It doesn’t have a name yet, and the prototype that Toyota unveiled at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show was covered in camo, but the Japanese automaker promises that they will be selling a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in the United States next year. The company is claiming it will have a range of 300 miles and will refuel in less than five minutes. The Corolla sized sedan has been tested in North America’s hottest and coldest locations and Toyota says that the emissions free car will have an electric motor rated at greater than 100 kW (>130 hp) and be able to accelerate from zero to sixty miles an hour in about 10 seconds.
“We aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel; just everything necessary to make them turn,” said Bob Carter, Toyota’s senior VP in charge of U.S. auto operations. “For years, the use of hydrogen gas to power an electric vehicle has been seen by many smart people as a foolish quest. Yes, there are significant challenges. The first is building the vehicle at a reasonable price for many people. The second is doing what we can to help kick-start the construction of convenient hydrogen refueling infrastructure.”
Toyota’s not saying what the car will cost but it claims that it has significantly reduced the cost of building a fuel cell, approximately 95% in a little over a decade. Toyota spokeswoman Jana Hartline says that Toyota will give consumers “a variety of options” when the H2 FCV, including outright sale. That would make the Toyota FCV the first fuel cell vehicle available for purchase in the U.S. Honda has made fuel cell cars available but only on leases.
Besides the cost of the fuel cells, which typically use precious metals as catalysts, the other barrier to fuel cell vehicles in a lack of fueling stations, so while you’ll be able to buy a Toyota FCV, you’ll only be able to do that in California, which has at least a rudimentary hydrogen infrastructure. Toyota is working with UC Irvine’s Advanced Power and Energy Program to map out where additional stations should be placed, and based on their models, they say that an additional 68 hydrogen fueling stations will be needed when the cars go on sale.
California currently has nine public hydrogen fueling stations, mostly around Los Angeles and San Francisco. Another 19 are under development. The state of California has approved $200 million in funding to build hydrogen stations in the state in 2015 and another 20 stations are expected in 2016.
Carter said that Toyota also plans to independently address the issue of fueling stations. “Stay tuned, because this infrastructure thing is going to happen.”