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Toyota working to mass produce, lower costs of fuel-cell vehicles

The automaker is heavily committed to hydrogen-powered mobility.

2016 Toyota Mirai
Toyota currently only is able to build six Mirai fuel-cell cars per day.

Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles remain but a tiny part of the new-car marketplace, but Toyota plans to work on that by lowering the costs of the vehicles and building them more efficiently. That's the latest from Reuters, which reports that Toyota still continues to invest in fuel-cell cars as it prepares to launch a second-generation Mirai within the next few years.

Toyota currently sells the Mirai fuel-cell car but sales are slow. Last year, the automaker sold about 3,000 Mirais worldwide -- far below its goal of selling 30,000 fuel-cell models annually by 2020. One of the problems that needs to be resolved, according to Reuters, is speeding up production. Because the Mirai is hand-built and subject to careful inspections, Reuters says Toyota can build only six of them per day. Moreover, current fuel-cell stack designs require expensive precious metals, with the Mirai reportedly requiring platinum, which keeps the cost of the vehicles higher.

"We're going to shift from limited production to mass production, reduce the amount of expensive materials like platinum used in FCV components, and make the system more compact and powerful," Toyota Mirai chief engineer Yoshikazu Tanaka told Reuters.

To further see benefits of mass production -- both in speeding assembly and lowering prices -- Toyota officials told Reuters that future fuel-cell models would integrate more parts from existing cars and trucks. And finally, the automaker is aiming for improved driving ranges, reportedly hoping for the next-gen Mirai to boast a 435-466-mile range, with 620-mile ranges by 2025. Currently, the Toyota Mirai has a driving range of 312 miles per fill-up of hydrogen.

As it pushes for more hydrogen vehicles, Toyota has also invested in new, larger assembly lines for tanks and fuel cell stacks in Japan. The new facilities are expected to come online in 2020. In addition to the Mirai, Toyota has several other fuel-cell projects. In Japan, the company will launch a fuel cell-powered bus called the Sora in 2020, and has already started using fuel cell forklift trucks at one of its assembly plants. The company also has been testing a fuel cell-powered commercial truck, called Project Portal.