Thursday, March 08, 2012

Toyota Preparing Hydrogen Car Mass Production by 2020s


Are we finally moving away from gas-powered cars for good? It may be too soon to tell, but that’s not stopping Toyota from planning on it.

Standing alongside the Toyota FCV-R hydrogen-powered concept car at the Geneva Motor Show, Didier Leroy, the head of Toyota’s European operations said “We are preparing to be able to produce tens of thousands per year in the 2020s.” He also reiterated Toyota’s goal to get a mass-produced hydrogen car on the road by 2015.

Branching into the hydrogen car market isn’t uncharted for Toyota. Like Honda, the Japanese giant has been producing hydrogen-powered vehicles for years. Toyota’s hydrogen vehicles have been largely relegated to fleet customers, whereas the Honda FCX Clarity has been on a limited lease program for half a decade.

Toyota cites hydrogen cars have been prohibitively expensive to produce because their fuel cells are lined with layers of plastic and platinum sandwiched between metal plates in order to conduct electricity. Hydrogen has also been expensive to produce, and refueling stations are few and far between. With a push away from oil amid rising gas prices, there may finally be a business case for the low-emissions fuel.

Already the world’s largest producer of hybrid vehicles, Toyota is no stranger to alternative propulsion. This year, the automaker plans to debut the Toyota Prius Plug-in that will be able to drive 16 miles exclusively on battery power and compete with the Chevrolet Volt. It will also produce all-electric versions of the RAV4 crossover and Scion iQ city car.

After years of hydrogen car talk dating back to the Clinton Administration, we’re intrigued to see if Toyota will finally be able to deliver on the next generation of mass-produced clean vehicles.