Toyota isn't giving up on hydrogen technology in spite of new EV focus
With long-time CEO Akio Toyoda nearly out of the picture, Toyota is shifting its focus to developing more electric vehicles. However, the firm has invested a considerable amount of resources into hydrogen technology, and it stressed that it's not about to mothball its investment.
"We want to ensure that hydrogen stays a viable option," incoming CEO Koji Sato told industry trade journal Automotive News.
Making hydrogen — whether it's burned in an internal-combustion engine or used to generate electricity — a viable option to gasoline, diesel, and electricity is easier said than done. Sato recognized that a production and transport supply chain is required to put more hydrogen-powered vehicles on the road, and the lack of an infrastructure in pretty much every nation remains a significant hurdle.
"Unless we see evolution there, we cannot expect a volume increase in the energy's use," he explained to Automotive News.
Japan's government has high hopes for hydrogen as well. The same report notes lawmakers hope the number of fuel cell-powered vehicles on the nation's roads will grow to 200,000 units in 2025 and 800,000 in 2030. More refueling stations are planned across Japan to make that goal a reality; there are about 160 filling stations in Japan, according to Toyota, and the network should include around 900 stations in 2030.
Yasuhiko Hashimoto, the president of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, supports Toyota's vision and explained his firm's contribution to making hydrogen viable. It's developing a ship capable of transporting 128 times more liquefied hydrogen than the boats criss-crossing the oceans in 2023. In turn, building a bigger ship should help lower the cost of hydrogen by about 30 cents per cubic meter by 2030. Hashimoto also stressed that, beyond cars, hydrogen could become a workable alternative for trucks, buses, trains, and construction equipment.
BMW is another vocal proponent of hydrogen; it notably operates a joint-venture with Toyota. Earlier in 2023, it unveiled a hydrogen-electric, X5-based prototype called iX5 that was built for a pilot project. Autoblog drove the experimental SUV in Belgium. BMW told us that hydrogen is best suited to bigger cars, but it also noted that the technology would work well in heavy equipment like ships and airplanes. Hyundai has allocated a great deal of time and money to hydrogen research as well, while Honda and General Motors are also working together.
In the meantime, Toyota has started developing a dedicated platform for electric cars that should be ready in 2026. The architecture is being engineered to keep costs in check and unlock better performance than the current crop of EVs are capable of, according to the company.
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