While many of today's fuel-cell vehicles are largely show cars, being displayed at auto shows and "Green-Car" gatherings, this FCHV is already being tested under some of the harshest conditions on the planet.

Summer in Death Valley. A place so hot that the only visitors are an occasional Japanese or German tourist, a few dedicated spy photographers, and a small army of auto company engineers. Here is the searing crucible where every auto company tests to see if their latest vehicles can really take the heat.

Summer days typically hit 115° to 125° F. Sometimes more. Steep hills around the valley provide the perfect place for pulling heavily loaded trailers up the hills, straining the engine and cooling system to the max. These “ideal” conditions for testing are what brings the world’s car makers to this isolated spot every summer.

But this year there is something unusual spotted here. A fuel-cell powered vehicle. A Toyota FCHV to be exact. Actually the Toyota FCHV has been shown to the press and displayed at auto shows for several years now, just like many other fuel-cell vehicles. What is unusual is that this fuel-cell powered hybrid vehicle is being tested in Death Valley just like any normal gas or diesel vehicle. Powering up the hills, driving the highways, idling in the sun, in general doing all the required new-car tests.

While many of today’s fuel-cell vehicles are largely show cars, being displayed at auto shows and “Green-Car” gatherings, this FCHV is already being tested under some of the harshest conditions on the planet. This doesn’t mean that the FCHV is about to be introduced to mass production; but it does show that Toyota is committed to fuel-cell vehicles, and is already doing the real-world testing needed to develop such a car. There are still years of further work, testing, and development needed before such a fuel-cell vehicle is production ready, but it’s nice to know that they have already gotten started.

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