Car Electronics 2012

The Year of The EV article tells that We can dub 2011 the year of the EV (electric vehicles) and gives a timeline what happened 2011. The end result is that today there are enough Volts on the road (along with competitors like Nissan’s Leaf, various hybrids, and an electric Ford Focus) that it might be safe to suggest that the electric car is here to stay.

There has been many different car charging connectors in use on electronic vehicles. Electric Car Charging Standards Split article tells that many car manufacturers have agreed on a single EV charging port connector standard that has been in development by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) for several years. European car companies have been divided on standards for both AC and DC charging. The new single connector will support fast DC charging as well as be backward compatible with the J1772 AC charger that is standard on many plug-in electric vehicles today. I think that use of that standard will rise in 2012, and common charging standard will speed up the EV deployment.


Automotive electronics: What’s hot in 2012 article tells that in automotive electronics, 2012 looks to be a year of consolidation as technologies introduced previously become more widespread across model lines. In particular, voice recognition, with different features and interfaces, is seen as a way of distinguishing one brand from another, while electrified power trains in the form of hybrids and pure electric drives will be available in more models. In keep costs down driven auto industry the more mature the technology that goes into a car, the less risk of failure and costly warranty claims.

Cars and smartphones start to communicate using MirrorLink technology to allow new features. MirrorLink™ has been developed with the objective to provide a technology, offering seamless (extremely simple from the consumer perspective) connectivity between a smart phone and the in-vehicle infotainment system. It uses IP technologies in order to be independent of the physical transport mechanism and supports many car connectivity solutions (Bluetooth, WLAN, USB etc.). Whereas MirrorLink™ does allow any legacy application on the mobile device to show-up on the car display, it specifically enables easy development of mobile device based automotive applications.

Ethernet for Vehicles is gaining momentum in in the car. Ethernet for Vehicles Advances article tells that Ethernet technology in the car (a concept that was once unthinkable for the automotive industry) has been gaining momentum lately. Special interest group, known as the OPEN (One-Pair-Ether-Net) SIG, is aimed at driving broad-scale adoption of Ethernet in vehicles, largely to serve the expected boom of camera-based applications in cars. Many vehicles now have backup cameras, and many others are going to add cameras for such applications as lanekeeping, adaptive cruise control, and collision avoidance.

There is going to be an increasing number of Driver Information applications that involve displaying complex images and graphics. Xilinx Paves the Way for a New Generation of Automotive Driver Assistance and Infotainment Systems at CES 2012. World’s first Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) based Ethernet Audio/Video Bridging (EAVB) network implementation optimized for carrying high-speed data traffic within the automobile was shown at CES 2012. The IEEE 802.1 EAVB standard is already gaining the attention of a number of leading automotive manufacturers even though the specifications are still being finalized. OMG! Amazing home displays and automotive Ethernet AVB stuff from Xilinx article gives some more details what is expected in near future.


New electronics features are making challenges for developers. Automotive Electronics: Do We Really Need All This Stuff? article tells that everyone in the auto industry knows that the number of electronic control units (ECUs) in vehicles is nearing the point of unmanageability. Low-end vehicles now incorporate between 35 and 40 ECUs, while luxury cars may have 80 or more. “We’re right up against the limit right now. We need to find unique ways to integrate features and functions, and give our customers what they want without overloading our controllers.” The number of automotive features and functions keeps rising.

Would Cellphone Ban Secure Car Safety? article tells that the proliferation of in-car entertainment technologies (internet routers, smartphone links, MP3 connections, capacitive touch screens, etc.) are great for selling cars. Auto executives understand what consumers want: Many people don’t want a car with no extra features. Those new extra features have also sparked a serious debate about driver distraction dangers. “According to NHTSA [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration], more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents.” “You’re dealing with human nature here. People want what they want. And sometimes they want more than they should have.”


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Texting Drivers Take Eyes Off Road 5 Seconds On Average: Study

    More than 5,000 people die each year as a result of being distracted while driving, and a new study indicates that teens and cell phones make for the most volatile combination.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that of all drivers under age 20 involved in fatal crashes, 16 percent were distracted — the highest proportion of any age group.

    Among the various distractions, ranging from talking with passengers to adjusting the radio, texting while driving was particularly perilous.

