NAGOYA, Japan -- Facing tepid demand for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles due to their high price tags, Toyota Motor plans to slash the cost of the key components of the zero-emission cars by more than half for a new model slated to launch in 2020 or later.
The Japanese automaker started development of fuel cell vehicles in 1992 and debuted the Mirai, its first mass-produced model, in 2014. Production capacity for the Mirai has grown steadily, but the car remains pricey at about 7 million yen ($63,049) and has sold only a little more than 5,000 units.
Plans call for reducing the cost of the fuel cell system and other components further after the next-generation model is launched, cutting those costs by three-quarters around 2025. Toyota targets annual sales of over 30,000 vehicles globally, including more than 10,000 in Japan.
Toyota also plans to eliminate its offerings of combustion-engine-only cars by around 2025 as it forges into this greener era from all angles. The company will keep hybrid automobiles at the center of its electrification strategy, with plug-in hybrids, electric cars and fuel-cell vehicles to round out the lineup. The automaker aims to sell over 5.5 million electrified vehicles in 2030, with at least 1 million coming from zero-emission electric and fuel cell models.
Electric vehicles will be marketed toward short-distance drivers given the limited range of the cars and time needed to charge. Hybrids, plug-ins and fuel cell cars will be promoted for long-distance use.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles should draw support from environmentally conscious consumers because the technology produces no carbon dioxide emissions. Fuel cells also are user-friendly, as they take just three minutes to charge and can travel a comparable distance to gasoline-powered cars.
But high production costs and the limited availability of hydrogen fueling stations have impeded the spread of fuel cell technology. Toyota looks to create a joint venture with a consortium of domestic companies, including oil major JXTG Holdings, to develop a network of hydrogen stations in Japan.
Toyota also announced a plan to build one of the world's largest fuel cell power plants in the California city of Long Beach, using hydrogen produced from biogas. The company aims to boost recognition of hydrogen as an energy source while making large investments in related infrastructure.