Toyota’s U.S. CEO Comments On Fuel Cell Vehicle Due in 2015

If you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed 2015 is the unofficial launch year for production hydrogen fuel cell vehicles – that is, if you don’t count Hyundai which got started with its ix35 last year, and Honda which has soldiered forward with its lease-only FCX Clarity in California since summer, 2008.

Aside from these early beginnings, other automakers around the world seem to have colluded to turn 2015 into the Hydrogen Year. Yesterday in Nagoya, Japan, Toyota’s North American CEO Jim Lentz confirmed that for his company, the Hydrogen Year is still on the calendar.

Lentz promised that “the first fuel cell sedan coming to the U.S. in 2015.” Fuel cell technology is a high stakes bet, but it is not Toyota’s only one.

“We will continue to promote more advanced technologies from plug-ins to EVs as well as fuel cells,” said Lentz, “and we will continue to make improvements to the internal combustion engine.”

This reiterates statements made by Toyota’s new energy maven Satoshi Ogiso two years ago. It is far from clear which alternative energy will succeed in the market, therefore, betting on just one would be, well, ill-advised. To bet on the right technology, said Ogiso, a large automaker must bet on all.

“We must go multi-track. We must improve gasoline and diesel engines,” said Ogiso. “We must increase the number of hybrid models. We must produce the plug-in hybrid. We must develop city commuter electric vehicles. We already started small production of fuel cell vehicles. We must do all these improvements at the same time.”

Of course, Toyota remains bullish on hybrid technology. Fifteen percent of Toyota’s cars sold worldwide are hybrid-powered, Lentz said. Full-size hybrid trucks and SUVs, powered by a hybrid drivetrain jointly developed with Ford, should become available “later in the decade,” Lentz promised.