    Shockingly, texting drivers took their eyes off the road for each text an average of 4.6 seconds — which at 55 mph, means they were driving the length of a football field without looking

    A Harris poll last year found that 59 percent of adult drivers admitted to talking on a handheld cellphone while behind the wheel, and 37 percent said they engaged in texting.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Penalty for driving while texting in Long Island—a disabled cell phone
    New York prosecutor says driving while texting is as dangerous as drunk driving.

    Motorists popped for texting-while-driving violations in Long Island could be mandated to temporarily disable their mobile phones the next time they take to the road.

    That’s according to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who says she is moving to mandate that either hardware be installed or apps be activated that disable the mobile phone while behind the wheel. The district attorney likened the texter’s punishment to drunk drivers who sometimes are required to breathe into a device before turning on the ignition.

    “Research suggests that driving while texting can be as dangerous as driving while drunk, and even more pervasive, especially among young people,” Rice said. “It’s well established that the practice robs people of their lives and futures. Tackling this problem will require a concerted effort by numerous sectors of commerce and government.”

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction

    While legislators and police try to tackle the epidemic of distracted driving through education, regulation, and enforcement, Scott Tibbitts is trying to solve it through engineering. He developed a small device which, when plugged into a vehicle, would determine which phone belonged to the driver and shut off its texting and voice call capabilities.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction

    The problem is that Tibbitts can’t get anyone interested in setting up a system to make these devices ubiquitous. Consumers can’t be sold on such a product: all evidence suggests people are increasingly unwilling to be cut off from constant communication. So, he tried working with carriers.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Tesla Model S Battery Teardown

    Tesla Motors club user [wk057], a Tesla model S owner himself, wants to build an awesome solar storage system. He’s purchased a battery pack from a salvaged Tesla Model S, and is tearing it down. Thankfully he’s posting pictures for everyone to follow along at home.

    Tesla battery pack packs a punch. It’s rated capacity is 85kWh at 400VDC.

    [wk057] found each cell connected by a thin wire to the module buses. These wires act as cell level fuses, contributing to the overall safety of the pack.

    water cooling loops

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Your 3D-printed car will be ready to drive in 44 hours

    You knew the printed car was going to happen, but as soon as this weekend? That’s when the first printed car arrives. It will be built up from carbon-reinforced plastics, then driven out of Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center and onto the streets of the Windy City. The vehicle will be printed over 44 hours. Technicians will add in the unprintable — electric motor, battery, wiring, window glass — and the car, called Strati, should be out the door Saturday.

    Rather the print dozens of smaller sub-assemblies and screwing, gluing or bolting them together, the concept car has a main body structure built up as a single module using something called the BAAM Machine. BAAM stands for big area additive manufacturing, with a deposition rate of 40 pounds per hour.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Trying to Hit the Brake on Texting While Driving

    People know they shouldn’t text and drive. Overwhelmingly, they tell pollsters that doing so is unacceptable and dangerous, and yet they do it anyway. They can’t resist. So safety advocates and public officials have called for a technological solution that does an end run around free will and prevents people from texting in the first place.

    A Changing Business Model

    Cellphone carriers like Sprint have become strong opponents of distracted driving. That was not always so. When cellphones first became mass-market products, drivers were the target market. Carriers sold talk-time by the minute, so the more people talked, the more money carriers made. And people spend a lot of time in cars.

    But business models have changed. Carriers now sell unlimited use, making it much less important to their bottom line that people talk or text behind the wheel.

    “It did become less of a business interest for carriers to push the freedom of use wherever an individual might be,” said Ray Rothermel, internal counsel for Sprint, who works on government affairs.

    Moreover, carriers can now receive fees from insurance companies for carrying the wireless connections on their networks — up to $5 a month a car. That money can add up.

    Back in February, Mr. Rothermel described the partnership with Katasi as “a good-sized weapon in the war against distracted driving.”

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:
    California authorities have found out that service offered by Uber, Lyft and Side Car is illega:. All three ride service will soon have launched a new function that allows the customer to allow another passenger to jump at the same picked up along the way. The ride to the end of the travel costs are divided between the two traveling together.

    According to the authorities the problem is just the distribution of costs, because the state of California law prohibits the levying different rates of fares from passengers, the ride is more of a human being.


