(LAS VEGAS-AFP) – Toyota said Monday it plans to launch a fuel-cell car in the United States next year, declaring the hydrogen vehicle with zero emissions “the car of the future.”
Toyota Motor Sales vice president Bob Carter said the initial market will be California, together with an initiative to establish hydrogen refueling stations in key regions of the state.
“In 2015, we will bring this car to market,” Carter said in the announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The vehicle, yet to be named, would be a “zero-emission, electric-drive, mid-size, four-door sedan.”
“Functionally, this is a regular car,” he added.
The streamlined design is to maximize oxygen intake for the fuel-cell process. It will be able to travel 300 miles (480 kilometers) on a single fueling, which would take three to five minutes.
While carmakers have long touted the advantages of fuel cells, high production costs and a lack of fuel stations have held back the technology.
Carter said however that Toyota had been getting results from its major investments and added that “we believe we can bring it in at a very reasonable price for a lot of people.”
Government initiatives in California were making progress in getting hydrogen fueling stations in needed areas, he added.
“The issue of infrastructure is not so much about how many, but rather location, location, location,” he said.
“Fuel cells will be in our future sooner than many people believe… and in much greater numbers than anyone expected.”
Toyota unveiled a prototype last year at the Tokyo auto show, but on Monday offered more details for its plans for the US market.
Honda is also expected to roll out a fuel-cell car in the US market in 2015, and other automakers are working on the technology, which emits only water vapor as exhaust.
Honda already has a fuel-cell car, the FCX Clarity, available on a small scale in a limited number of markets.
Carter said that Toyota and California officials plan to add 20 new fuel stations by 2015 to the 10 existing ones. The goal is to have about 100 in the state, and to have a station within a six-minute drive of an owner’s home or business.
“This infrastructure thing is going to happen,” he said.
“I believe this vehicle will be the car of the future.”
It is expected to launch in Japan at about the same time.