TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. are among automakers aiming to sell new fuel cell vehicles as soon as 2015. But the vehicles may be unprofitable for a decade after that.
Honda's top engineer for the technology says his company expects the vehicles to be profitable by 2025.
Speaking at an automotive battery conference here, Takashi Moriya, Honda senior chief engineer, said that's when the prices of fuel cell vehicles will rival those of gasoline vehicles.
"It should come sometime by 2025," Moriya said of the break-even point for fuel cell vehicles. "To do that, we need to drastically bring down prices, and that requires early mass production."
Manufacturers need annual volume of at least 50,000 vehicles to reap savings from economies of scale, Moriya said. "That is the minimal level for cost reductions," he said.
Honda plans to sell a new fuel cell vehicle in 2015 in the United States and Japan. That car will follow the FCX Clarity, which Honda introduced in 2008 through limited lease sales.
Moriya's assessment comes despite automakers' bold projections for slashing the cost of fuel cell drivetrains in the coming years.
The fuel cell stack accounts for nearly half the cost of the fuel cell powertrain system. And materials, including precious metals such as platinum, account for a third of the stack's cost.
Automakers at the battery conference outlined several cost-cutting strategies. Among them:
- Honda is developing a smaller stack to cut material expenses.
- Nissan aims to use more common parts and a more compact lithium ion battery, and it plans to combine components to eliminate others such as the hydrogen recirculation system.
In January, Nissan agreed with Daimler AG and Ford Motor Co. to jointly develop a fuel cell vehicle for sale as early as 2017.
- Toyota, which plans to sell a hydrogen fuel cell sedan around 2015, wants to reduce the cost of that car to one-twentieth that of its FCHV-adv fuel cell vehicle.