Originally unveiled at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, the FCV is the latest in a line of concepts that preview a production Toyota fuel-cell car expected to arrive in 2015.
Preliminary performance figures include a 0 to 60 mph time of around 10 seconds, a 300-mile range, and a 3 to 5-minute refueling time.
Alongside the shiny blue concept, Toyota displayed a battered, camouflaged prototype that was used to test the car’s zero-emission powertrain.
Among other things, the prototype spent some time in Yellowknife, Canada – the locale of Ice Road Truckers – for cold-weather testing, traversed the Rockies and Death Valley, and did a little city driving in San Francisco.
That’s a training regimen similar to most new cars, but the buying public will probably be more interested than usual in the results. Most people have never even seen a hydrogen car, after all, let alone driven one.
However, the Toyota fuel-cell vehicle’s biggest challenges may not be durability, but cost and practicality.
Toyota boasted that it had reduced the cost of manufacturing a fuel-cell stack by 95 percent compared to its 2002 Highlander FCV prototypes. The bosses say the production car will be “reasonably priced,” but expect it to cost more than the average Camry.
Toyota is also banking on recent California legislation that will fund the construction of 100 hydrogen-fuel stations by 2024. That’s why Toyota will launch the car in California, concentrating on the San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego County.
That should ensure supplies of both hydrogen and early-adopter customers willing to inconvenience themselves a bit for cutting-edge technology.
The Toyota fuel-cell car will also have at least one competitor when it launches in 2015: a production version of the Honda FCEV concept from the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show. Next year is definitely shaping up to be the do-or-die moment for fuel cells.