By the end of 2015, Toyota promises that consumers in select markets will be able to buy, drive, and refill hydrogen vehicles. That’s the word the Japanese auto juggernaut delivered in the opening hours of the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with both the Toyota FCV Concept and a heavily camouflaged engineering prototype sharing the stage.
According to Toyota, its prototype vehicle has managed to consistently deliver 300 miles of driving range per tank of hydrogen, with a refill time averaging between three and five minutes. That’s on par with gasoline vehicles, though standard petrol still has the huge advantage of there being hundreds of thousands of gas stations spread out across America. The hydrogen fueling infrastructure, meanwhile, is limited to just a handful of stations in Southern California. Naturally, that is where the Toyota FCV will debut.
Working with the University of California at Irvine, Toyota is mapping out the best locations to install hydrogen refueling stations, likely using Tesla’s Supercharger network as a model for dedicated infrastructure support. With more total driving range and a quicker refill time, the Toyota FCV definitely has some advantages over the Tesla Model S, and with a starting price about 25% cheaper. Toyota is aiming for a $50,000 MSRP at launch for the its FCV, which should hit SoCal dealerships by the end of 2015. Toyota is hoping to sell as many as 10,000 FCVs in the first year alone.
With the state of California kicking in an additional $200 million to build 20 hydrogen fueling stations across SoCal as well, maybe Toyota is right when it says refueling infrastructure isn’t much of a concern. Then again, only 27 hydrogen fueling stations in total were installed in 2012, bringing the total number of fueling stations in America to around 60, compared to more than 5,000 public EV charging stations.
That’s a big obstacle hydrogen vehicles will face right out of the gate, but then again there weren’t but a handful of public EV charging stations a few years ago. What a different a few years and many millions of dollars can make.