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Toyota to sell hydrogen fuel cell car by 2015

Japanese car giant, Toyota, has announced that it plans to mass produce a hydrogen fuel car by as early as 2015. It made the bold statement at the recent Tokyo Motor Show, where it unveiled its fuel cell concept car, called the FCV. The cells are recharged in minutes and the car has a range of around 300 miles. Korean rival, Hyundai, has also said that it plans to build and sell such a car by as early as 2014.

Japanese car giant, Toyota, has announced that it plans to mass produce a hydrogen fuel car by as early as 2015. It made the bold statement at the recent Tokyo Motor Show, where it unveiled its fuel cell concept car, called the FCV. The cells are recharged in minutes and the car has a range of around 300 miles. Korean rival, Hyundai, has also said that it plans to build and sell such a car by as early as 2014. Hyundai has stated that it will put a hydrogen cell version of its existing Tucson SUV on sale in the US market next year. Honda is also keen to get in on the act and is about to unveil its own hydrogen fuel cell concept car.

Car manufacturers are keen on the hydrogen fuel cell because it has a number of unique qualities. The fuel cells use hydrogen to make electricity and the only waste products are water and heat. As such, it is an entirely emission free power technology and means that car makers can easily meet emissions targets. What is often missed in the hype about electric cars is that they are not necessarily emissions free. They run on electricity that is produced in our power stations and at the moment that still means using quite a lot of hydrocarbons and nuclear energy.

Other qualities include the fast refuelling time. They can be filled up with hydrogen in much the same time that it takes to fill up a conventional petrol car. This is in stark contrast to electric cars, where recharging can take many hours. The range of fuel cell cars is also significantly improved over electric cars. The average range of around 300 miles is around three times that of an electric car. Because it can be refuelled quickly, drivers of fuel cell cars need not suffer the range anxiety that is holding up sales of electric cars.

The limitation of fuel cells appears to centre on the absence of a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. Indeed, Nissan chief executive, Carlos Ghosen, cites this to explain his own company's reservations: "Frankly, I don't know how they are going to do it, because knowing all the problems we have, to have a charging system with electricity, where is the hydrogen infrastructure? That's why we have postponed, in a certain way, some of our ambitions in terms of fuel cells."

It seems likely, though, that such obstacles can be overcome. One need only look at the spread of petrol stations after cars became more common.

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