Toyota Bringing Hydrogen Fuel-Cell-Powered Bus and Minivan to Tokyo Motor Show

While some have turned their backs on hydrogen, Toyota still has big fuel-cell dreams.

byEric Brandt|
Toyota News photo

Plug-in electric vehicles may currently have the upper hand in the alternative fuel race, but Toyota isn’t ready to give up on hydrogen. Far from it, the Japanese automotive giant is doubling down on fuel-cell power by bringing two new hydrogen fuel-cell concepts to the Tokyo Motor Show starting next week according to Automotive News.

One of the concepts is called the Fine-Comfort Ride. It’s a boxy, minivan-esque family vehicle that kind of reminds us of the C-HR crossover. It has sharp lines, big wheels, and the whole top half of the vehicle is tinted black. It has six seats. Four are swiveling captain’s chairs and a small bench seat way in the back. The swiveling seats imply fully-autonomous capability in this concept, or at least the idea of it.

The motors are in the wheels to maximize interior space getting us closer to the original minivan concept of a mobile living room. One of the biggest benefits of hydrogen over more conventional battery-powered EVs is range. Toyota estimates an astounding range of 621 miles for the Fine-Comfort Ride concept.

The second concept is a large city bus called the Sora. The name “Sora” is an acronym for “sky, ocean, river, air,” a reference to the water cycle. Toyota’s goal is to get 100 real-life, working Sora buses on the streets of Tokyo in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics to showcase what the brand is capable of with hydrogen power.

The Toyota Sora has two fuel cell stacks, two electric motors, a nickel-metal hydride battery like the ones found in conventional hybrids like the Prius, and 10 high-pressure hydrogen tanks. On top of its innovative powertrain, the Sora is equipped with cameras all over the place to monitor its surroundings and warn the driver of any potential hazards.

While Toyota’s goal of getting operational Sora busses on the street in just a few years might sound lofty, Toyota already has two fuel-cell 77-seat buses currently operating in Tokyo. Some manufacturers have abandoned hydrogen in favor of batteries, but Japan is still betting a lot on fuel cells. Time will tell which alternative fuel source is the future of transportation.