Toyota has officially unveiled a concept version of its ground-breaking hydrogen-powered car, which is due to go into production in around 12 months.
The FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicle) Concept, displayed at the Tokyo Motor Show, confirms that Toyota's first mass-produced fuel-cell sedan is in the final stages of development.
The world's leading carmaker says the four-seat sedan's driving range will be at least 500km and its refuelling time as little as three minutes – both equivalent to a conventional petrol-powered car.
Toyota Australia's executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said the FCV Concept showed Toyota was a pioneering company that achieved great results when it set its mind to a challenge.
"When Toyota introduced the Prius in 1997, no-one knew what a hybrid was – or that Toyota had been developing the technology for more than 30 years," Mr Cramb said.
"Yet global sales of Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicles have now topped 5.5 million vehicles and we're building a hybrid version of Camry here in Australia.
"As the leader in hybrid technology, it is a natural step for Toyota to consider alternate fuels such as hydrogen because of its enormous potential in supporting energy diversification and zero emissions while offering the same convenience as today's petrol-powered cars."
Unveiling the FCV Concept, Toyota said it had made great progress in performance improvement and cost reduction, aimed at mainstream use.
It said the mass-produced car is expected to cost under ¥10 million ($108,000) when it is introduced in Japan's four main urban centres of Tokyo, Chukyo, Kansai and Fukuoka and in certain parts of the United States and Europe.
The FCV Concept has a similar wheelbase to Toyota's Camry, but is longer, taller and narrower than Australia's best-selling mid-size car.
It uses Toyota's proprietary small, lightweight fuel-cell stack and two 70MPa (MegaPascal) high-pressure hydrogen tanks.
The fuel-cell stack has a power density of 3kW per litre – more than twice that of Toyota's previous development vehicle – and offers total system output of at least 100kW.
The system is equipped with Toyota's high-efficiency boost converter, which has enabled Toyota to reduce the size of the motor and the number of fuel cells, leading to a smaller system offering enhanced performance at reduced cost.
Toyota predicts widespread use of hydrogen to fuel cars from the 2020s and hopes to introduce tens of thousands of vehicles annually.
It is positioning the hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle as a viable next-generation eco-car as it strives to conserve oil and promote alternative forms of energy.
Fuel-cell vehicles use a chemical reaction with hydrogen to produce their own power. The only tailpipe emission is water.
The concept car's exterior design was intended to convey the key characteristics of a fuel-cell vehicle: converting air into water as the system produces electricity, and the powerful acceleration enabled by the electric drive motor.
The bold front view features pronounced air intakes while the sleek side view has a "flowing liquid" door profile and wave-motif fuel cap. The rear was inspired by the stern of a catamaran.
Fully fuelled, the vehicle can provide enough electricity to meet the daily needs of an average Japanese house (10kWh) for more than a week.
Other Toyota Group companies are also involved in research and development into the use of hydrogen and its benefits in energy diversification, zero emissions and convenience.
They include fuel-cell buses (Hino Motors), forklifts and other industrial vehicles (Toyota Industries Corporation) and stationary fuel-cell cogeneration systems for residential use (Aisin Seiki Co, Ltd).
Stay tuned for more updates on this ground-breaking technology.