Toyota to launch first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle for about $70K

Toyota isn't exactly pricing its first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to move. But it does appear to be price competitive with the Tesla Model S.

Toyota's fuel cell sedan at CES 2014. Sarah Tew/CNET

Toyota has hung a price tag on its first commercial hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle.

And it's not cheap: 7 million yen, which converts to roughly $70,000, £40,000 or AU$73,000. That does, however, make the pricing competitive with the all-electric Tesla Model S. The Tesla retails for close to $70,000 in the US, £40,000 in the UK and AU$97,000 in Australia.

Toyota's first fuel-cell sedan will go on sale in Japan before April 2015 and in the US and Europe by the summer of 2015, the automaker said Wednesday when it announced the pricing. Australian availability was not announced.

Fuel-cell cars have become a pet project of the Japanese government. Japan is now considering subsidies and tax breaks so vehicles can be purchased by consumers for about 2 million yen ($20,000, £11,500, AU$21,000) -- the same price as gas-electric hybrids -- by 2025.

And Toyota sees fuel-cell technology -- not pure battery-electric cars like the Tesla -- as the future.

Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota's North American region, recently told Automotive News that battery-electric vehicles are viable only in "a select way, in short-range vehicles that take you that extra mile...But for long-range travel primary vehicles, we feel there are better alternatives, such as hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and tomorrow with fuel cells."

General Motors, for its part, has a fleet of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and is working with Honda to accelerate the development of hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain technology. GM has mentioned the 2015-2020 timeframe for release to the public.

Fuel-cell vehicles -- which combine hydrogen with oxygen to generate electricity as the car goes along, and emit only water vapor as exhaust -- would presumably compete with all-electric cars like the Tesla and plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt.

One of the biggest challenges -- besides the high price -- is building a hydrogen fueling station infrastructure. Japan has stations numbering only in the dozens. California is one of the few states in the US allocating money for a fueling station infrastructure, with plans to have enough stations to support 10,000 vehicles.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.


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