The battle for the fuel of the future just shifted hydrogen’s way with a new innovation from Toyota, as the automaker said it would launch a fuel-cell saloon in Europe in 2015.
The company famous for winning over a sceptical country to hybrid power is now hoping that its Fuel Cell Sedan, revealed in production form for the first time, will work similar magic on the hydrogen-powered car, which emits only water from its tailpipe.
Like the Prius hybrid, it will never draw in customers on looks alone, but hydrogen power has a huge advantage over pure battery cars like the Nissan Leaf because, according to Toyota, it takes just threes minutes to fill and has range to match that of a petrol car.
The car will be launched first in its production country of Japan, where it will cost around seven million yen (£40,450). European and North American sales will start a couple of months later, the company said. No power figures or specifications were given.
Aside from the high price, the biggest hurdle Toyota faces is the lack of a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. According to Hyundai, arguably the company furthest ahead producing hydrogen powered cars, there are currently only 27 hydrogen stations across Europe.
The Korean firm said a recent conference run by the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) that it expected the number of UK stations to increase to 13 by 2015, with 26 established by 2020 and 65 by 2013. By contrast, there are approximately 133,000 fuel stations in Europe with around 8,500 in the UK.
Hyundai has started small-scale production of a fuel-cell version of its IX35 SUV in Korea, and says it aims to reach a production of 1,000 by 2015. The next generation car will go on sale in the UK by 2017, the company said, pointing to the Intrado fuel-cell concept car as a possible indication of how it will look.
Other makers investigating fuel-cell vehicles includes Honda, which has leased its FCX Clarity in small numbers in various locations across the world. Mercedes is another with a mature fuel-cell programme, while Toyota has an agreement with BMW to share tech know-how.
Karl Schlicht, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Europe, said in a statement: “We are confident that hydrogen will become increasingly popular as a way of powering vehicles.”