Toyota plans to launch a mass-market fuel cell car by 2015.
At the Tokyo Motor Show this week, Toyota introduced a concept version of the vehicle (pictured above), the FCV, which the company says has a range of 500 kilometers, or 310 miles. "Development is going very smoothly," Satoshi Ogiso, the Toyota Motor Corp. executive in charge of fuel cells, told an Associated Press reporter at the show.
Karim Nice and Jonathan Strickland of How Stuff Works have a good primer on fuel cell technology – it's worth checking out in full. But here's the CliffsNotes: Fuel cells employ hydrogen fuel and oxygen to generate electricity. The technology has been championed as a much cleaner alternative to the fossil fuel engines so dominant in the automobile industry today.
In a description of the FCV posted to its site, Toyota said that the concept car's design was intended to evoke the fuel cell process itself. "The bold front view features pronounced air intakes, while the sleek side view conveys the air-to-water transformation with its flowing-liquid door profile and wave-motif fuel cap," the description reads. "The theme carries to the rear view, which conveys a catamaran's stern and the flow of water behind."
The unveiling of the FCV is seen by many analysts as a major step forward for the mainstreaming of fuel cell tech. But not everyone is convinced. At a speech last month, Elon Musk of Tesla essentially called fuel cell cars nonsense – he used a much stronger word – while Nissan exec Carlos Ghosn has questioned the mass market viability of such a vehicle.
"Where is the infrastructure?" he said in an interview with Reuters. "Who’s going to build it?’’