Toyota showed its Fuel Cell Vehicle at this year's CES, discussing plans to bring it to market in 2015. The company has taken the next step, revealing the production design and Japanese pricing for the model, which it's now calling the Fuel Cell Sedan.
Toyota plans to begin selling the Fuel Cell Sedan in Japan before April 2015 and send it on to the US and Europe by Summer 2015. The car will launch in Toyota and Toyopet dealerships in parts of Japan that have the appropriate hydrogen refueling infrastructure, starting around 7 million yen. When converted today, that equates to around US$69,000, but Toyota is holding off on releasing official US and European pricing.
The production FCS looks nearly identical to the FCV concept. Defining visual elements like its elevated hood, black-out pillars and sculpted rear quarter panels are all there. Alterations include redesigned front intakes, the addition of side mirrors and the loss of the conceptual headlamps and tail lamps.
Toyota has not announced the final specs, but the car's electric drive unit will use electricity derived from the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. That reaction will occur by way of the hydrogen fuel cell stack fed by high-pressure hydrogen tanks that can be refilled in about three minutes. Toyota claims the design will give the FCS range and performance comparable to a gas car while cutting emissions to mere water vapor. At CES, Toyota estimated a range per tank of 300 miles (483 km).
While hydrogen fuel cell vehicles promise to combine range and refueling ease comparable to gas vehicles with the emissions-free driving of EVs, they're not without some downsides and question marks. Much like the electric charging infrastructure was when EVs began hitting the market, the hydrogen fueling infrastructure is in its infancy in places like the US. The country's Alternative Fuels Data Center lists just 12 hydrogen stations across the country, most of them concentrated in Southern California.
"The issue of infrastructure is not so much about how many, but rather, location, location, location,” Bob Carter, senior VP of automotive operations, Toyota Motor Sales USA, said at Toyota's CES press conference in January. "If every vehicle in California ran on hydrogen – we could meet refueling logistics with only 15 percent of the nearly 10,000 gasoline stations currently operating in the state. Stay tuned, because this infrastructure thing is going to happen."
The infrastructure is indeed starting to happen in places like California. Last month, the California Energy Commission announced $46.6 million of funding for accelerating hydrogen refueling station development. This will help bring California's number of stations from nine to 54, just beyond half its longer term goal of 100. Toyota itself is assisting with funding for FirstElement Fuel, one of the companies that was awarded Energy Commission monies.
Toyota is not the only automaker hard at work on fuel cells. Hyundai delivered its first Tucson Fuel Cell in California just this month, easing the refueling burden by tying unlimited, no-added-cost hydrogen fueling into the $499/month lease. Honda joined the Korean automaker in showing its latest fuel cell concept at last year's LA Auto Show, and other automakers like Ford and Mercedes are also working on fuel cell technology.
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