  9. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Local Motors’ 3D Printed ‘Strati’ Car Has Just Taken Its First Test Drive

    When it comes to 3D printing, new breakthroughs and new achievements are being realized almost on a daily basis. From 3D printable human tissue, to a 3D printed life-size castle, and now a 3D printed automobile, the technology never seizes to amaze.

    This week, at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago, Arizona-based automobile manufacturer Local Motors stole the show. Over the six day span of the IMTS, the company managed to 3D print, and assemble an entire automobile, called the ‘Strati’, live in front of spectators.

    Although the Strati is not the first ever car to be 3D printed, the advancements made by Local Motor with help from Cincinnati Inc, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have produced a vehicle in days rather than months.

    This breakthrough was made possible by a machine produced by Cincinnati Inc., in cooperation with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine is capable of printing at speeds unheard of on traditional 3D printers. It is unbelievably able to lay down up to 40 pounds of carbon infused ABS plastic per hour, with precise accuracy.

    This is certainly a big step for all companies involved, as well as the 3D printing industry in general.

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:
    New ‘Runaway Toyota’ Case Tests DOJ’s Integrity

    Just as the memory of Toyota’s unintended acceleration cases began to fade, at least in the minds of the media and a few million thus far unaffected Toyota owners, in comes Robert Ruginis to dredge it all up again.

    Ruginis, a Bristol, Rhode Island-based embedded systems engineer, filed a petition letter on Thursday, September 11, to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about multiple low-speed surge events involving his wife’s 2010 Toyota Corolla. The Ruginis case poses for Toyota the danger that the public and government regulators will remember that the Japanese automotive giant has never really addressed the root cause of unintended acceleration in its vehicles.

    To recap, Toyota was fined $1.2 billion earlier this year, as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice. Toyota recalled 8.1 million cars, but says no cause was ever found except floor mats that can trap acceleration pedals and drivers who hit the accelerator when they thought they were pushing the brake.

    The experience Ruginis and his wife have had with their Corolla — bought new in May 2010 — tells a very different story.

    Having already complained twice, Robert and Kathleen Ruginis realized this crash was not an isolated incident.

    First is Ruginis’s background. Now an independent consultant focused on consumer electronics, he spent 35 years working on embedded systems.

    Second, noted Kane, Kathleen Ruginis’s statements have been very clear and consistent. They are verified by a passenger in the car at the time of the crash.

    Finally, a readout of the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder (EDR) “is consistent to a ‘T’ to Kathleen’s statements,” according to Kane.

    Kane sees “enough smoking gun” here to make this case “a real standout.”

    It’s important to note, however, that EDR data isn’t conclusive proof, as Kane explains. The EDR used in cars is not the same quality of so-called black boxes used in aviation.

    How different parties — NHTSA, Toyota and Ruginis — interpreted the EDR readouts (although Toyota initially simply ignored the data) has become the bone of contention, prompting Ruginis to file the petition to NHTSA and write to the independent monitor.

    In a nutshell, Toyota is falling back on a familiar alibi: driver error.

    Kane noted the paradox that Toyota, which at first overlooked the EDR readout, later interpreted the EDR data to blame the crash on the driver’s depressing the brake pedal too late to avoid the accident. “You can’t cherry pick the data like that,” Kane said, “using it when it is convenient to them, and ignoring it when it was inconvenient.”

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Car 3D printed, driven at International Manufacturing Technology Show

    A nearly-completely 3D printed car has had its first drive at the weekend after being created on site at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.

    The car was designed by Local Motors and printed using a Big Area Additive Manufacturing Machine (BAAM), made by Cincinnati Inc. in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    “You could think of it like Ikea, mashed up with Build-A-Bear, mashed up with Formula One,” Jay Rogers from Local Motors told WGNTV of Chicago.

    The material used was ABS plastic reinforced with carbon fibre, and the Strati (Italian for “layers”) electric vehicle weighed 680 km, can reach a top speed of 65 km per hour and possesses a range of 190 km for a single charge.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:
    It seems that number of surround channels is increasing all the time…

    8-out Surround-Sound Codec TDM

    The CS42435 is 108 dB, 192 kHz and 4-in, 8-out TDM codec integrated circuit featuring four 24-bit ADC and eight 24-bit DAC. It has an ADC dynamic range, as well as DAC with compatible industry standard TDM serial interface. It offers programmable ADC high-pass filter for DC offset calibration.

    Introduced to specifically meet the needs of automotive audio platforms, the CS42435 audio codec incorporates features such as a flexible power supply, level translators and digital integration.

