Toyota Bets on Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Technology

Toyota fuel cellToyota Motor Co. is doubling down on alternative fuels with plans to open a factory for hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain components within two years.

The move comes as fuel cell-powered cars struggle to find a foothold with consumers and U.S. companies are increasingly turning to battery-electric cars for alternative power. Toyota also has plans to develop battery-electric cars in addition to the hydrogen models.

The new plant is opening in Shimoyama near the Toyota City headquarters. When the plant comes on line in 2020, Toyota hopes to build 30,000 fuel-cell passenger cars and buses a year when the plant is fully operational. Toyota currently builds about 3,000 fuel-cell vehicles a year.

Toyota sells the fuel-cell sedan Mirai in the United States but the car starts at nearly $60,000. The steep price, in part, is because of the high production costs, which should drop when the new factory makes it debut.

The plants will also help Toyota with its sales of hydrogen fuel-cell buses. Plans call for Toyota to deliver at least 100 buses for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"As a technology, fuel cells are mature and ready to scale up," Toyota said in a press release. "In order to encourage more wiidespread use of hydrogen-powered zero-emission vehicles, popularization needs to start by the 2020s."