The “Fine Comfort-Ride” fuel cell concept from Toyota is expected to have an impressive 600-mile range
Toyota has announced that its next fuel cell EV (FCEV) concept will make its debut at next week’s Tokyo Motor Show.
In a press release, the Japanese automaker noted that the “Fine Comfort-Ride” concept is capable of a 600 mile range – an impressive claim if achievable, given that Toyota’s current flagship Mirai FCEV has an EPA-rated range of around 300 miles.
Following the lead of much of the car industry, the “premium saloon” FCEV appears to be geared towards a comfortable cabin suitable for long-range autonomous travel. The Fine Comfort-Ride’s large dimensions, with a length of 4,830mm, allow the car to fit six-seats and offer flexibility with interior layout. Rows of the seats can be rearranged to face other passengers, or even reclined – a “flexible layout unique to electric-powered vehicles” it said.
Aside from the instantly catchy name and mammoth range though, Toyota remained guarded on further details. It says the model would use an in-wheel motor, but there has not yet been any further confirmation of the powertrain. hydrogen storage capacity or of any self-driving technologies used.
More details may emerge over the course of the show, which runs October 25 to November 5.
The automaker continues to defy the industry pack with its focus on hydrogen powered vehicles, which despite having a substantially longer range than many EVs, have faced criticism from other competitors and researchers alike.
Fuel-cell vehicles have been described as not being economically competitive with EVs, especially when considering the falling cost of lithium-ion batteries which has led many of Toyota’s competitors to focus on battery powered vehicles for the future.
With a refuelling time of around 3 minutes, hydrogen vehicles do triumph over the time taken to charge EVs, which has been described by Devin Lindsay, principal analyst at IHS automotive, as a major issue faced by the EV market. “Charging is really the Achilles’ heel of the battery electric. We have places to charge, but the length of time it takes to charge is still an issue,” Lindsay noted.
Another issue faced by automakers such as Toyota, when attempting to persuade consumers to choose their hydrogen focused models over EVs favoured by many other automakers, will be the limited charging infrastructure. Even hydrogen-focused Japan intends to have just 160 hydrogen stations available by 2020, compared with the 7200 charging stations currently available for EV users.
However, FCEVs are proving to be more successful for heavy duty vehicles and Toyota is currently testing out those capabilities with ‘Project Portal’ – which will test hydrogen fuel cell system with heavy-duty trucks on short drayage journeys.
As a concept, it would seem unlikely that the model will make it to production in its current form. Yet the debut of the Fine Comfort-Ride, even at this maturing stage in electric transport, reiterates the company’s dedication to fuel-cell vehicles over the battery powered vehicles preferred by many of their competitors, and the advancements in vehicle range it believes are attainable in the near future.