Building a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle today costs just 1/20 of the price was in developing the current prototypes. As a result, Toyota will soon be able to build a workable business model and have better sales prospects, according to Chris Hostetter, group vice president of strategic planning for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., and one of the automaker’s top engineers.
He said that several years ago, each of the prototype fuel cell vehicles costs about $1 million to develop. He said that every saleable vehicle that’s set to arrive in 2015 will cost around $50,000 to make. At the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference, Hostetter said that this would probably mean that each vehicle will have a price tag of under $100,000.
Beginning in 2015, Toyota hopes to offer a fuel cell vehicle in states that have to follow the California Air Resources Board mandate. Toyota’s present range of 100 fuel cell beta-test prototypes is based on the Highlander crossover and is believed to have a 440-mile range in the real world.
Hostetter said that the 2015 production vehicle will have a silhouette and size similar to that of the Prius, making it comparable to that of the FCV-R concept hatchback presented at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. An updated version of the FCV-R is slated to be seen at the 2013 Tokyo show. But the automaker’s sales targets may be hampered by the lack of a workable hydrogen refueling infrastructure.
Currently, Toyota fuel cell vehicles are available just in California and New York. Hostetter said that initially, California intended to have around 60 hydrogen stations statewide. However, the target has fallen to even lower than half that figure. Just eight are presently functional.
New York is the only state in the East Coast that has a viable hydrogen infrastructure. Sales in only New York and California may already total to about 2,000 units. Hostetter estimates that the fuel cell sales rate would be equal that of the original Prius, which posted nationwide sales of 11,000 units in 2000, which is when it started to sell in the U.S.