Toyota eyes mass production of fuel cell car by 2015

Toyota FCV concept car Toyota is among the many carmakers looking to develop hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles

Japanese carmaker Toyota has said it is looking to start commercial sales of fuel cell-powered cars by 2015.

Toyota set the target as it unveiled a concept fuel cell powered car, called the FCV, at the Tokyo Motor Show.

The car can be re-fuelled within minutes and it can cover about 500km (300 miles) on a full tank, according to the firm.

Earlier this week, rival Hyundai said it plans to start mass production of such cars as early as next year.

Analysis

Eco-friendly cars have been been the buzzword in the auto industry for some time now. And within that space, fuel cell-powered vehicles are turning out to be the flavour of the season.

Carmakers have been showing off the progress they have made in the area.

The trick, of course, is how soon companies can take their concept cars from the motor show floors, to showrooms and subsequently to garages at homes.

Toyota and Hyundai aim to do this within the next year or two. But as we have seen it with electric cars in the past, it is easier said than done. There are already concerns about a lack of hydrogen filling stations.

And an equally big challenge will be producing them cheaply enough to keep them affordable for buyers.

None of the carmakers has officially revealed the prices as yet, though some reports indicate that Toyota's FCV may cost between $50,000 and $100,000 (£31,000 to £62,000).

The South Korean company has announced plans to start commercial sales of a fuel cell-powered version of its sports utility vehicle, the Tucson, in the US market.

Honda Motor is also expected to unveil its latest concept version of a fuel cell-powered vehicle later this week.

Infrastructure concerns

Many carmakers have been looking to develop the fuel cell technology further and bring it to mass production.

One of the main reasons is that it is emission-free.

The technology uses hydrogen to generate electricity to power the engine and the waste products are heat and water.

At the same time, fuel cells charge much faster and travel a longer distance after being charged, compared with battery-operated electric cars.

However, there are concerns over the demand for such vehicles, not least because there are not enough hydrogen filling stations.

Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Nissan, said that worries over infrastructure were the key reason for his firm to put some of their plans on hold.

"Frankly, I don't know how they are going to do it, because knowing all the problems we have, to have a charging system with electricity, where is the hydrogen infrastructure?" Mr Ghosn was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

"That's why we have postponed, in a certain way, some of our ambitions in terms of fuel cells."

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