Hydrogen, fuel cells help China go green

By Reuters - Global Times Source:Reuters-Global Times Published: 2019/4/24 20:08:40

Japan’s Toyota to share more technology by unlocking patents

Toyota's e-Palette concept electric vehicle is exhibited during the Shanghai Auto Show on April 16. Photo: Zhang Hongpei/GT

A view of Toyota fuel cell system in a Mirai model during the Shanghai Auto Show on April 16 Photo: Zhang Hongpei/GT


China will push ahead with the development of the hydrogen energy and fuel cell vehicle industry, a government official said on Tuesday, as part of wider efforts to promote green energy in the world's largest auto market.

"Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and pure electric vehicles with lithium batteries are important technical routes for new energy vehicles," said Huang Libin, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Pure electric vehicles are more suitable for urban and short-distance passenger travel, while hydrogen fuel cells are more suitable for long-distance rides and large commercial vehicles, Huang said.

"We believe that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and pure electric vehicles will coexist and complement each other for a long time to meet the needs of transportation," Huang said.

Senior industry executives and academics in China have urged the government to support hydrogen fuel cell technology due to its suitability for commercial vehicles.

Japan's Toyota Motor Corp plans to supply fuel cell components to China's commercial vehicle makers after launching a joint research institute with Tsinghua University on April 21 to study car technology using hydrogen power and other green technologies that could ease environmental problems in China.

The initiative, outlined by Toyota's President and Chief Executive Akio Toyoda in a speech at Tsinghua University, is part of the Japanese carmaker's efforts to share more technology with China as it seeks to expand its business in the country by beefing up manufacturing capacity and distribution channels, a source close to Toyota said.

The Tsinghua-Toyota Joint Research Institute will conduct research into cars and new technology to solve environmental problems in China, including reducing traffic accidents, Toyota said in a statement.

The institute will "cooperate in research not only related to cars for Chinese consumers, but also in research related to active utilization of hydrogen energy that can help solve China's energy problems," the company said.

The move dovetails with Toyota's announcement this month that it would offer carmakers and suppliers around the world free access to nearly 24,000 patents for electric vehicle technologies.

Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi said earlier this month that the automaker intended to become a tier-2 supplier of hybrid systems and that it had already received inquiries from more than 50 companies.

Toyota's move to unlock its patents underlines its belief that hybrids are an effective alternative to all-battery electric vehicles, given a fuel efficiency roughly double that of gasoline cars, lower costs and the lack of any need for charging infrastructure.

Toyota vehicles account for more than 80 percent of the global hybrid vehicle market.

"Toyota has realized that they made a mistake by protecting their hybrid technology for years. This prevented diffusion," said Janet Lewis, head of Asia transportation research at Macquarie Securities.

"Toyota on its own can't get key technology accepted, but if other companies use it, that offers the best chance of expansion," she added.

Since pioneering the Prius in 1997, Toyota has sold more than 13 million hybrids, which twin a conventional gasoline engine and electric motor, saving fuel by capturing energy during coasting and breaking and using it to power the motor.

Hybrid vehicles account for around 3 percent of all vehicles sold globally, eclipsing the roughly 1.5 percent share of all-battery EVs, according to LMC Automotive.

The Japanese auto manufacturer also said that it had started to supply fuel cell vehicle parts to Chinese commercial vehicle makers Foton and SinoHytec, without giving financial details.

The company said in a statement that it hopes to cooperate with more companies in China to promote fuel cell vehicle penetration in China.


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