Having invested heavily in hydrogen, a technology derided by Tesla CEO Elon Musk as “incredibly dumb”, Toyota Motor is making a renewed push for fuel cell cars to fill a role in a future controlled by electric battery vehicles.
Japan’s biggest automaker thinks both technologies– all-electric battery cars like the Tesla Model X on one hand and Toyota’s hydrogen Mirai on the other – will be required to completely take over gasoline vehicles.
“We do not actually see an adversary ‘zero-sum’ relationship in between the EV electric vehicle and the hydrogen car,” Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada informed Reuters before the Tokyo Motor Show. “We’re not about to quit on hydrogen electric fuel-cell technology at all.”
Toyota started pitching its fuel-cell car as a mainstream gas vehicle alternative in 2014 when it introduced the Mirai with a price tag of 7.24 million yen – nearly $70,000 at the time.
The car has since been released in the United States and other nations. But initial excitement has faded as significant markets including China and Europe have slanted greatly towards electric vehicles.
Only 4,300 Mirais have been sold, compared to around 4 million units of the Prius, Toyota’s hit hybrid that introduced in the age of the EV.
Uchiyamada, who is referred as the “father of the Prius”, says Toyota isn’t anti-EV and is investing greatly in technologies such all solid-state lithium-ion batteries to make them more preferred.
However it likewise sees some benefits for hydrogen vehicles, which are moved by electricity produced by fuel cells.
One significant issue dealing with EVs is the length of time they require to charge – approximately 18 hours sometimes – and a problem being enhanced as automakers pack in more batteries to extend range.
Rapid charging technology is assisting to resolve this issue. However a 30- to 40-minute wait is still too long for numerous ordinary drivers with hectic lives, states Yoshikazu Tanaka, the chief engineer in charge of Toyota’s Mirai.