Major Fuel Cell Supporters (Honda, Toyota, Hyundai) Turning To Plug-Ins Instead


Hyundai IONIQ Plug-in

Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in

Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai are all turning to plug-in EVs despite having become known as the world’s biggest advocates for fuel cell technology as the future of the automobile.

While the talk of fuel cell technology being the “new” and future method of green propulsion still continues, there has been little progress due to the extreme costs behind its development, and a need for a reliable/deep fueling infrastructure…coupled with sparse public interest.

Honda Clarity

Honda Clarity

The three companies together say they will fast forward their PHEV intentions as a means to catch up with U.S. and German automakers that are already well underway with plug-in technology. Basically, the risk in ignoring EVs as a primary alternative fuel solution for today, is now too large to ignore.

Edmunds reported that U.S. PHEV sales climbed 40 percent in the first quarter of 2016.

CEO of Hyundai Motor America, Dave Zuchowski explained his companies about-face:

“PHEVs not only help automakers fulfill their regulatory obligations but also can be cheaper to buy and own than basic hybrids, once the more generous government incentives are factored in.”

In addition to the Hyundai Ioniq lineup, which already includes electric, hybrid, and PHEV options, the company is looking at other current models to expand to PHEVs. Currently, the Sonata is Hyundai’s only other hybrid with a PHEV option. Future plans will be for every hybrid offered to also have a “plug-in derivative”, according to Zuchowksi.

Toyota should have the ability to be first out of the gate with the new intentions for adding onto existing technology, as the company already produces four standard hybrids, all of which can easily be transitioned to plug-ins. In addition, Toyota has already publicized that its Prius line will be adding the Prime PHEV later this year – and it is expected to compete as a US and worldwide plug-in best-seller.

Jim Lentz, Toyota Motor North America CEO, said:

“The next iteration of extending mileage is probably going to be plug-ins, because that takes the least amount of R&D.”

“Every time you improve the battery or you improve the [internal combustion engine], then you improve the overall range and mileage of a PHEV. So to me that’s the next big move in volume.”

Honda announced that by 2030, two-thirds of all the company’s vehicles will be electrified. Honda’s upcoming Clarity model line will also include an all-electric and PHEV model next year to keep fuel cell costs down. Beyond this, the goal is to add PHEV model options to its core vehicles. Executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., John Mendel committed:

“Globally we’re committed to offering a plug-in variant on our major core models in the future.”

Source: Autonews, hat tip to sven!

Categories: Honda, Hyundai, Toyota

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65 Comments on "Major Fuel Cell Supporters (Honda, Toyota, Hyundai) Turning To Plug-Ins Instead"

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I wonder if Toyota is still toeing the old “nobody asked us to make an EV” line?

In front of a deaf Toyota, 400000 decided to ask an ev to another company.

Even though I knew it would do no good, I told the dealer that sold me 5 Toyotas I wouldn’t be back until they offered a full BEV. Ithen got into my Leaf and drove away. ?

I guess that is what happens when practically nobody buys your fool cell products.

Contingency plan for when government funding for fool cells runs out.

It’s so strange, watching corporations slowly waking up, finally reacting to hard realities: lack of hydrogen infrastructure, lack of consumer interest, fugly car designs, high inefficiencies, average performance, problematic high pressure pumping stations, high consumer fuel costs, high fueling station costs, etc.

It’s like watching molasses drip, in slow-mo.

I’m not so sure Toyota is as dumb as we often call them. What if they just don’t think the EV battery tech is ready. Fuel cells, with the heavy Japanese and US incentives, also give them SEVEN CARB credits per vehicle, whereas the best EV only gets three per vehicle.

So this allows them to sell and support very few vehicles, which when combined with their anemic plug ins, meets their CARB requirements. THEN, when batteries do get less expensive, they just drop them in the fuel cell vehicles for long range EVs (a FCV is basically an EV already), and in the plug ins for longer range.