    This IC simplifies the designers’ job, allowing them to deliver advanced multichannel surround-sound performance for entry- and mid-level audio products, all in a single 52-pin LQFP package.

    In an automotive entertainment system, the audio input sources could include in-car navigation systems, mobile phones, CD/DVD players as well as the radio tuner.

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Who needs CarPlay? Ford brings Siri to the car dashboard now with the help of Automatic Labs

    Ford and Automatic have figured out a way of shoehorning Apple’s Siri personal assistant into older model vehicles. The two are also connecting Ford cars to the internet of things through a project with IFTTT.

    Vehicles equipped with Apple’s CarPlay are still a year away from hitting the streets, but Ford and Automatic Labs have a workaround for you if you’re anxious to get Siri into your current car’s dashboard. Ford is working with Automatic to bring Siri, IFTTT and other features not currently supported in its Sync AppLink system to Lincoln and Ford automobiles going back to model year 2011.

    In case you’re not familiar with Automatic, the startup produces a small device called Link that plugs into the on-board diagnostic port of your car, giving it direct access to the car’s control access network. That allows Automatic to draw all kinds of data from the car’s instruments and sensors. For instance, Link records speed, braking, driving routes, fuel levels and engine problem reports and sends it all to its smartphone app using a Bluetooth connection.

    That automotive interface also gives Automatic access to many dashboard controls, including the push-to-talk voice command button installed in Sync-equipped vehicles.

    That may sound like a simple thing, but in the world of automotive – where development cycles stretch out years – getting even the simplest technology into a car requires a lot of work. GM, for instance, is still ironing out the kinks in its connected infotainment system after years of development. Working with Automatic not only lets Ford bring a technology to its cars sooner, it allows the automaker to make that technology backward compatible with its older cars.

    Linking Ford to the internet of things

    The second integration Automatic and Ford announced on Tuesday was support for If This Then That (IFTTT), which links together disparate web services, apps and connected devices through a library of cloud-based recipes.

    Automatic has been connected to IFTTT’s network since February, adding vehicles to its list of triggers. For instance, IFTTT could unlock that smart lock or turn on a Nest thermostat when you pull into the driveway. You could create a recipe that logs all of your trips to a Google Doc or emails your mechanic car diagnostic data whenever your check engine light comes on.

    The additional integration with Ford, though, lets drivers trigger actions directly from their steering wheels by pressing Sync’s push-to-talk button. If you tell the Automatic Link to share your location with friends, it will trigger an IFTTT recipe that posts a map on Facebook.

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Consumers Expect Full In-Car Connectivity

    Drivers worldwide increasingly expect their cars to be “the next connected space,” a seamless extension to their already connected homes and offices, according to a global consumer study conducted by GfK, a market research firm based in Germany.

    At a time when practically all automotive manufacturers are in a fierce race for new auto “infotainment” systems, it is critical to know drivers’ perceptions of the user experience, and to measure their desire for new features in car infotainment systems.

    When asked to assess their current cars’ infotainment systems, drivers in the United States appeared most satisfied.

    The survey also probed consumers’ interest in new features of infotainment systems. Globally speaking, drivers were most interested in infotainment that works on many formats (e.g., iOS, Android, Windows 8). Ease of access (such as voice support) came in second. Color head-up display systems were next.

    Drivers’ interest in having a tablet PC “as a full replacement of built-in infotainment” came in the fourth. Less popular, globally speaking, were gesture control and video conferencing.

    While in the United States the top three feature requirements were similar to those in other countries, two features stood out as more desirable in the US compared to Germany and Japan: the ability to videoconference in-car and waterproof/spill-proof interior vehicle electronics.

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Old navigator dies out

    Navigation Facilities that use increased last year to 180 million. At the same time the old personal navigators were sold only 22 million copies. Traditional navigator disappears slowly from the market.

    Navigator, the death was the inevitable fate of practice since the smart phones began to use the spatial search and navigation. Loss occurs, however, quite slowly, as navigators were sold in 2012 to 28 million.

    The truth is that Garmin and TomTom such as manufacturers need to apply for either a new product areas or new kinds of objects in the Navigator. These devices sales will grow only in some individual markets.

    Berg Insight research institute now estimates that in 2019 navigators no longer sold 10 million.

