Toyota believes the price of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will match those of hybrids within ten years.
The Japanese carmaker is a leader in fuel cell technology with its first-generation vehicle, the Mirai, already on sale in certain markets. The technology is still in its infancy but allows drivers the practicality and range of a petrol vehicle in a zero-emission package.
‘By the third generation we fully expect fuel cell costs to be comparable with hybrids,’ European head of sales and marketing, Matt Harrison, said at the Automotive News Europe Congress. ‘We believe fuel cell vehicles have a huge potential,’ he said.
Harrison said Toyota was ‘not so far’ from selling the second-generation model, with the third-generation arriving within a decade.
The carmaker is trying to reduce its average CO2 emissions as the European Commission brings in stricter targets for 2025 and 2030. In addition, the collapse in sales of diesel vehicles has left the company vulnerable to the 2021 targets. However, with its sales of hybrids, Toyota is one of the best placed manufacturers to meet or come close to the 95g/km target.
‘There is no perfect technology to meet this task to succeed,’ Harrison said. ‘We are preparing various alternatives and will let our customers decide which form of electrification suits them.’
Toyota sold 480,000 hybrids in its wider European region last year, including Russia, with the technology accounting for 46% of sales. Looking at just western Europe, that figure rises to 60%. ‘It’s limited by supply for the second year running, not demand,’ Harrison said.
Harrison said Toyota has reduced the cost of hybrid technology by 75% since launching the first Prius in 1997. The car is now in its fourth generation. ‘Our next-generation hybrid technology will be more affordable still,’ he said.
Harrison did not say how the price of fuel cell cars will be reduced to match hybrids.
One way that fuel cells are more expensive than electric vehicle and hybrids is due to the use of platinum in their building.
However, component supplier and technology company Bosch, which announced last month that it had partnered with Swedish manufacturer Powercell in an effort to move into the automotive fuel cell market, believes the technology can become cheaper with a reduction in use of the precious metal. Its own design will only need as much platinum as a current diesel catalytic convertor.
‘There has been lots of optimisation work concerning platinum in fuel cells,’ Achim Moritz, product manager for mobile fuel cells at Bosch, told Reuters. ‘If you look at a diesel catalytic system, there is about the same amount of platinum content you need for a fuel cell,’ he added.