Toyota chief bullish over fuel cell cars

Toyota’s chief executive for North America, preparing to sell Camry-sized hydrogen sedans next year, is bullish about advances in the company’s fuel cell system and wants more US supply of the Japan-built cars.

Toyota, the world’s largest seller of hybrid-electric vehicles, is to sell the as-yet unnamed four-door model in California in 2015, as well as in Japan and Europe. Its performance, packaging, and other attributes will generate demand for the car, North American chief Jim Lentz said yesterday, without providing a sales goal.

“After we’ve seen the product, understand its range, its driving dynamics, its refuelling, we’re a lot more bullish than Japan — probably about fivefold more bullish,” Lentz said. “It’s just a question of how many can be produced now.”

Fuel cell vehicles are similar to battery-only models such as Nissan’s Leaf hatchback in avoiding tailpipe pollution from burning petrol.

Battery models carry electricity in lithium-ion battery packs while fuel cell vehicles make electricity onboard in a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, with only water vapour as a byproduct.

While hydrogen vehicles have a range comparable to petrol vehicles and need only a few minutes to refuel — compared with hours for most battery vehicles — there are few hydrogen pumps open to the public.

Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda are readying new hydrogen cars that they say match the zero-emissions of battery-powered vehicles and offer greater driving range and faster refuelling.

California, with the toughest US emissions rules and plans for a statewide network of hydrogen fuel stations, will be the primary battleground for the vehicles.

Toyota, which has been developing hydrogen vehicles since the early 1990s, has said its car will have about 483km of driving range per fuelling. While the car won’t be cheap, the current cost to produce a fuel cell vehicle has fallen by 95%, from about $1m (€730,000) each a decade ago, Lentz said.

Bloomberg

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