I mean, it’s not like Toyota isn’t doing EVs right now, just that they haven’t plopped in the large(r) batteries. But they’re still learning and improving electric drive systems, battery architectures, high voltage systems, etc.

I think we’re too quick to write off their FCV work as foolish, whereas they may really just be kicking the can down the road, but ready to jump in when they feel the time is better financially.

Per “Fuel cells, with the heavy Japanese and US incentives, also give them SEVEN CARB credits per vehicle, whereas the best EV only gets three per vehicle.”

What about this math:
7 credits X 100 FC Vehicles = 700 credits
3 credits X 1,000 Battery Electric Vehicles = 3,000 credits!

Which is better for their bottom line?

I blame CARB for perpetuating the Hydrogen Myth for mainstream transport, due to lopsidedly promoting it over more mature BEV technology. The Asian automakers just want compliance credits, while they continue making ICE vehicles.

I suspect politics and money were involved in this move by California, because promoting something that only major corporations in the hydrocarbon industry (Exxon, Shell, Chevron, BP, etc.) will benefit from selling at top dollar per kilogram– makes no sense otherwise.

I agree with you that CARB is to blame for this fuel cell folly, but I believe CARB’s motivation is for zero tailpipe emissions and to drive technology that can acchieve this goal.
However by favoring FCV by more than 2:1 credits over BEVs, that the decision resulted in less overall emission reductions as automakers were able to obtain more ZEV credits which allowed them to sell polluting ICE vehicles.

Don’t forget the nuclear industry. The whole “hydrogen economy” idea came out of the national labs, especially Sandia and Livermore, back in the 1950s. That’s a large part of the reason PNGV (a Clinton program) morphed into FreedomCAR under Bush.

The Bush family are close personal friends with the Saudi Arabia rulers. The two Bush administrations were very much in bed with Big Oil. In fact, one of the reasons that Bush Jr. decided to invade Iraq is because it was a military threat to Saudi Arabia.

And Big Oil has been conducting a subtle propaganda campaign against nuclear power, because cheap electricity would cut into their market for selling heating oil (diesel #4) in the N.E. USA. In fact, the “green” movement was manipulated by Big Oil in its early days to focus on “No More Nukes”. I’m not saying that these days, most anti-nuclear activism is a direct result of Big Oil manipulation. But that’s how it started.

Perhaps some nuclear power advocates were promoting the “hydrogen highway”, but I rather doubt that had much impact on the two Bush administrations.

Hilarious & true…..Yes! Do the math is Rite On!!

They might have thoguht they’d be able to track CARB’s ZEV requirements with HFCV, but then three things happened:
1) Tesla
2) China’s PEV policies
3) Sub $40k long-range BEVs: Bolt and Model 3

Tesla showed what BEVs can be, and its market and coverage in CA has likely killed a large part of the potential HFCV market there.

To add to the CA HFCV credit problems the Bolt is coming soon. And then some time after that there will be the Model 3.

Meanwhile, China doesn’t care about HFCV and wants PEVs, with registration rules pushing the PHEV market.

HFCV is going to go back to the research project it should be.

