowered its forecast for revenue and deliveries for the third quarter to 7,800 vehicles from 9,500, because it had to shut down its factory in Fremont, Calif., to install equipment in July. Tesla expects to ramp up production in the final three months of 2014 to reach its sales goal of 35,000.’

And further, ‘Tesla Motors and Panasonic signed an agreement to work together on building Tesla’s Gigafactory, which would be the world’s largest lithium-ion battery manufacturer when completed. The Gigafactory would also add about 6,500 jobs by 2020. The Gigafactory would cost as much as $5 billion to build. Panasonic is expected to initially invest 20 billion to 30 billion yen, or $194 to $291 million in Tesla Motors and invest the full $5 billion.Tesla X is already in plan of production. Earlier this month, chief executive Elon Musk confirmed the automaker’s next model, the Model 3. Priced at $35,000, the Model 3 is Tesla’s cheapest electric car and the company’s first attempt to cater to a wider range of customers.’

Tesla Motors aims to produce 1,00,000 cars a year by 2020.

Is EV going to be the ultimate in driving auto technology replacing the gasoline vehicles, as Élan Musk bets on?

I wanted to find out what other major car manufacturers think. Interestingly, I came across an equally prospective technology of fuel cell.

Toyota and Fuel Cell Mirai

Toyota Motors, the maker of the most popular Prius hybrid bets on fuel-cell cars over pure-electric vehicles, pushed by Tesla Motors Inc. and other like GM and Nissan. Toyota plans a hydrogen fuel cell car with sticker price of about 7 million yen ($69,000) for its first model based on the technology, Mirai which go on sale in Japan before April 2015.

Toyota has also been working hard to convince governments to offer massive purchase incentives to anyone willing to buy one. So far in its home market of Japan, Toyota has managed to convince the Japanese government to offer a massive ¥2 million ($20,000) to each and every customer who buys a Mirai, with certain prefectures pledging to add another ¥1 million of incentives on top of that. As reported, the Japanese government may be going one step further by underwriting the entire cost of early adopters’ cars. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is prepared to do whatever it takes to help Japan lead what he believes will be a hydrogen revolution.

Quoting Japan’s Nihon Keizai newspaper, Automotive News says a governmental panel is currently considering pushing that further, doing whatever it takes to help make hydrogen fuel cell cars a success. Among them, the Nihon Keizai claims, are free fuel for hydrogen fuel cell cars, exemptions from highway tolls and most noticeably, free cars.

The primary advantage hydrogen-powered vehicles have over EVs is that they are able to refuel in about the same time as a conventional gasoline-burning vehicle. However, there are currently only 12 station in the U.S., of which 10 are in California.

As reported, Toyota and Honda are gearing up to launch new hydrogen-powered vehicles in California and Hyundai began delivering its hydrogen-powered Tucson last month.

Toyota Mirai, named after the Japanese word for “future”, has so far only been known as the Toyota FCV (or “Fuel-Cell Vehicle”).Toyota is claiming around 300 miles of driving on a single tank of hydrogen. Toyota sees fuel-cell technology could be the next big technology to disrupt the classic combustion engine that propels most cars today.

But why is Toyota making such an aggressive move toward this technology and away from battery-electric cars? Simply put, Toyota thinks that current battery technology isn’t good enough, and there are no promising breakthroughs on the horizon.

Toyota’s research team has moved aggressively toward cars with fuel cells — so aggressively, that it has delayed the next-generation Prius in order to focus on the Mirai’s development.

So when Tesla Motors is betting on a pure battery car, giant Toyota has chosen another path, despite the success (so far) of upstart Tesla Motors.

One will have to wait to know who’s right?

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