Earlier this week, Toyota unveiled its latest creation: the world’s first commercial hydrogen fuel cell car. This vehicle, of course, has been highly anticipated since the concept was originally publicized at the Tokyo Auto Show back in 2013. It will be available for buyers by early to mid 2015.
In their official announcement, Toyota says, “Toyota’s commitment to developing vehicles that are kinder to the environment is based on three principles: embracing diverse energy sources; securing low vehicle emissions; and driving positive environmental change by making these vehicles popular with customers.”
Since its conception, the Toyota hydrogen fuel cell car has been aimed at rivaling the up-and-coming juggernaut Tesla in the fuel efficiency and clean energy market.
Looking at the numbers, Toyota’s goal of outdoing Tesla becomes even more obvious. Firstly, the hydrogen car is priced at $68,000 American, which comes right under the baseline $69,000 price that Tesla has set up.
The Toyota hydrogen car also beats out Tesla in cruising range (435 miles vs. 300 miles), and it kills Tesla in charging time (3 minutes vs. 72 minutes).
But how do they work?
Well similar to the Tesla Model S, the Toyota hydrogen fuel cell cars are propelled by electric motors. However, unlike the Model S, the Toyota does not need to be plugged in to gather energy. Instead, hydrogen gas passes through a stack of plastic membranes and platinum dusted plates to produce electricity, leaving only a trailing mist of water vapor as it is driven.
For Toyota, this vehicle is a huge investment towards the future, which they believe will be closely tied to efficiency and clean energy. In fact, Toyota’s website has boldly proclaimed that with this vehicle, “We’re setting the next 100 years in motion.”
Obviously, Toyota has the utmost confidence with this project. Executive vice president, Karl Schlicht, says, “There are many challenges ahead, such as the availability of fueling infrastructure and customer awareness. But our history with hybrids gives us all the experience we need to bring a new technology to the market.”
He continues on by saying, “In Europe, we will be taking it step by step, gradually introducing the car in selected markets. But we are confident that hydrogen will become increasingly popular as a way of powering vehicle.”
Tesla founder and chairman, Elon Musk, however is not impressed, publicly condemning the car as second rate compared to his.
Earlier this month at Tesla’s annual Palo Alto meeting, Musk said, “As people probably know, I’m not the biggest fan of fuel cells — I usually call them ‘‘fool cells.’”
Regardless of Musk’s disapproval, though, it appears that Tesla has a new and formidable challenger. Now, Musk must respond with an even more efficient, powerful, affordable Tesla model to keep pace. Drivers couldn’t have asked for anything better.