Not just hot air

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News -

THE com­pany that led Aus­tralia into the hy­brid era is pre­par­ing a new push with hy­dro­gen power.

Toy­ota says it will be the first car­maker to sell a hy­dro­gen­pow­ered car in Aus­tralia, us­ing an on­board fuel cell to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity, as early as 2016.

It claims the new­comer will be a big­ger breakthrough than the first Prius, al­though its plans de­pend on de­vel­op­ing a work­able net­work of re­fu­elling sta­tions that can sup­ply the hy­dro­gen for the ve­hi­cle.

Toy­ota is well ad­vanced with its fuel cell de­vel­op­ment work.

I have driven an im­pres­sive Kluger in Cal­i­for­nia that is re­fu­elled from the world’s first ded­i­cated high-pres­sure hy­dro­gen re­fu­elling sta­tion.

It sounds and re­sponds like an elec­tric car, and Toy­ota says it will shrink the gi­ant hy­dro­gen tanks and pro­to­type fuel cell stack by the time its first pro­duc­tion car is ready.

‘‘ We’re aim­ing for a pro­duc­tion fuel cell car in the US in 2015. It’s a car, not an SUV,’’ says Toy­ota Aus­tralia prod­uct plan­ning boss Greg Gard­ner. ‘‘ It will be an all-new model. Some­thing like the Prius, at least ini­tially.’’

Toy­ota has shown sev­eral hy­dro­gen con­cept cars in­clud­ing a four-door sedan that will have the space to pack­age the new-era pow­er­plant, which is sim­i­lar to the one in the land­mark Honda Clar­ity. The Clar­ity be­gan as a con­cept car and is now leased in small num­bers in Ja­pan and the US, but is not re­garded as a gen­uine pro­duc­tion model.

Toy­ota says its car will be sold, not leased, and will be a gen­uine pro­duc­tion car and not a sci­ence ex­per­i­ment.

Even so, Gard­ner says it will take time to get es­tab­lished.

‘‘ It will be pro­duced in the tens of thou­sands by 2020. It won’t be like the Prius, which will hit one mil­lion sales next year,’’ he says. He prom­ises a car that sat­is­fies the needs of reg­u­lar con­sumers, not just eco-war­riors, with the prac­ti­cal­ity of a Camry.

‘‘ The good thing about hy­dro­gen is that you only have to find space for the cell and tanks. It’s about pack­ag­ing,’’ Gard­ner says.

‘‘ It can be ap­plied to any ve­hi­cle. So in the fu­ture you could have a gaso­line car, an elec­tric hy­brid and hy­dro­gen drive in the same ve­hi­cle.’’

But he ad­mits there is an ele­phant in the room— there is no sign of a work­able hy­dro­gen fuel net­work any time soon in Aus­tralia.

‘‘ Re­fu­elling is the big­gest chal­lenge,’’ he says.

‘‘ But this is the fu­ture we’re talk­ing about. If we build it, they will come.

‘‘ When we in­tro­duce it, we’ll have to work col­lab­o­ra­tively with the liq­uid en­ergy dis­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ments to make it work. It’s a mas­sive task.’’

Paul Gover

Mod­ern take: Toy­ota wants fu­ture cars to be clean and un­con­ven­tional

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