Thursday, December 1, 2011

Toyota Shows Advanced-Tech Cars at Tokyo

Published December 1, 2011

By Jeff Cobb

At the ongoing 42nd Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota is displaying a few environmentally friendly cars, two of which – one hydrogen powered and another all-electric – are slated for production.

Regarding the battery powered one, don’t let its experimental sounding name of “FT-EV III Concept” mislead you. This car could be on U.S. streets by next year.

Also not all that far off, will be the hydrogen-powered FCV-R Concept, which Toyota says should be launched for fleet use in "about 2015."

FT-EV III Concept

This BEV is being positioned as a city car, and one hint that it is roadworthy is its interior looks like that of a Toyota production model, not far out and less practical, as pure concepts tend to be.

Another more reliable hint is Toyota states it is a “near future” vehicle, and speculation has it that it could be badged as a Scion iQ EV. Its present name – FT-EV III – is short for Future Toyota – Electric Vehicle III.

It makes use of a lithium-ion battery and a single electric motor mounted under the floor. Toyota says it seats four, and can roam as far as 65 miles on a full charge.

FCV-R Concept

Toyota has said fleets will be offered this hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle as soon as 2015, but it appears Toyota is edging toward the day when mass production is viable.

The idea of an electric car powered by hydrogen that emits only water vapor and can travel as far as 430 miles has remained alluring, if not elusive.

Costs are the largest sticking point, and this in part keeps the chicken-and-egg proposition moving slowly, as evidenced by lack of refueling infrastructure.

In any event, the FCV-R – which is short for Fuel Cell Vehicle – Reality & Revolution – is four inches shorter than a Camry, but echoes the design language of a Prius.

Its fuel cell stack consists of a 70 MPa high-pressure hydrogen tank, located beneath a “specially designed body” (read: not a borrowed platform from another production Toyota).

Details are relatively few, and this still being a few years away, we expect updated iterations to be presented as the FCV-R draws nearer to production for its first fleet customers.

And speaking of updates, a revised Pike Research forecast estimates by 2020 commercial sales of fuel cell vehicles will reach a cumulative 1 million vehicles globally. Pike’s estimate is a significant cut from an estimate it made a year-and-a-half prior which forecast 2.8 million fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

What ever the actual numbers of hydrogen vehicles on the road turn out to be this decade, Toyota and other manufacturers are working on it.


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