Auto Tech

Toyota's FCV Plus concept doubles as a generator to power your home

The Japanese automaker is going all-in on hydrogen, as a fuel source not only for cars, but also for society in general.

Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles work like small generators -- the car's onboard fuel cell converts compressed hydrogen gas into electricity, and the only byproduct is water. It's not surprising, then, that these rolling power stations could be used for solutions above and beyond personal transportation. Toyota wants to be at the forefront of that movement, and its FCV Plus concept aims to make that happen.

The FCV Plus, which debuted at this week's Tokyo Motor Show, is still just a concept, but it reflects Toyota's ever-increasing discourse on how hydrogen will be the future of both propulsion and power. Thus, the concept was built around the idea of a society that relies on hydrogen for its energy needs, whether at home or on the road.

Not only does the FCV Plus operate using a built-in hydrogen tank, it can be hooked up to a larger, external tank -- at that point, the car could become a generator for your home or office, supplying power in lieu of (or in complement to) a more traditional grid. If your car is sitting around unused, and your house is already good on power, it can send any excess juice back into the infrastructure for use elsewhere.

In a release, Toyota said, "[The car's] design conveys the vehicle's advanced technology and outstanding environmental performance." In less flowery parlance, that means it looks a little wacky and relies heavily on the colors blue and green. There's no mistaking this car for anything else on the road right now, that's for sure.

Its strange, almost golf-cart-like proportions are due to some unique packaging on Toyota's part. The FCV Plus has individual electric motors tucked into each wheel, allowing the automaker to expand its wheelbase to the extreme edges of the body. With the fuel cell between the front tires and the hydrogen tank tucked in the back, there's plenty of space for four people, despite the car's somewhat small proportions.

Comparing the FCV Plus to Toyota's current small car, the Yaris, reveals that the hydrogen setup can make even tiny cars relatively capacious. The FCV Plus is roughly 1 inch taller, 2 inches wider and 6 inches shorter than the diminutive Yaris. Yet, the interior looks much roomier, so perhaps that's an additional benefit to electric motors and hydrogen fuel cells.

There's still plenty of time to conceptualize, though -- hydrogen infrastructure is very, very lacking at the moment, and it will take a groundswell of support to raise the funds necessary to change that.