Satoshi Ogiso, the Toyota Motor Corp. executive in charge of fuel cells, said on Wednesday that the vehicle is not just for leasing to officials and celebrities but will be an everyday car for ordinary consumers, widely available at dealers.
"Development is going very smoothly," he said on the sidelines of the Tokyo Motor Show. The car will go on sale in Japan in 2015 and within a year later in Europe and US.
Toyota's fuel cell car is on display as a ‘concept’ model called FCV at the biannual show, where alternative fuel is grabbing the spotlight. The exhibition, drawing 32 automakers to Tokyo Big Sight convention hall, previewed to the media today. It opens to the public Saturday, and runs through December 1.
The FCV looks ready to hit the streets, not all that different in exterior design from the Prius gas-electric hybrid, and in contrast to the other fun but outlandishly bizarre models at the show.
What's making the once space-age experiment more credible is the price that Toyota is promising, somewhere between 5 million yen (USD 50,000) and 10 million yen (USD 100,000), and as close to the lower figure as possible, Ogiso said.
Toyota's model will have plenty of competition. Korean rival Hyundai Motor Co said earlier this week that it will start selling a Tucson SUV powered by a fuel cell next year, which if realized will be the first mass-market arrival of the technology.
Honda Motor Co, Japan's No 3 automaker, which has leased a fuel cell car since 2005, is scheduled to take the wraps off a next-generation version at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this week. Honda says the new system will be a big improvement from its predecessor.
All the major automakers, including General Motors Co and Daimler, have been working on hydrogen power for decades. But the prospects of its becoming a commercial product have never been very real until recently.
The Japanese government, as well as the US and parts of Europe, are getting serious in investing in hydrogen fueling-station infrastructure, which is a must before fuel cells can become practical.