In 2012, when CARB was bumping FCV credit to 9 for each car, and exempting FCV from the “traveling provision”, they honestly couldn’t even imagine the Model S. If any of them had even heard of it, I’m confident that it was quickly dismissed by the “real” manufacturers like GM and Toyota. You’ll note that California company gets ZERO credit for the Tesla Supercharger network, while California supports hydrogen infrastructure to the tune of $20 million per year for at least 5 years ($100 million total). Tesla did try to game the ZEV credits with 7 credits per car that went “300 miles” and could swap batteries. That was subsequently changed to 90% refueling in 15 minutes to be demonstrated by 25% of the fleet. Still, there are quite literally HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of EVs now in the world, with TENS OF THOUSANDS of charging locations (heck, there are over 11,000 CHAdeMO stations in the world). I personally think that the hydrogen “plants” that are in CARB are losing. Yes, they’ve gotten a lot from our state, with very little to show for it from the auto manufacturers. Unless the laws of physics drastically change in favor of hydrogen, CARB… Read more »
Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV) get 9 CARB-ZEV credits each, model years 2015-2017. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause! Comments made Jan-March 2012: Comment: Toyota supports the increase in the FCV credit value in 2015 model year as a way to achieve the appropriate credit balance between BEV and FCV with the extension of BEV travel to 2017 model year. (Toyota) Agency Response: ARB appreciates support for the increase in Type V ZEV credits in 2015 through 2017 model year. Comment: The staff is perhaps overly optimistic about the opportunity for a dramatic cost reduction in batteries over the course of this decade and into the next. (Toyota) Agency Response: Staff’s cost projections for automotive battery packs are based on the best available science and are well in line with many industry estimates. The cost projections for batteries – at about $200-250/kWh for full electric, $300-400/kWh for plug-in hybrid and $550-700/kWh for hybrid batteries in the 2025 timeframe – are based on expertise of Argonne National Laboratory’s (Argonne) state-of-the-art battery modeling efforts and have gone through an extensive peer-review by battery and automotive industry experts. The Argonne battery assessment is the most rigorous, transparent, and relevant study of the… Read more »

It’s actually stupid to play CARB Credit Grab Games, when you could back a superior, more mature, more efficient, more sustainable technology than Hydrogen Fuel Cells. And that would be BEVs.

The train has left the station. Toyota will be chasing it for a long time. But glad to hear even the rumor that they may have abandoned their perpetual lab project.

“I’m not so sure Toyota is as dumb as we often call them.”

You state the very reason why many think they’re dumb:

“What if they just don’t think the EV battery tech is ready.”

Because all the signs point to the direction that battery tech is good enough and improving fast. (Reminder, all new technologies start as unready products, remember the first portable telephones?)

But the real kicker is that they use that false premise to dump all their R&D money into a technology that is even more unready.

The hydrogen-powered phones vanished instantly and without a trace.

Oh, I understand why Toyota would make and try to sell a (very) limited number of FCEVs in California and perhaps other CARB compliance States. I also understand that in Japan, in a culture where “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down”, Toyota wants to make a show of going along with the government’s promotion of the “hydrogen highway,” despite the physical impossibility of that ever becoming practical. What I do not understand is why Toyota has been saying (or shouting) so loudly, so persistently, for so long, that FCEVs are the future of EVs, and that BEVs are not. It was inevitable that Toyota would wind up with egg on their faces over that. Toyota has no magic wand to wave that would let them ignore the Laws of Physics. Was this some sort of disinformation campaign, to make their competitors think they weren’t really working on developing a compelling BEV or PHEV? Or was it actually a case of corporate groupthink delusion among Toyota executives? That’s not impossible; consider the Edsel and New Coke. If the Mirai does not go down in history as rivaling the Edsel for being a car which nobody wanted which was heavily… Read more »

“Globally we’re committed to offering a plug-in variant on our major core models in the future.”


I agree with you, but 400,000+ preorders without having touched the car didn’t hurt either.

We have a winner.

Is this story an observation, or was there some public catharsis of the three?

The source Autonews article states that Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota “have made it clear that they see hydrogen, and not batteries, as the future of propulsion and green transportation.” But “it likely will be decades before hydrogen vehicles are common.” These three Asian automakers see PHEVs as an “interim step” or “stepping stone” to consumer adoption of HFCVs, and have adopted PHEVs as their “near-term green strategy.”

Publicly, Hyundai Motor America’s CEO has said the move to PHEVs is only temporary. He said plug-in hybrids “will be an intermediate step before hydrogen fuel cell vehicles take hold in the coming decades.”

Sure but who are going to ask for hydrogen cars when pure EVs will have 400 mile batteries and recharge 300 miles in 15 minutes for much less cost?

