Japan's Ministry of the Environment will begin evaluating the new and improved second-generation variant of Toyota's fuel-cell hybrid -- the "TOYOTA FCHV-adv" -- under a 30-month leasing program that starts in September. Although this enhanced FCHV-adv model continues to be based on the previous-generation Highlander, it features a heavily revised powertrain that yields significant improvements in all critical operational areas.
Toyota engineers made numerous internal design tweaks to the firm's proprietary polymer-electrolyte fuel cell stack aimed at lowering its build cost, expanding its capabilities and extending its usable life. To complement that effort, they also modified various external elements of the package to reduce the marginal energy requirements of the vehicle's various ancillary devices, enhanced the efficiency of its regenerative braking system, and doubled the maximum storage pressure of the hydrogen in its on-board tank -- which itself was enlarged from 148 to 156 liters in capacity. The net effect of these comprehensive changes was to raise the FCHV-adv's overall operation efficiency by 25 percent, permit it to start and run in temperatures as low as -30C degrees (-22F), and to extend its maximum range from approximately 330 km (205 mi) to approximately 830 km (516 mi).
Toyota also plans to make this new FCHV-adv available to other government organization in Japan -- as well as to private companies with ties to the energy industry -- under similar lease programs. No word as to whether any of the new FCHV-advs will be undergoing additional evaluation here in the U.S.