Toyota Sedan With ‘World’s Best’ Fuel Cell Stack To Bow In Tokyo This Year

As Toyota prepares its 2015 launch of a production fuel cell sedan powered by a “world’s best” fuel cell stack, the company has said it will reveal a close-up view of the car this November in Japan.

“At the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, we unveiled the FCVR fuel cell concept [pictured],” said Toyota Managing Officer Satoshi Ogiso this week at a Toyota media event in Michigan. “This year at the Tokyo Motor show, we will get a bit more specific, when we unveil a well-defined mid-size four-door sedan concept.”

The fuel cell car is intended as part of a long-term strategy Toyota envisions that will include also hybridized versions of all its vehicles and battery electric cars as battery technology advances to the point that the automaker deems it viable for its mass-market purposes.

After the November Tokyo reveal, in January 2014 Toyota’s sedan will make its North American debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, said Ogiso.

At that time, Ogiso said, Toyota’s Bob Carter, senior vice president, Automotive Operations, will provide further details on the role of Toyota’s U.S.-based engineering team in the FCV’s development as well as some preliminary plans for introduction into the U.S. market.

“For now, I can tell you that the hydrogen fuel cell stack is currently developing 3kw per liter of power density,” said Ogiso. “We believe that’s a ‘world’s best’ and about twice that of the fuel stack we have been using for the Highlander fuel cell hybrid vehicle.”

Toyota has had this running Highlander fuel-cell conversion for a while to demonstrate capabilities. Its production sedan's fuel cell stack will boast double the power density.

Toyota has had this running Highlander fuel-cell conversion for a while to demonstrate capabilities. The production sedan’s fuel cell stack will boast double the power density.

Speaking of which, we also had opportunity to drive the Highlander fuel cell vehicle this week. On a closed road-handling course, it had enough power to mildly spin the tires accelerating out of corners when desired.

It drives normally, and quietly as one would expect from an electric vehicle.

Fuel cell vehicles have a significant “chicken and egg” problem to overcome in coming years between lack of infrastructure and high costs.

Their advantages include zero emissions from electric drivetrains and quick fill-ups via a hydrogen pump making them as convenient in this latter aspect as petroleum burning cars.

Toyota anticipates a gradual ramp up from mid-decade onward, and conservatively projects tens of thousands of units being sold in the U.S. by the early 2020s.