Yeah, that’s exactly the question I’d like to ask these people too. What is the inherent benefit of hydrogen that BEV’s won’t be able to offer?

And then you didn’t even touch on the subject of autonomous vehicles that recharge themselves inductively. You’ll never ever have to think about range/recharging anymore. How will FCEV’s do that with their expensive pumping stations and need for a physical connection to the car?

But what do you expect these people to do? Sorry, shareholders, we spent billions of your money on a dead horse?

Ahhh, hydrogen.
The fuel of the future…the future…the future…

…and always will be! 😉

I’m fine with them believing that as long as I get a choice to buy BEVs now. 20 years from now, gas stations will be as forgotten as Blockbusters, and fat chance getting young people then to accept the idea of driving to a station as the only means of reenergizing your car. What I don’t want is them lobbying to hijack the resources we need for BEVs now in order to pay for their plans for 2036, when it will obviously be too late to save us anyway.

Sven, these statements from the major car companies that have delved too heavily into H2 vehicles at this point just seem face-saving and Cover Our Assets.

I personally can’t get over how STUPID the people at these companies have been, unless they were counting on gov’t subsidized largess, such as we witness with the F-35, the fantasticly expensive ‘flying-pig’. Worthless, but everyone is making money on it.

It must have been the situation with H2. Never gonna fly, but everyone is getting gov’t grants forcing it to work until it doesn’t.

Put it this way, if that is NOT the case, these companies’ only ‘apparent’ stupidity is then real.

Nothing in this article indicates they are turning away from fuel cells, only from non-plugin hybrids.

Right nothing, in the article indicates that, since everything does.

The Emporoer’s new clothes = Fool Cells. It’s obvious by now that this Toyota led group was hoping you’d think they cared about the environment and the future of transportation. The are the last of the EV haters hoping to forestall the inevitable and protect their pathetic hybrids and the profits thereby generated. Toyata could have championed this journey to a cleaner, smarter future. I pity them for their choice.

What makes you think that Toyota is the leader, while Honda and Hyundai are doe-eyed followers. Honda and Hyundai are fierce competitors of Toyota, who wouldn’t think twice about throwing Toyota under the bus and becoming the top dog of Asia car manufacturers.

Because it’s all about how to stick the taxpayers with the cost of building the stations. To do that, the taxpayers must believe it’s worth the risk. Toyota’s establishment reputation is reassuring. It’s like the format wars for home video, where Sony would be the lead company for one side and typically JVC would be on the other and they’d both scramble around trying to get their competitors and the movie studios to commit to their format and make it look “inevitable” to the public. Toyota is trying to be Sony. Which failed with Beta, Super Audio CD and digital audio tape. The difference is that these manufacturers want the taxpayer to shoulder the costs because they’re already unhappy about having to obsolete their legacy product. Consumer software gets so cheap and unprofitable compared to cars that you WANT to make your legacy product obsolete.

Hyundai has a history of copying Toyota to an almost obsessive degree, including poaching some of their engineering talent. Compared to other Japanese and Korean automakers, Honda depends a lot more on the American market. The CARB credits are likely a big part of Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda’s internal calculations.

With hydrogen in particular, you also need to factor the involvement of the petroleum interests, and state and federal subsidies to building out the hydrogen station network. We don’t know what kind of lobbying and money changing hands is going on behind the scenes. The oil companies would likely be involved in hydrogen distribution, whereas EVs would lock them out.

I suspect all 3 companies have seen the writing on the wall for the last year. But since they have had no competing products ready, it was in their best interest to downplay their competitors products by touting fuel cells as the future. As soon as their products are ready, you won’t be hearing much about the fuel cells anymore.

I really don’t get the whole ‘Rube Goldberg’ thing to make electricity to run a motor, when you can just use a battery to run a motor. It’s far cheaper and just so much simpler than trying to handle 10,000 psi hydrogen.

scott franco (No M3 FAUX GRILL!)

