Toyota says new fuel cell vehicle due in 2015

The yearly Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is known typically for showcasing the latest in gadgets and gizmos. In addition this go around however we are also seeing a number of alternative vehicle announcements.

Ford is showcasing a solar powered plug-in hybrid concept, Audi unveiled its own plug-in hybrid idea and now Toyota is using the event to talk its future fuel cell vehicle plans.

Toyota said at CES it plans to bring to market next year its fuel cell vehicle offering, currently known as FCV. It will initially be launched in California, which is where rival Hyundai is targeting with its Tucson Fuel Cell car later this year. The reason this state gets these vehicles first? It has been the most aggressive in building out fuel cell fueling stations, already approving more than $200 million in funding to build about 20 new stations by 2015, while also aiming for a total of 40 by 2016 and as many as 100 by 2024.

image via Toyota

Currently the Toyota fuel cell vehicle concept, according to the manufacturer, “has consistently delivered a driving range of about 300 miles, zero-to-sixty acceleration of about 10 seconds, with no emissions, other than water vapor.  Refueling of its hydrogen tanks takes three to five minutes.” The size and weight of its powertrain system has been significantly reduced from previous iterations, while maintaining a total power output of more than 100kW.

Like Hyundai, Toyota has been putting some serious time behind fuel cell vehicles as an alternatives on the roadways. Since 2002 it

has been testing and developing a series of prototypes in North America. In those 11 years – and more than a million miles – it has dramatically reduced the cost of building a fuel cell powertrain.  In fact, Toyota estimates a 95-percent cost reduction in the powertrain and fuel tanks of the vehicle it will launch in 2015, compared to what it cost to build the original prototype in 2002.

“We aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel;  just everything necessary to make them turn,” said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota, at the opening of CES. “Fuel cell electric vehicles will be in our future sooner than many people believe, and in much greater numbers than anyone expected.”

* Nino Marchetti, EarthTechling