Toyota Plans to Ramp up Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicle Production Around 2020

The Japanese automaker wants to produce 30,000 fuel-cell vehicles per year.

Toyota

Toyota will open a larger-scale factory for hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain components around 2020. Japan's largest automaker remains committed to fuel cells despite low sales and its own plans to develop battery-electric cars alongside hydrogen models.

A newly-constructed building on the grounds of the Honsha plant near the automaker's Toyota City headquarters will build hydrogen fuel-cell stacks. A Toyota press release said the automaker will also add a new line at its Shimoyama plant to build hydrogen storage tanks.

Both facilities will come online in 2020, as part of Toyota's goal of vastly expanding production of fuel-cell vehicles. Toyota hopes to eventually build 30,000 fuel-cell passenger cars and buses a year, although it did not say exactly when it hoped to achieve that goal. It's a major increase from the 3,000 fuel-cell vehicles Toyota said it built last year. Toyota expects its home market of Japan to account for about one third of that volume.

Toyota already sells the Mirai fuel-cell sedan in Japan, the United States, and nine other countries. The car is built in the same Motomachi plant that built the Lexus LFA, and like the LFA the Mirai is churned out in very small numbers. That's due in part to lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure, as well as a high purchase price (the Mirai starts at $59,285 in the U.S.) owing to high production costs.

In addition to the Mirai, Toyota began sales of hydrogen fuel-cell buses to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in February 2017. The buses are expected to be used during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as part of an effort by the Japanese government to highlight the country's technological prowess. Toyota plans to deliver at least 100 buses ahead of the Olympics.

Hydrogen fuel cells are often pitted against batteries in a contest to replace internal combustion. Toyota has been a staunch advocate of fuel cells, but the automaker has also begun development work on solid-state batteries for future electric cars. Cars powered by these batteries aren't expected to appear until the early 2020s.