One joke critics often repeat about challenging-yet-promising hydrogen fuel cell cars is, “They are five years away. And in five years from now, they will still be five years away …”
But Toyota isn’t smiling when it says get ready for the launch of its first production fuel cell vehicle “around 2015” and due for its world premier as the FCV Concept this month in Tokyo.
The company’s top alternative vehicle engineer actually prepped journalists this summer that the car would be shown Nov. 20 to Dec. 1 at the Tokyo Motor Show, and its North American Debut will be Jan. 2014 in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronic Show.
The FCV Concept will be a four-person sedan positioned first for Japan’s home market, with intent to make it available globally.
Toyota says it has developed in-house a lightweight and compact FC stack and two 70 MPa high-pressure hydrogen tanks riding low in the specially designed body.
Power output density for the FC Stack is 3 kilowatts per liter which more than doubles the FC stack in a prototype we’ve driven called the Toyota FCHV-adv.
The new car’s output will be no less than 134 horsepower (100 kilowatts) plus it will be equipped with a “high efficiency boost converter” also developed by Toyota.
The number of fuel cells required has been reduced by increasing the voltage, says Toyota, which in turns means a smaller powertrain and reduced cost.
The system of course can be refueled via conventional liquid refueling in minutes instead of needing to be charged for hours like a plug-in car.
Its range is estimated at over 310 miles (500 kilometers).
Toyota is also thinking smart grid with this application, and says the fully fueled vehicle can deliver 10 kilowatt-hours, enough to supply the daily needs of an average Japanese home for more than a week.
Design-wise, Toyota has laden the new-tech car with as much symbolism as it can, and we’ll let you read its description in its own words:
The vehicle’s exterior design evokes two key characteristics of a fuel cell vehicle: the transformation of air into water as the system produces electricity, and the powerful acceleration enabled by the electric drive motor. The bold front view features pronounced air intakes, while the sleek side view conveys the air-to-water transformation with its flowing-liquid door profile and wave-motif fuel cap. The theme carries to the rear view, which conveys a catamaran’s stern and the flow of water behind.
Dimensions for the car are, length: 16 feet (4,870mm); width: 5.9 feet (1,810mm); height: 5 feet (1,535mm); wheelbase: 9.1 feet (2,780mm).
Price: To be determined!
Toyota in previous statements has said it will set set modest ramp-up goals for the technology through the rest of this decade.
It does intend to push forward fuel cell technology, and has adamantly declared plug-in battery electric cars are too costly, limited range, take too long to recharge.
Its alternative energy transportation strategy consists of maxing out its full hybrid line, building on its plug-in hybrid tech, and for electric cars, it is jumping ahead to fuel cells.
In driving its now-outdated FCHV-adv retrofitted SUV around a large proving grounds in suburban Michigan this summer, we found the acceleration acceptable, and power was enough to burn rubber in slow corners.
Drivability was within limits of “normal,” and of course it was a quiet vehicle being purely electric.
Now Toyota says this production-pending sedan is much better.
We’ll look forward to more news soon.