After years of research, development, debate, and anticipation, Toyota is finally planning to release its first hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle this year.
According to the Japan Times, Toyota’s first production variant will be produced in Japan this December, and will be sold for around ¥8 million, or $78,000. This may sound expensive, and it is, but remember: newer technologies are usually costly at first. Toyota’s goal is to cut that price in half by “the 2020s.”
The main problem with hydrogen cars, as it always is with new technologies, is fitting in with the current gasoline-based infrastructure. You won’t see too many hydrogen fueling stations on street corners in 2014, but Toyota has a plan to change that.
In Fall 2015, Toyota plans to implement a large network of hydrogen refueling stations across California. This is possible due to a $7-million loan with FirstElement Fuel Inc, which is lead by GM marketing chief Joel Ewanick.
Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota’s North American Region, hopes to have 50 refueling stations operating across California by the end of 2016, which may lead to the eventual US debut of Toyota’s hydrogen-powered production vehicle.
Despite hydrogen’s challenges, it’s easy to see why Toyota, Honda, and GM are continuing to embrace hydrogen over electric vehicles and gas-electric hybrids: hydrogen fuel cells are safe, reliable (they have very few moving parts), efficient, and produce no pollution (their only byproduct is water.)
Toyota has previously confirmed that its fuel cell vehicle will have a range of approximately 300 miles and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in around 10 seconds.
While that may not sound great for automotive performance enthusiasts, there are many who believe that hydrogen and gasoline-powered vehicles can actually coexist. Jay Leno, who knows a thing or two about the automobile, believes the two technologies can exist harmoniously.
“[Hydrogen] will save the petrol, it will save your MG, or your Sprite, or your Midget,” he said in a Top Gear segment. “You go out on the weekend, you have fun, then you put [your hydrogen car] in the car park during the week.”
For those who say that high-horsepower supercars are a dying breed, or that environmentalists with silent, polar bear-friendly grocery-getters are killing automotive passion, Leno has a more optimistic outlook.
“These types of cars will be the saviors of our sports cars,” he said.
Watch the video of Toyota’s cold-weather hydrogen vehicle testing below.