Japan's oldest automaker, Daihatsu, raised some eyebrows a couple of years ago when it unveiled its FC ShoCase vehicle. Along with being funny-looking, it was powered by a prototype fuel cell (first announced in 2007) that was said to overcome some of the key limitations of traditional hydrogen fuel cells. At this year's Tokyo Motor Show, a new FC concept vehicle has been presented – the FC Deco Deck mini-truck.
A detailed description of the fuel cell can be found in our previous article on the ShoCase, but here's an overview of what makes it special ...
In a conventional fuel cell, platinum must be used as the electrode catalyst, as its excellent corrosion-resistance keeps it from being eaten away by the cell's acidic polymer electrolyte membrane. Daihatsu's cell, by contrast, utilizes a much more innocuous alkaline anion exchange membrane. This means that expensive platinum isn't required for the electrode catalyst, which can instead be made from cheaper metals such as nickel or cobalt.
Also, instead of hydrogen, the new cell uses hydrazine-hydrate (hydrogen and nitrogen) as fuel. It is claimed to offer a high power density similar to that of hydrogen, and since it's a liquid, it's easier to handle.
Along with utilizing an anion exchange fuel cell as its own source of power, the FC Deco Deck also features one in its compact, "low-cost" onboard generator. This could allow the vehicle to supply power in emergencies, or at remote locations. Daihatsu has additionally created two stand-alone versions of that generator, which are on display with the mini-truck.
The automaker is also using this year's show to introduce its non-fuel cell Deca Deca concept. Its big selling point is interior space, augmented by seats that can fold completely flat, and double doors on both sides that allow for easy loading of cargo. It also features high seating, giving drivers a commanding view of the road.
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