News that Japanese car giant Toyota has been forced to recall its entire fleet of Mirai cars risks undermining the popularity of fuel cell vehicles (FCV), representing a bitter blow to the many companies across the world that invested millions of dollars to develop the technology that power them.
Toyota blamed the global recall of the Mirai, which it previously dubbed as the “ultimate eco-car” of the future, on software issues that forced drivers to stop in the middle of roads. Issues of the fuel cell boost converter exceeding its maximum voltage and then shutting down forced the company to recall 2,800 vehicles across its native Japan, the U.S., Europe and the United Arab of Emirates.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Technology Comes Under Fire
While the glitch reportedly has yet to cause any accidents, it still represents a massive blow to Toyota and the rest of the automotive industry’s bid to popularize hydrogen-powered cars. One of the Mirai’s main selling points was that its two hydrogen tanks and electric motor, which emit only water, can travel vast distances and refuel in as little as three minutes. Those characteristics gave it a distinct edge over battery-powered vehicles, which generally need to be recharged more frequently.
Nevertheless, FCVs have previously been criticized for offering a lack of infrastructure. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are just 33 hydrogen stations in the U.S., versus 15,431 electric stations. The Mirai’s recent malfunction could add to this list of worries.
Which Stocks Are at Risk?
The likes of FuelCell Energy (FCEL) and Plug Power (PLUG) will be most affected by Toyota’s misfortunes, because both are directly invested in the same sort of fuel cell technology that powers the Mirai. (See also: What’s Ahead for the Fuel-Cell Industry in 2017?)
Some of the world’s biggest automotive companies also have a hand in developing FCVs. For example, General Motors (GM), which so far has reportedly achieved over three million miles of hydrogen fuel cell testing, recently agreed to invest $85 million with Honda to continue producing the technology at its factory in Michigan. Meanwhile, Ford (F) has made no secret of its desire to launch the first affordable hydrogen-powered vehicle.
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