Bio-ethanol, biodiesel, E85, pure electricity - there are almost too many "alternative" fuels out there already, but hydrogen is shoving its way into the room. And at Toyota, it's pushing to the front of the class, with a fuel-cell-powered car potentially on the road by 2014.
The company had previously released plans to have a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle on the road by 2015, but that schedule has been bumped up a year to meet the incentives within California's Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate. Toyota has already shown a hydrogen hybrid prototype in the form of the Highlander.
“So much of what happens is directly related to the California ZEV mandates — they’re followed by at least 14 states, and they affect nearly half of the cars on the market in the United States. Phase IV of the mandates covers model years 2015 through 2017, so that means we could begin complying in late 2014," John Hanson, a Toyota spokesperson, told the New York Times.
California's ZEV scheme has influenced the plans of Toyota and other carmakers in the past, spurring the introduction of zero-emissions vehicles like the Toyota RAV-4 EV and the much-discussed General Motors EV1.
This time around, the monetary benefits to California's program are such that it's now a valid business case for Toyota to build the hydrogen fuel-cell car. Whether that will translate into volume sales or just enough units to meet the statutory requirement is another matter.
But the real question remains: who's going to kill the hydrogen car?
[NY Times Wheels blog]