    At the same time, more and more cars are equipped with fixed navigators.
    The smartphone screens size is increased.


  16. Tomi Engdahl says:
    After Uber, San Francisco Has Seen a 65-Percent Decline in Cab Use
    It might not be completely the fault of competition, but the city’s taxi drivers are making far fewer trips than they were just a few years ago.

    “How the Taxi Industry Is Doing Now That Uber Is a Thing.”

    The news was … not good, for San Francisco’s taxi industry, anyway. The precipitous rise of services like Uber (and its fellow shared-ride services, like Lyft and Sidecar) has meant—markets being what they are—a precipitous decline in taxi rides taken across the city. The SFMTA’s interim director Kate Toran reported to her board that the average trips per taxicab in the city had declined from 1,424 a month in March 2012 to only 504 as of July 2014.

  17. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Reducing traffic congestion with wireless system

    System that would wirelessly route drivers around congested roadways wins best-paper award.

    At the Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress last week, MIT researchers received one of the best-paper awards for a new system, dubbed RoadRunner, that uses GPS-style turn-by-turn directions to route drivers around congested roadways.

    In simulations using data supplied by Singapore’s Land Transit Authority, the researchers compared their system to one currently in use in Singapore, which charges drivers with dashboard-mounted transponders a toll for entering congested areas.

    The Singapore system gauges drivers’ locations with radio transmitters mounted on dozens of gantries scattered around the city, like the gantries used in many U.S. wireless toll systems. RoadRunner, by contrast, uses only handheld devices clipped to cars’ dashboards. Nonetheless, in the simulations, it yielded an 8 percent increase in average car speed during periods of peak congestion.

    “With our system, you can draw a polygon on the map and say, ‘I want this entire region to be controlled,’”

    “You could do one thing for a month and test it out and then change it without having to dig up roads or rebuild gantries.”

    Urban toll systems like the one in Singapore designate certain regions — with gantries at every entry point — as prone to congestion. Drivers are charged a fee for entering any such region, so they have an incentive to avoid it. The fee fluctuates over the course of the day, according to historical traffic data.

    RoadRunner, by contrast, assigns each such region a maximum number of cars. Any car entering the region must acquire a virtual authorization that Gao and Peh call a “token.” If no tokens are free, RoadRunner routes the car around the region using turn-by-turn voice prompts.

    The version of RoadRunner used in the Cambridge tests was largely decentralized: A car leaving a region would wirelessly announce that its token was available, and a car seeking to enter the region would request it. The system used a wireless standard called 802.11p, a variation on Wi-Fi that uses a narrower slice of the electromagnetic spectrum but is licensed for higher-power transmissions, so that it has a much larger broadcast range.

    It could be that the time savings promised by RoadRunner would be enough to induce commuters to use it. But it would also be possible to modify the system so that any car entering a congestion-prone region without a token would be assessed a small fine.

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Mercedes Is Latest To Receive California’s Autonomous Car License

    Earlier this week we saw Audi become the first automaker to receive the new license from the state of California to allow testing of autonomous car prototypes on public roads, and now fellow German automaker Mercedes-Benz has announced that it’s also received the license. California has allowed limited use of its roads for autonomous car testing in the past, and in 2012 it finally passed a bill that set out laws to allow the self-driving cars on its roads.

    The laws call for proof of insurance or surety bonds for manufacturers testing automated driving research cars, and licenses for company-designated operators of those vehicles. The laws also call for surety bond coverage of at least $5 million for each vehicle being used for testing.

    Moreover, Mercedes aims to ensure its autonomous car prototypes are safe to be used in normal traffic. The test vehicles are specially equipped to this end: the driver must recognize clearly when the car is in autonomous driving mode and must be able to override this mode at any time; in addition, the car must be capable of stopping autonomously at any time.

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Communication between the machines is known as M2M (machine-to-machine). The machine communications the next step in between the cars V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle). It is planned yet mandatory in the United States in this decade. As expected, the project has met with opposition.

    United States Department of Transportation asked the public comments on a new project. Based on the feedback V2V idea is taken as the GPS tolls in Finland: almost no one does not want more Big Brother is watching techniques.

    Highway safety in the United States responsible for the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) announced recently, however, research V2V safety benefits. The figures are impressive.

    V2V requires a tremendous amount of work. For example, security technology will contribute to a new level. The vehicle system must be watertight to say that the future V2V message is correct and valid.


