Toyota is confident that fuel cell vehicles will be price competitive against other zero-emission cars before 2030, Soichiro Okudaira, chief officer, r&d Group, told Automotive News Europe in an interview. "Beyond 2020 .... fuel cell cars will be considered just one alternative of the eco cars," he said.
Toyota is hoping that dramatic reductions in the cost of fuel cells will help it sell between 5,000 and 10,000 units when the production version of its FCV Concept, unveiled at the Tokyo auto show last month, goes on sale in early 2015.
When the company built demonstration vehicles in 2007 each fuel cell system cost nearly 750,000 euros. Now it expects the cost of the system will be less than 5 million yen (35,900 euro) by 2015, or about half the car's 72,000-euro price tag.
In the FCV Concept the cost of the fuel cell stack has been lowered by reducing the amount of platinum in the catalyst and making the stack smaller to fit under the front seats.
Sharing components with the company's existing hybrids, including a motor and electronics, has also contributed to lower costs. However, the production sedan will not share a platform with the next-generation Prius, because the fuel cell vehicle is heavier and has a different underbody structure and layout.
Toyota believes larger production volumes and improved engineering will contribute to future fuel cell cost savings. "First we need to simplify the system, then share parts with combustion engines, reduce the use of precious metals and reduce the quantity of material used to build the tank," Tatsuaki Yokoyama, a general manager of Toyota’s fuel cell system engineering division said.
Toyota r&d exec Okudaira said that in the five years after the 2015 launch Toyota plans to "further reduce the cost of the fuel cell unit to one-fifth." Toyota has declined to say how much a fuel cell vehicle could cost in 2020. But working from data it has released, that figure could be about 45,000 euro.
Rivals & potential markets
Experimental fuel cell projects are up and running in a number of locations, especially in California, where a law has recently been passed to fund the construction of at least 100 public hydrogen filling stations by 2024. Honda leases its FCX Clarity and Mercedes-Benz sells its F-Cell there. But Toyota hopes fuel cell sales will rise quickly to tens of thousands of units each year in the 2020s.
Toyota intends to launch its FCV sedan in Japan, North America and Europe. In Europe, the first markets likely to get the car are Germany, the Scandinavian countries and the UK, Yokoyama told Automotive News Europe.
Currently, no fuel cell model is sold in Europe. Daimler has delayed plans to launch a fuel cell powered variant of its B-class compact car until at least 2017, while in the U.S. Hyundai will start leasing 1,000 fuel cell Tucson SUVs next year and Honda will sell a five-seat fuel cell vehicle in 2015.