Currently reading: Toyota switches hydrogen FCEV focus to commercial vehicles
Firm admits Mirai has “not been successful” but pledges to refine FCEV technology for passenger cars

Toyota is switching the focus of its hydrogen fuel-cell technology development from passenger cars to commercial vehicles.

Technical chief Hiroki Nakajima confirmed the change in approach at the Tokyo motor show.

The Japanese firm has long been a pioneer of FCEV technology, most notably with the Toyota Mirai, but wider uptake of hasn't materialised, partly due to the complexity of setting up a network of hydrogen fuelling stations.

"We have tried Mirai but not been successful," said Nakajima. "Hydrogen stations are very few and difficult to realise, so Mirai is smaller [in volume]."

However, commercial vehicles are considered far more suitable for hydrogen, not only due to the unsuitability of batteries to power them (due to the size and weight that would be needed) but also the ability to set up a more controlled fuelling network.

"For mid-size trucks, it's easy to deliver [a refuelling network] as it's mainly A-to-B" for journeys, said Nakajima. "Huge numbers of trucks go from A-to-B so you can operate stations with more stability. Commercial vehicles are the most important area to try and proceed on with hydrogen." Pick-up trucks also offered a potential use for hydrogen, said Nakajima.

Toyota Mirai Mk1 at Shell hydrogen filling station

However, Nakajima said Toyota "did not want to give up on [hydrogen] passenger cars" and was looking at ways to downsize components including the fuel cell stack and the tanks in order to make it applicable to different types of cars and broaden its appeal. "We are looking to downsize the hydrogen technology in passenger cars," he said.

The latest-generation hydrogen fuel cell in development is said by Toyota to half the cost of the current generation cell, while also improving durability to two and a half times that of a diesel engine. It also improves efficiency by 20%, something hugely significant in lowering fuel costs for commercial vehicles.

This new cell has been created with commercial vehicles in mind, but a half-size cell is also being developed to keep the technology open to cars still. Toyota is also exploring non-automotive applications for these smaller cells, including in the construction and medical industries.


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The firm is also moving beyond cylinder tanks for hydrogen and has developed both a flat tank and a ‘saddle’ tank, that can have a prop shaft run over it. This saddle tank has been made to be able to swap straight into the space of an electric car’s battery also.

He also provided more details on Toyota's battery development, which will result in the firm launching its solid-state battery technology in 2027 or 2028. 

This future technology has long been considered a game-changer for battery electric vehicles, having the potential to improve power density of batteries and thus reduce the size, weight and cost of them.

Nakajima said the first wave of solid-state batteries – which Toyota is developing in conjunction with oil giant Idemitsu – would be very expensive and their use in cars would initially be limited to a "high-performance car" or a car with "high-performance charging".

Toyota Mirai rear quarter tracking

In the meantime, Toyota will introduce its latest lithium ion battery technology with its next generation of electric cars built on a new highly modular architecture from 2026.

Nakajima said this had been created with an ethos of downsizing components such as the e-axles, HVAC system and battery packs (which have been made as slim as 100mm) as much as possible to allow them to fit into a much broader types of car, including lower Lexus saloons and Toyota sports cars.

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One such sports car concept using the new architecture is the Toyota FT-Se revealed in Tokyo.

"As much as possible, we want to realise a fun-to-drive image," said Nakajima.

The firm's imitation manual transmission will become a staple offering of fun EVs, said Nakajima, who said that such cars should "not just be high-torque, high-power; the goal is how we can provide that fun-to-drive image".

The software potential of the new architecture would also allow people to download different performance packs for their cars. Examples given included the performance of the Lexus LFA and the steering feel of the Toyota GR86.

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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scotty5 29 October 2023

Trains go from A to B but commercial vehicles?  Are they suggesting each depot has a fuel source installed?

Commercial vehicles are inefficient when not in use so unless there's a fuel station en-route so that idea makes even less sense that cars.  What they're effectively saying is if you don't travel far from a hydrogen station then it works. e.g. service buses.

How could limiting your market make any economic sense?


skierpage 29 October 2023

It's not just the lack of H2 stations, it's the abysmal economics of hydrogen. Green hydrogen is now over $30/kg in California where there are a few thousand drivers in HFCV Mirais and Nexos (Honda gave up on the Clarity Fuel Cell). The moment the $15,000 of free fuel with the lease runs out, the cars are worthless.

BEV trucks are cheaper to operate than diesel. Hydrogen isn't, especially if the H2 is green and not made from fossil fuel.

Andrew1 28 October 2023
They just had a little light bulb moment.
xxxx 26 October 2023

At last Toyota see sense and cut the hydrogen car just like Honda did, just a shame it was at such cost to them. 

Certainly the end to a few arguments on this site, anyhow hopefully for the last time...

Hydrogen cars go Pop