  20. Tomi Engdahl says:
    DC distribution in your house and 42-V cars

    48V is a nice arc-welding voltage. Once you start an arc it just burns and burns.

    Lesson 3: There has been this MIT professor that has been pushing a 42-V system in cars for over two decades. At first it was supposed to save cost because you make the wires thinner. But we used 18ga wire in cars even for milliamp signals since 18ga wires did not break when dragged through a hole in the body during assembly. So then the rational was because 42-V systems could run electrically-operated intake and exhaust valves in the engine. Well we still don’t have electrical valves, although I think they use them in Formula 1 racing. And it turns out you can operate them with 12V if you have to.

    The real reason 42-V cars are not here gets back to that arcing in relays and switches. With 42-V cars, every single load has to be switched with transistors, you just can’t use relays or contacts. That might still pay out, many loads these days are handled with FETs anyway. But the deal is, you can use 30V FETs with a 12V car, but you need 200V FETs to handle 36V cars. (The charging voltage is 42, the system just uses three 12-V batteries, so the uncharged voltage is 36.) But the die size of FETs goes up as the square of the voltage. So tripling the voltage makes the FET die nine times bigger and you don’t get any real cost savings with 42-V cars, if you still need 18ga wires and can’t use relays or switches. And worse yet, all the loads you control with FETs have to be 9 times the cost. Sorry, engineering is science crossed with economics, and college professors never appreciate that cost is king to an engineer.

  21. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Taking a Spin in Toyota’s First Commercial Fuel-Cell Car

    Tesla’s outspoken CEO Elon Musk takes digs at fuel-cell cars every chance he gets, referring to them as “fool cells,” when he’s not proclaiming them “bullshit.”

    He’s betting big that lithium-ion batteries will become the dominant power source for automobiles, forging ahead with the $5 billion Gigafactory in Nevada that could eventually crank out enough batteries to produce a half billion electric vehicles per year.

    But Toyota is accelerating in the other direction as it prepares to launch its first hydrogen-powered vehicle for the commercial market.

    The company unveiled the sedan at CES in January, then announced in June it would reach the Japanese market next spring and arrive at dealerships in Europe and the United States that summer.

    The company brought the car to San Francisco this week to provide reporters a glimpse

    The Japanese retail price is set around $70,000. But Toyota spokeswoman Jana Hartline said the U.S. price will likely come in below that, somewhere between the Prius and a Tesla (which start around $27,000 and $71,000, respectively).

    But what was notable about the experience is that there was nothing notable about the experience. Driving the car felt like driving a car. It didn’t feel underpowered, at least in that quick urban-driving scenario.

    For Toyota, unlike Telsa, the power source is not an either-or scenario. The company believes different options will fit different needs: It already builds hybrids and electric vehicles, so fuel cells will round out its lineup of options.

    In the most basic terms, fuel cells generate electricity through an electrochemical reaction using hydrogen and oxygen.

    The company says the technology offers several advantages over plug-in electric vehicles. Unlike batteries, fuel cells can pack enough energy density into a relatively small package to power vehicle sizes all the way up to buses, said Jared Farnsworth, a senior Toyota engineer on hand for the demos.

    They also don’t need to be plugged in overnight. They can be refueled in three to five minutes at a station, much like filling up a tank of gas, offering a greener option for apartment dwellers who can’t install a charging connector in their garage.

    A few fuel cell cars have already hit the roads in limited numbers, including the Honda FCX Clarity and the Hyundai Tucson. But Toyota says the FCV will be the first full-scale commercial rollout of a fuel-cell car.

    Musk’s knock on the technology is that it doesn’t offer the same energy density as today’s lithium-ion battery pack.

    “The current technology of lithium-ion is superior to what the theoretical best possible outcome is for fuel cells,” he said at the World Energy Innovation Forum in May. “And lithium-ion systems are getting a lot better.”

    “Game over,” he added. “Why are you doing fuel cells?”

    Toyota argues that’s incorrect. But either way, that’s probably not going to be its biggest challenge rolling out fuel-cell vehicles into the market.

    And that presents a classic chicken-and-egg problem: Few customers will buy fuel-cell cars if they can’t easily find hydrogen stations, and few businesses will build hydrogen stations until there’s a bunch of customers driving around in fuel-cell cars.


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