Toyota plans to electrify its entire lineup of products with either new all-electric models or hybrid options on existing ones by 2025. However, the company believes that battery electric vehicles are not the only answer.
For quite some time now, Toyota has been researching into alternate modes of fuel for the automobile and has come a long way with the hydrogen fuel cell technology. In fact, the company started developing the fuel cell technology way back in 1992. By late 2014, it had a production HFCV ready to hit the roads. The Toyota Mirai was unveiled to the world in November 2014 at the Los Angeles Auto Show, following which it went on sale in Japan from 15 December 2014.
Toyota strongly believes that fuel cell technology is the best clean energy that can be carried on board a vehicle. Developing and refining fuel cells is a zero-emissions process, and FCVs don’t require batteries that take a long time to recharge. This lends the fuel cell technology rather well to commercial businesses like trucking. On the opening day of the CAR Management Briefing Seminars, Toyota announced a second-generation fuel cell powered semi truck that produces water vapor as emissions, runs virtually silently, and delivers a range of more than 450 km. It is an improved version of the first-generation semi which was showcased in April 2017 and underwent more than 15,000 km of testing.
The company also aims to totally eliminate CO2 emissions from its Toyota Logistics facility at the Port of Long Beach, California, by 2050. It also plans to operate hydrogen fuel cell buses in the Tokyo Olympics scheduled for 2020. Toyota is also banking heavily on the success of fuel cell vehicles, estimating that 30,000 FCVs will be sold per year after 2020.
The biggest challenge for the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is supporting infrastructure. While battery electric vehicles are getting increasingly popular every day because of the rapidly expanding network of dedicated charging stations, battery rentals, and governmental incentives, the infrastructure for FCVs is still taking baby steps. The challenge can be overcome, believes Toyota’s chief engineer at the Product Development Office, Andrew Lund.
To boost the popularity of FCVs, Toyota has opened 35 fuel outlets in California with plans to open 29 more. Aiming to expand its network in the North East, it is also working with a partner to come up with 12 more outlets. The first will open in Boston this year. “The pressure will come off as more stations come online,” said Andrew Lund. “It’s just a matter of will.”