Its simple. If you are looking for a way to include petroleum use, because, your entire business model is based on keeping oil interests happy, then fuel cells look like a good idea. Then, you follow this up with a bit of slight of hand by claiming that direct synthesis of hydrogen from electrolysis is is practical, when you know full well that if fuel cells really take off, it will be based on reforming natural gas, and thus tying back into petroleum interests.

Put another way, the fuel cell pushers are relying on public ignorance of science and finances to get things done.

Do you think there is any evidence that Big Oil is subsidizing the development and promotion of “fool cell” cars?

Seems to me that it would be in their interest to do so, and certainly they are promoting the “hydrogen highway”; Chevron and Shell Hydrogen are among the members of the California Fuel Cell Partnership.

Heaven knows Big Oil has the excess funds for that! And auto makers, with their narrow profit margin, could certainly use an infusion of cash. But altho it seems that Big Oil would benefit from funding auto makers to make and promote “fool cell” cars, I haven’t seen any evidence that this is actually happening.

Funny how Toyota felt “nobody wants electric cars”, until 400k reservations showed up shortly after Tesla showed off the Model 3.

The showstopper for FCVs is the high cost of the infrastructure in the face of much cheaper EV charging stations and 200 mile batteries.

Even if FCVs could meet cost parity with EVs today, the lack of infrastructure would make them unattractive. The small number of FCVs for the next decade at least make the investment in H2 stations uneconomic.

Without a multi billion dollar investment, there’s just no way out of that conundrum.


Exactly that. The absolute BEST plans coming from the largest hydrogen proponents only include California and a few CARB-ZEV states, with most of that hydrogen infrastructure paid for by the states and US federal government.

How does that compete with even the lowliest EV that I can actually buy today and drive in North Dakota (which I believe has exactly zero public recharging stations!)?

Should a multi BILLION dollar program (similar in cost and scope to the Apollo Moon project of Interstate Highway system) start TODAY, you might have hydrogen stations from coast to coast in 10-20 years. It’s not on the horizon… it’s not planned, nor budgeted for.

In that same 10-20 years, there will be “ubiquitous” DC fast charging at up to 500kW in every major metro area, as well NORTH DAKOTA. There will be dozens and dozens of EVs to chose from, from cars, SUV, trucks, and buses. They will all be price competitive in operation to ANY fuel source vehicle (that may be the single most important fact for adoption… it won’t be because they are zero emission).

are honda and toyota going to go chademo or CCS?

Both Honda and Toyota are founding members of the CHAdeMO Association. Both of their FCVs have CHAdeMO ports for Vehicle to Home/Grid.

I predict that:

1. Toyota will continue to build regular hybrids until Tesla’s giga factory is complete freeing up spare lithium battery capacity at Panasonic who currently supply Toyota with its metal hydride batteries for its HEV’s

2. Toyota will sell most of its PHEV’s in the EU where it has to meet an emissions target

3. Toyota will continue to build and develop FCEV’s. They may even bring a FCEV to the market in serious numbers but these vehicles will never out sell EV’s and serious deployment of FCEV’s will not occur until after 2020.

4. Tesla will continue to push the debate about sustainable transport into a space where it can dominate.

5. All manufacturers in the EU will have phev’s by 2021.

6. We will never run out of oil and we will not have a period greater than 18 months where it is more than $100 per barrel.

JC> Toyota will continue to build and develop FCEV’s. They may even bring a FCEV to the market in serious numbers…

Even if California completes 100 H2 stations, that will only be enough capacity to refuel a few thousand FCVs per day. Assume they all refuel once a week and that’s the maximum capacity of FCVs on the street.

So, “serious numbers” could never be more than low five digits unless someone made a multi-billion dollar investment in more FCV stations.

With 200 mile BEVs on the market, and dozens of PHEVs to choose from, how many people are going to purchase an FCV?

