TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp.'s top fuel cell engineer predicts the automaker will slash the cost of the next hydrogen-fueled powertrain to between one-third and one-fourth the cost of the current system, which debuted last week in the Mirai fuel cell sedan.
That's an ambitious goal. But it represents a slower pace in cost-reduction than that seen in the Mirai.
The cost of the Mirai's fuel cell is about one-twentieth the cost of the system that Toyota used in the previous-generation fuel cell vehicle, which debuted in 2008.
Yasuhiro Nonobe, general manager for fuel cell vehicle system design, said continuing that pace of dramatic cost cuts is unlikely. Nonetheless, his team has set a cost target of as little as a quarter of the cost of today's system for the company's next-generation fuel cell system, he said.
That would debut in five or six years, Nonobe added. Toyota is aiming for around 2020, partly to showcase the futuristic green-car technology at the Tokyo Olympics that year.
"It's a challenge we have to strive for because the Olympics are a golden opportunity," Nonobe said at a Mirai test drive here.
Costs will have to come down precipitously to make hydrogen fuel cell cars economically feasible. They have been kept high by sophisticated fuel cell membranes, platinum for the catalysts, carbon fiber-reinforced storage tanks and extra batteries. As a result, today's fuel cell cars require substantial government subsidies. Toyota says it will sell the Mirai for $57,500 starting in late 2015; federal and California incentives of about $13,000 will lower the price to consumers.