Toyota May Make ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Hydrogen Cars by 2020s

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest seller of hybrid vehicles, wants to be able to supply thousands of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles annually in the next decade in anticipation of demand for petroleum-free autos.

The carmaker displayed its hydrogen-powered FCV-R concept car today at the Geneva motor show, reiterating its intention to sell vehicles based on the non-polluting sedan by 2015.

“We are preparing to be able to produce tens of thousands per year in the 2020s,” Didier Leroy, head of Toyota’s European operations, said in prepared remarks in Geneva. The Toyota City, Japan-based automaker hasn’t yet detailed the price or marketing plans for fuel-cell cars or set a global sales target, said John Hanson, a spokesman for the company’s U.S. unit.

Toyota, which is selling a plug-in version of its Prius hybrid and this year adds battery-powered RAV4 and Scion iQ models, has said it’s reducing cost and technical hurdles that have kept hydrogen fuel-cell cars from being sold to retail customers. Hydrogen’s appeal as a fuel is its abundance and ability to propel vehicles distances comparable to gasoline.

Drawbacks include the high cost of producing the fuel cells themselves, layers of plastic film coated with platinum sandwiched between metal plates that produce electricity, and few stations equipped to dispense hydrogen fuel.

Toyota in Geneva today also showed the FT-Bh concept vehicle, a small, lightweight gasoline-electric hatchback that the company said will have carbon emissions that are less than half the average for similarly sized cars.