Toyota has announced it aims to sell hydrogen powered cars in the “tens of thousands” by 2020, a significant commitment to fuel-cell technology by one of the industry’s top car making company.
The Japanese automobile giant said it planned to begin testing hydrogen-powered cars in Japan, which will be later be followed by tests in the US and Europe. The company also added that it will launch its sales in 2015.
“The fuel cell has the potential to replace the cars we have today. By 2020 when there really will be real penetration in the market- we are preparing to be able to sell tens of thousands of units per year,” Takeshi Uchiyamada, head of research and development, told in an interview at the Geneva Auto Show.
However, due to the car size, Toyota is betting on alternative technologies that carry significant weight in the car industry. The car manufacturer was the industry’s first to invest heavily in hybrids such as Prius, which has been challenged by some big competitors in the market.
Toyota displayed its FCV-R hydrogen-powered fuel cell concept car which was also premiered last year at Tokyo motor show.
Uchiyamada said that by 2020 Toyota was planning full fledged real production of hydrogen fuel cell cars. “We will be producing it our vehicle plants just as we are our other cars.”
Toyota’s research chief said that the company had asked its Hino subsidiary to develop fuel cell buses and its Toyota Industries division was developing hydrogen-powered forklift trucks. Its Aisin Seiki parts affiliate is developing fuel cell.
He also said that the company believes the main markets for hydrogen-powered vehicles would be Japan, US and Europe. However, the sales in other countries would depend on the availability of refueling infrastructure. He said: “That will be one area we will have to emphasis from now on.”
HYDROGEN FUEL CAR ON ITS WAY
Along with Toyota, other Japanese car making companies including Honda, Nissan, JX Nippon plan to build 100 hydrogen fueling stations in Japan by 2015.
However, the enthusiasm for the hydrogen car has been fading away due to the high estimation cost of around $1 million per vehicle and lack of fuel stations. But now companies are coming up with new cost saving ideas.
Nissan Motor Company’s battery-powered Leaf and General Motors’s Plug-in Volt target drivers who want to run the vehicle with low or no gasoline. While, Toyota, Honda Motors, Hyundai Motor are continuing to develop hydrogen car offering greater range and faster fueling.
Initially, Toyota plans to sell hydrogen model cars in California, Japan and Germany which has a good fueling infrastructure.
“We’d like to gradually expand regionally to a global basis,” Uchiyamada said. He added that Since the programme initially focuses on large urban markets, “all we need is a small number of stations.”
With car companies coming up with the hydrogen fuel car there are mixed reactions flowing around by experts and common people.
According to some hydrogen fuel cell experts there are two problems raised by hydrogen fuel car which need to be looked into and researched more as this technology rapidly grows as an alternative to gas/diesel.
Firstly, there is a byproduct generated at the point of use-water vapor. When byproduct generation is taken into consideration, we must recognise that downwind from major cities will witness serious changes in the amount of precipitation. While this may have many benefits, it could also have downsides which need to be explored before it is adopted.
Second, hydrogen fuel is more combustible than gas/diesel and burns in flames. This poses serious public health concerns in the event of a wreck.”
Many analysts are also concerned about China’s limiting of rare metals exports – the very metals used in the batteries of future. Moving to hydrogen will eliminate the need to focus so heavily on a single resource for the fuel of the future, they insist.
Toyota had previously promised of launching a hydrogen car by 2015, but had not set numerical sales targets.
Sources: Bloomberg, FT, Fuel Cell Partnership