Panasonic and Toyota have a joint venture called Primearth EV Energy Co., which supplies Toyota with NIMH batteries for its Hybrids and Li-ion batteries for its PHEVs (Prius Prime). However, Toyota currently owns 80.5% of the joint venture with Panasonic owning the remaining 19.5%.

This is a sad story, I hoped that this technology would succeed so prices on full-cells would be cheap and I could buy a big Hydrogen tank and full-cells to use all the extra soler power in the summer I have on my roof and use it for winter, where my home battery in anyway is dead
I already have the electric car.


Please don’t stop. I want to see you break your backs on this evil nonsense. The world minus Toyota is an improved world.

Best news ever! ” sparse public demand” I hope fuel cells have a quick death.

+1 Roy_H

Sounds excellent news to me.
PHEV are the way to go, Fuel Cells belong in a museum or for use in outer space.

At last common-sense has prevailed! 🙂

I am a big fan of Hyundai, but I just don’t understand why they can not see where the car development is headed… towards the battery electric cars and not FCEVs.

I do understand that they have been preparing for FCEVs, but the demand has shown that BEVs are the future and they should simply stop investing in the “fool” cells, swallow their pride and go all-in in the EVs.

They should take an oppurtunity of having 3 of the largest battery producers in home Korea, so they don’t even have to build a gigafactory themselves.

Hopefully, Korean wake up, forget about the billions invested in FCEVs and go all in EV!

Just my 2 cents…

Hyundai’s probably thinking more about the Asian market, where more of the population does not live in single-family homes with a garage. The charging station network is a far greater issue in Korea and Japan.

As pointed out elsewhere, much of the push behind fuel cells for the US market is the CARB credits. In order to gain the same level of compliance, one fuel cell vehicle is worth more than double what the highest capacity EV is worth.

Every time I read an article about fuel cell cars on InsideEVs, I remember a snarky comment from a long-past article, which read something like this (paraphrasing):

~”Fuel cell cars are unlikely to sell, because… physics.”~

Yeah, exactly.

Well, it was only a matter of time until Toyota et al quit ignoring physics, and threw in the towel on “fuel cell” cars. Not a matter of if, but only when.

Despite what the (fortunately few) physics deniers persistently posting to InsideEVs keep saying.

SO all Toyota has to do is get back into Tesla’s good graces… buy some new supercharger compatible drivetrains and roll them into several cars. I dunno maybe a Rav4ev… oh wait… been there done that. SO… now lets see how fast they can get back into the game in a significant way. A 200 miler by 2017 for under 35K maybe? Honda Clarity EV ASAP? How about now guys?

When these hydrogen fuel cell projects started, the only viable EV that had come onto the market was the GM EV1. Fuel cell cars coming onto the market now face a far different competitive landscape.

As pointed out elsewhere, if not for the higher CARB credits, fuel cell vehicles have minimal market rationale, given how far EV technology and infrastructure have already advanced, and how far they are likely to go in the next few years.

Well, let’s not be so isolated in our views. There are other reasons in a WORLD market besides CARB.

Thankfully, CARB has held the fire for Zero Emission Vehicles for years, but other places around the world promote hydrogen, most notably the Japanese government (post Fukushima, March 2011).

Of course, key EU governments also promote hydrogen, Germany being a big one. But, with the recent quotes from German auto makers, it appears that they have realized that the day belongs to EVs.

It’s hard to say when Toyota will turn around. But, unless they plan to sell hybrids only (because, let’s face it, even the rosiest prediction for hydrogen isn’t that many cars) with gasoline / diesel powering everything, they are going to have an increasingly difficult time.

“Daimler may be hedging its bets with work on both electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars, but it sees a front runner emerging. In a chat with Euro am Sonntag, company chief Dieter Zetsche says he believes EVs are “more likely” to come out on top. Simply put, he believes the electric camp has more answers. EVs with long range and fast charging are “within reach,” while it’s still not clear how you’ll make hydrogen both cheap and widely available. That doesn’t mean that fuel cells are out — however, their future isn’t looking good.”