New-energy vehicles: Toyota invests in hydrogen fuel cell joint venture with Beijing SinoHytec

Business & Technology

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are not attracting the same levels of buzz and boatloads of cash as electric vehicles, but in China, companies and the government are aggressively pushing ahead with new zero-emissions buses and cars using hydrogen technology.

A hydrogen fuel cell produced by Beijing SinoHytec.

This week, Toyota Motor Corporation and Beijing SinoHytec, a Chinese company that develops hydrogen fuel cell engines, announced a new joint venture to produce hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for the Chinese market.

Toyota has charged forward in developing hydrogen-fuel-powered vehicles, unlike the automakers Honda, GM, and Volkswagen.

  • Last summer, Toyota established United Fuel Cell System R&D (Beijing) with Beijing SinoHytec, FAW, Dongfeng Motor, Guangzhou Automobile Group, and Beijing Automotive Group to develop fuel cells for commercial vehicles. This week’s announcement is about a new, separate company.
  • As a sponsor of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, Toyota debuted a model of a hydrogen bus to be used for transporting athletes and spectators.

Hydrogen is a clean-energy fuel that can be produced from natural gas, nuclear power, or renewable energy sources. Its only byproduct is water. The fuel cells also promise to give a longer driving range than conventional electric vehicles (EVs).

Not everyone believes hydrogen is the car fuel of the future. Elon Musk has called hydrogen cars “mind-bogglingly stupid” and taunted the tech on social media: “fuel cells = fool sells,” he tweeted last year. Experts point out that hydrogen is expensive and difficult to manufacture and transport.

But China is encouraging adoption of the technology.

  • This week, Dongfeng Electric, the EV arm of state-owned auto giant Dongfeng Motor Corporation, launched a fleet of 40 new hydrogen-powered buses (in Chinese) to be used for the 2021 Summer World University Games in Chengdu.
  • On Tuesday in Dalian, the city’s transportation company launched a fleet of 10 new hydrogen commuter buses.
  • Yesterday, Great Wall Motor, China’s largest sports utility vehicle manufacturer, announced plans to launch a hydrogen SUV later this year.