Japanese auto giant Toyota will start selling its first fuel cell sedan in early 2015, with a price tag of around Y7 million ($A73,883), the company has announced.
The vehicles will start rolling off the production line by March in Japan, Toyota said on Wednesday, and later next year in the United States and Europe.
“Hydrogen is a particularly promising alternative fuel since it can be produced using a wide variety of primary energy sources, including solar and wind power,” the carmaker said in a statement.
Fuel cell cars are powered by a chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen, which produces nothing more harmful than water.
Toyota’s fuel cell sedan can travel about 700 kilometres without refuelling, about three times further than an electric car, and only takes three minutes to refuel, the company said.
The carmaker sees the fuel cell as a logical next step after its success with the Prius petrol-electric hybrid, which has sold about 3.7 million units since its late 1990s launch.
“Hydrogen does not emit CO2, so it could be a key player to realise a low-carbon society,” vice-president Mitsuhisa Kato said. “It can be produced with fossil fuel such as natural gas and even with sludge accumulated in the sewage system.
The announcement came a day after Japan’s industry ministry said the government would support the hydrogen and fuel cell sector in a “strategic roadmap”.
The ministry said the market is expected to expand from about one trillion yen in 2030 to about eight trillion yen within two decades.
While carmakers expect eventual government subsidies to make fuel cell vehicles more accessible, the price tag is also a nice surprise as it had been expected such a vehicle would cost around 10 million yen.
But establishing the network of refuelling stations is critical, Toyota said.
The company said it would initially sell the model only in the regions “where hydrogen refuelling infrastructure is being developed”.
The price ranges for the fuel cell car in US and European markets have not yet been decided, Toyota said.