Robert Lea Industrial Editor in Paris
They are clean, quiet and are viewed by many as the best long-term bet to avoid fuel shortages. And from next summer, hydrogen cars will be a reality on Britain’s roads if Toyota has its way.
The world’s biggest vehicle manufacturer is to use Britain as a test bed for its fuel cell vehicles in an attempt to kick-start investment in hydrogen-fuelled, zero-emission electric cars.
The four-door, four-seater saloons will arrive next summer with a likely price in excess of £40,000, about the cost of top executive cars.
Toyota, which was widely credited with transforming the industry with the Prius, which has led the commercialisation of the petrol-electric hybrid car, is trumpeting the FCV as the “ultimate eco-vehicle”.
They can be refuelled with hydrogen in the time it takes to fill up a petrol or diesel vehicle. Tests have shown that they can run as far and as fast as cars with combustion engines.
However, with next to no hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in place, the first sales or leases are likely to be to companies that run hybrid or pure electric fleets of cars and which can invest in their own hydrogen facilities.
“Fuel cell is a technology for the coming decades and while there will be challenges to overcome such as infrastructure, we are motivated to help evolve the market,” a spokesman for Toyota said.
“We don’t see this as a competition between the various technologies as we believe FCVs will coexist with plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.”
The industry believes that fuel cell vehicles will not be widely used until the 2030s.
Toyota has chosen Britain for its launch internationally with the United States, Germany and Denmark because of the government’s commitment to the country becoming a world leader in ultra-low emission vehicles. Nissan Leaf, the electric car built in Sunderland, and Toyota’s Auris hybrid cars built in Derby have both emerged in Britain.
Hydrogen supporters say it can be produced from renewable sources and is easy to store and transport. However, the cost and availability of manufacturing and storage facilities have prompted doubts over its widespread take-up.
Land Rover unveils its more conventional Discovery Sport at the show tomorrow.
Shortlist for tech awards
Britain’s emerging position at the centre of new efficient-vehicle technologies is reflected in the shortlist for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ annual awards for automotive innovation. The shortlist for the awards, sponsored by GKN and supported by The Times, is:
– Sound-deadening materials called Xlite, Automotive Insulations, Warwickshire;
– A powerful manual transmission system called OGeco for hybrids, Vocis;
– A flywheel energy recovery system for hybrid buses,Torotrak;
– lightweight, low-emission Ingenium diesel and petrol engines, Jaguar;
– liquid air technology developed for transport refrigeration, Birmingham University and the Dearman Engine Company;
– NaturaLine cargo refrigeration being tested by Sainsbury’s and developed by Carrier Transicold.
The winner will be announced at the SMMT annual dinner on November 25.