TOKYO -- By the time Toyota's first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle goes from this year's early prototypes to serial production in early 2015, the company expects to cut the cost of producing the powerplant in half -- to about $51,000 -- and to halve it again by 2020, a top executive said.
That cost reduction will allow Toyota to start selling the vehicle for between $50,000 and $100,000, said Satoshi Ogiso, managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp., who oversees alternative vehicles, powertrains and chassis development.
By 2020, the cost of a fuel cell vehicle "will be closer to that of a plug-in hybrid vehicle and cheaper than an electric vehicle," Ogiso said last week at a press briefing here, where journalists drove a car fitted with the fuel cell powerplant.
In 2007, when Toyota built about 100 units of the Highlander fuel cell demonstration vehicle, the fuel cell system cost nearly $1 million per unit.
The upcoming Toyota fuel cell sedan -- to be unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in November, and which goes on sale in 2015 -- is projected to have total global sales of between 5,000 and 10,000 units. Those volume efficiencies should help reduce the cost of the fuel cell pack to just 5 percent of what it was less than a decade ago, Ogiso said.
Another area of cost savings: Many of the components used in Toyota hybrid vehicles such as the Prius can be adapted to the fuel cell vehicle with minimal change, Ogiso said.