Toyota made a big splash today, announcing at Tokyo’s Megaweb that it will launch its hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle before April 2015 in Japan, and in summer 2015 in the United States and Europe. The car will cost around 7 million yen ($68,600) in Japan. Prices outside Japan have not been announced.
The widely expected car will be the first fuel cell vehicle that is sold in earnest. Korea’s Hyundai was expected to be first to go truly public, but its Hyundai ix35 remains only a small series, available to companies and institutions only on a lease basis. Interestingly, Toyota had invited a group of South Korean journalists, and provided them with Korean simultaneous translation so that they could transmit the bad news back home in real-time.
Fuel cell vehicles will do away with the drawbacks plaguing its battery-operated brethren. The cars can be fueled up as quickly as a gasoline-operated car, while BEVs hang on the charger for hours. Range anxiety likewise is a thing of the battery past. Toyota’s FCV has a range of more than 300 miles on a single high pressure tank of hydrogen. Cost should also come down as production scales up.
FCVs also will receive help from Prime Minister Abe’s growth strategy, which was announced a day before Toyota showed its FCV. The plan calls for subsidies and tax breaks for buyers, relaxed curbs on hydrogen fuel stations. A government representative showed today a plan for the elimination of all CO2-emitting transportation by 2040 – presented on a highly complex chart.
Toyota’s FCV is no science experiment. This is a real car for a real market, and Toyota’s combined minds are behind it. As serious as they may be, it does not keep them from having fun with puns.