Toyota’s future isn’t battery electric, but hydrogen fuel cell. The infrastructure has to be there first, however, which makes this announcement not unexpected.
Toyota isn’t anti-battery, as some might assert, but isn’t mincing words when it comes to its vision of the future of transportation. The hydrogen fuel cell, according to Toyota, is cheaper on a cost-per-vehicle basis, and more efficient on a well-to-wheel basis. Of course, world leader Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk doesn’t see it that way.
It’s anyone’s guess which technology will succeed, because hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and electric vehicles form such a small part of the market. In the meantime, however, Toyota has been focusing big-time on its hybrid vehicle development. Toyota’s world-class hybrid technology is now available in over twenty models worldwide, over six million sold since the Toyota Prius, and will increase beyond thirty-five models by 2015.
On the heels of a recent announcement that Toyota would not be renewing its contract with Tesla Motors for Toyota RAV4 EV components, Toyota has recently made a loan to help develop hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure in California. FirstElement Fuel, led by former General Motors Marketing Chief Joel Ewanick, received $7 million from Toyota to help build hydrogen fuel stations in California.
Toyota has big plans for its hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, in California at least, and has suggested that the state would need 68 hydrogen refueling stations to serve the needs of some 10,000 expected hydrogen fuel cell vehicle owners. By 2016, Toyota hopes to see 50 stations, and perhaps 70 stations by 2018. Toyota’s $7 million may be a small amount, but considering that other automakers are also in the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle race, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them putting in to build future infrastructure.
Photo credit: Joseph Brent