Fuel-cell Cars Will Take Years Says Toyota

by : Anthony Fontanelle

With the global warming uproar, automakers are mandated to fill the roads with fuel efficient cars. Matter of fact, work is moving forward to pave the way for the fuel-cell cars, the next-generation environmentally friendly vehicles. But Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday it will take years to make the cars commercially viable.

"When we first started the research and development of fuel-cell cars, some people predicted that they may be commercialized by around 2010. But that's difficult," Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said. "The technological advances are significant. The only problem is the cost."

The fuel-cell hybrid vehicle (FCHV) produces electricity through a chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen. Fuel cells emit nothing more than water vapor. This is why the FCHV is deemed one of the cleanest cars that are expected to invade the roads.

In 2007, the Japanese auto giant reported success in a test of a fuel-cell car. During the test, the FCHV was driven about 560 kilometers on a single filling. Remarkably, the car finished with 30 percent of the hydrogen still in the tank.

Beside the fact that the FCHV is pricey, Watanabe noted that motorists would need an infrastructure of hydrogen filling stations if they are to take fuel-cell cars on the road.

"It will probably be a long way ahead until we can start mass production, considering problems linked to difficulties in how to stock hydrogen and where to draw hydrogen from," he said. "It'll take long time to solve these problems, but we will definitely commercialize it as I believe it is a promising power sourceaid."

Toyota is the pioneer of hybrids. Additionally, the automaker is also expected to become the world's largest this year by leapfrogging General Motors Corp.

Watanabe in an interview with AFP said he hoped to go further and "make a car that can actually clean the air, so that the longer it runs the cleaner the air becomes." He added work was progressing with Matsushita on loading cars with lithium-ion batteries. The batteries would introduce to the industry the so-called "plug-in hybrids" that can be recharged from domestic outlets. "By 2010 we hope the achievement will see customers," Watanabe said.

"I have no intention of changing our policy that the centre of research and development will be in Japan," he concluded. "Of course, part of technological development already has shifted to satellite centers in the United States, Europe, Thailand, Australia and Taiwan. But the basic and core technologies will be developed in Japan."

Hopefully, other Japanese automakers like the manufacturer of Honda engines, Nissan filters, Mazda rotors, and would venture into plug-in hybrids production soon.