Lots has been talked about Tesla Motor’s move in recent weeks to release some of its patents, in order to kick start an electric car charging network. While this has been happening however, another automotive giant has been laying out its own plans for the future of automobiles.
Japanese auto giant Toyota has announced a release date for its first ever fuel cell car, promising that it will herald the beginning of the “next 100 years” of the car. The vehicle itself uses a hydrogen fuel cell to produce electricity by converting hydrogen gas to water, which then powered a standard electric motor.
In terms of form, it carries on the design legacy of previous fuel cell vehicle prototypes made by Toyota. The car looks futuristic with elegant curves and a low, aerodynamic profile, while at the same time not looking so outlandish that it would immediately draw attention. One notable design feature that may be divisive is the large dual air intakes, which dominate much of the front end of the car.
Unfortunately, this car won't come cheap. Initially, the vehicle will first hit the Japanese market in April 2015, for 7 million JPY, around $70,000. The fuel cell vehicle will then be released in US and European markets during the northern summer. This mid 2015 release puts will put the vehicle in a competition with the delayed Tesla Model S, which also will be priced towards high-end consumers.
Despite this, Toyota believes that its fuel cell vehicles have several advantages over battery powered electric vehicles such as those produced by Tesla. The most important of these is driving range. While battery electric vehicles are limited by the capacity of Lithium-Ion batteries, Hydrogen fuel cells vehicles can travel much further.In fact, Toyota claims that its first vehicle with this technology will be able to travel 430 miles (690km) on a single tank of compressed hydrogen gas.
In addition to this, the refueling times for Toyota’s vehicles will be much faster than electric ones. Even with Tesla’s much talked about ‘Supercharger’ technology, the best an electric car can manage is with current technology is a full battery after 30 minutes of charging. Fuel cell cars on the other hand, could fill a tank in as little as 5 minutes, making them much more viable for long-distance travel.
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