Toyota Says Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Will Be Cheap As Hybrids by 2025

Second-generation fuel cells will cut costs, the automaker says.

David Dewhurst/Toyota

Toyota is developing electric cars that will use advanced solid-state batteries, but it hasn't given up on hydrogen fuel cells. The automaker will continue to develop that technology, and believes it can substantially reduce costs over the next decade. By 2025, hydrogen cars will be as cheap as hybrids, Naomichi Hata, Toyota's general manager of new business planning, said in an interview with Autocar at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show. 

To put that in perspective, a base 2017 Toyota Prius starts at $24,370, while the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan starts at $58,395. Both prices include a mandatory $895 destination charge. But Toyota's Hata said the company will introduce a new generation of fuel cells in the early 2020s that will be less expensive to produce. 

Toyota also plans to increase production volumes for fuel cell cars, allowing it to take advantage of economies of scale. Current Mirai production is limited to around 3,000 cars a year, but Toyota hopes to building 10 times as many fuel cell cars annually by 2025, Hata said.

Toyota remains the biggest advocate for hydrogen fuel cells among major automakers. In addition to its fuel cell passenger car plans, Toyota unveiled a hydrogen-powered bus at the Tokyo Motor Show, which will enter production in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in the Japanese capital. The automaker is also testing a fuel cell semi truck in California.

Even if Toyota can build more fuel cell vehicles at a lower price, the lack of hydrogen fueling stations could keep demand down. The expansion of H2 infrastructure in the United States has proceeded at an agonizingly slow pace, with only California achieving the critical mass of fueling stations needed to support car sales.