Toyota‘s plans to have a mass-market fuel cell vehicle in showrooms by next year has drawn a lot of skepticism from around the industry, but rather than rushing into the project, Toyota is “leaving nothing to chance” as the company works towards proving its skeptics wrong, Toyota’s senior vice president of automotive operations for the company’s U.S. operations, Bob Carter, told Automotive News.
“I realize that there is no shortage of naysayers regarding the viability of this technology and the infrastructure to support it,” Carter said. “If others want to tune out this technology, that’s fine.” Several high-profile auto industry individuals have expressed a vocal distaste for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, including Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. Both Tesla and Nissan are instead pinning their hopes on plug-in battery electric vehicles.
Toyota, in the meantime, has been plugging away with its hydrogen fuel cell development, and Carter as previously stated, the company believes it will be as popular one day as the Prius has become. Regardless of one’s personal feelings towards Toyota’s hybrid, it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t been popular.
Critics assert that it will cost between $1 million and $2 million per hydrogen station, which would pose a signifiant headwind to Toyota’s plans to rapidly roll them out. Carter, however, noted that those figures are reportedly misleading, and has “predicted that an infrastructure will quickly get up and running with ready-to-use hydrogen being shipped to existing fuel stations,” Automotive News said.
Another big point of contention around hydrogen is its explosive properties, and the fact that it is stored under pressure onboard the vehicle. However, Toyota has apparently gone to great lengths to ensure that the tanks in which the hydrogen would be stored were able to hold up to any abuse that they may encounter on the road; those measures included shooting at the tanks with small caliber firearms.
When the smaller bullets weren’t able to yield any explosions or damage, the engineers moved up, shooting 50 caliber rounds that “managed to dent and barely penetrate the material,” Automotive News said. ”We wanted to know what it takes to actually pierce them,” Carter remarked. “It’s just one of a thousand different tests we’re conducting to ensure the durability of the vehicles. We want to be absolutely sure of the integrity of the systems.”
The pricing information for the vehicle itself has not been made available yet, nor has the estimated cost of the filling stations been made public.