TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co. aims to cut the cost of hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars to a hundredth of the present level to make them competitive with conventional cars, its engineer in charge of developing them said on Friday.
Yozo Kami, chief engineer in Honda's research and development operation, told reporters its fuel cell cars cost about 100 times that of typical gasoline models to manufacture and it needs to slash that by a tenth to the level of high-end cars and eventually to a hundredth to make it more competitive against conventional alternatives.
Kami said fuel cell cars could have a market share of 5 percent by 2020.
Mass production of hydrogen vehicles came closer to reality on June 17 when the Japanese government approved certification of fuel cell cars made by Honda and Toyota Motor Corp.
Honda, which started limited marketing of fuel-cell vehicles in 2002, is now leasing 19 such cars to government bodies and some firms in Japan and the United States. It will expand the leases to individuals in the United States by the year-end.
Toyota leases 16 hydrogen vehicles in Japan and the United States, charging more than 1 million yen ($9,175) a month.
A Toyota spokesman said on Friday that the introduction of the environmentally friendly cars to the mass market is unlikely until 2010 at the earliest due to high costs and the need to improve fuel cell storing technology to allow long travel.
The Financial Times reported earlier this month that Toyota aims to cut the cost of fuel-cell cars to $50,000 from more than $1 million by 2015. General Motors aims to have a production-ready hydrogen vehicle by 2010 with a fuel cell that costs $5,000, it said.