Toyota unveils its first new hydrogen car in a decade, to go on sale this autumn
Announcement of new five-seater sedan comes as new CEO plans accelerated expansion into battery-electric vehicles
Japanese auto maker Toyota is to launch a new hydrogen fuel cell car (FCEV) this autumn, adding to the company’s flagship FCEV, the Mirai — despite the new CEO’s plan to massively expand its range of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs).
An FCEV version of the revamped Toyota Crown sedan will be available to buy in Japan and the US from autumn 2023.
Toyota is also making a hybrid-electric version of the Crown, as well as hybrid and plug-in electric estate and sports versions.
The announcement marks the first new hydrogen car from the Japanese company for nearly a decade, following the introduction of the Mirai in 2014 — one of only two FCEVs currently on the market, alongisde the Hyundai Nexo.
Toyota’s focus on H2 cars over the past decade has left it far behind the curve on battery EVs (BEVs), with its only BEV model, the bZ4X, selling poorly.
A little over 56,000 FCEVs have been sold to date globally, according to one consultant, while 10.5 million BEVs and plug-in hybrid EVs were delivered worldwide in 2022 alone.
Some commentators predicted that new CEO Koji Sato, who took the helm at Toyota at the beginning of this month, would pivot the company away from hydrogen vehicles towards BEVs, and he has indeed already announced that the automaker would launch ten new EV models by 2026, as well as around another ten after that date.
But Sato has also said that Toyota will continue to back its hydrogen programme, despite a growing consensus that for passenger cars, at least, BEVs will be a clear winner on cost, infrastructure and efficiency.
Nevertheless, in a presentation given last week, company executives suggested that the company may be subtly refocusing its hydrogen future away from passenger vehicles towards heavy duty trucking, despite remaining “firmly committed to [Toyota's] multi-pathway approach”.
“For FCEVs we will pursue mass production centred on commercial vehicles,” said Hiroki Nakajima, Toyota’s chief technology officer. “One feature of FCEVs is that the energy source, hydrogen, is lightweight so even when travelling longer distances the vehicle is not as heavy as a battery EV and less space is required. Refuelling is also much quicker. Taking advantage of these strengths, we will work with business operators to promote FCEVs by starting with commercial vehicles such as medium to heavy duty trucks.
“Additionally, we have started basic research on hydrogen engines for heavy duty commercial vehicles last year,” he added.