The next era in Toyota’s technology development is about to become production reality, with the market introduction next year of the company’s first hydrogen fuel cell-powered car. It’s a major, but logical next step for the company, as it builds on the success it has achieved with hybrid over the past 15 years.
Karl Schlicht, Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Europe, is explicit about Toyota’s commitment to hydrogen power and the potential of fuel cell vehicles to deliver on the company’s ambitions to develop the ultimate eco-car. He says:
“Our unique hybrid history and experience have proven invaluable for the next big leap. Back in 2010, we promised our first fuel cell car for 2015 and we are fully on track to honour our commitment. Fuel cell is a technology that can secure our concept of personal mobility. That’s because fuel cells combine the strengths of EVs (electric vehicles) and hybrids, with those of conventional cars. That means zero emissions – they only emit water vapour – and full usability; refuelling only takes about three minutes.”
Schlicht also highlights the facts hydrogen fuel is easy to store, is better at capturing renewable energies than batteries, and can be produced anywhere. “Taking these facts into account reinforces how Toyota is convinced fuel cell can deliver our ultimate goal of zero emissions and sustainable transport,” he says.
The model with which Toyota will pioneer its new technology is the FCV saloon concept, shown for the first time in Europe at this year’s Geneva motor show. Schlicht explains the car gives “clear hints” of the design of the production version to be delivered next year, and that with the benefit of a high energy density fuel stack and a maximum 100kW it will have the potential to cover more than 500 miles on a tank of fuel.
Schlicht acknowledges that issues of infrastructure, public awareness and cost need to be addressed: “There is of course a long way to go, as with any game-changing technology, but remember the same was said about hybrid only 10 years ago.
“Toyota is ready to back and lead this change, so we will be pioneering fuel cell step by step.”
This time the company is not working alone, having entered into a partnership with BMW to further fuel cell research and development.
Didier Leroy, Toyota Motor Europe’s President, likewise sets out his vision of how fuel cell technology – which itself is a hybrid system – will arrive in Europe. “Fuel cell technology will take time before it takes off,” he says. “To help that happen we will bring a reasonable number of cars to Europe. The volume will be limited, but they will be visible on the streets.”
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Toyota Fuel Cell Car in 2015